Ivy League Plans Seven Quiet Weeks

By Staff

Athletic Management, 14.5, August/September 2002, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1405/bbivyleague.htm

From conferences large to small, one of the biggest topics on meeting agendas this summer was time demands on intercollegiate student-athletes. At the Ivy League, new rules are now in place to address the issue.

Under a measure adopted in June by the Council of Ivy Group Presidents, athletic departments must establish for each sport a period of at least seven weeks during the academic year when student-athletes on that team will have no required athletic activities. Furthermore, there will be no coaching supervision of voluntary conditioning.

In wading into the murky waters of voluntary and offseason workouts, the Ivy presidents left the details up to League staff and the schools. For one thing, the presidents didn’t address multisport athletes or cross-over sports such as indoor and outdoor track and cross country. The other devilish detail is what exactly is meant by “no coaching supervision” of voluntary conditioning.

Ivy League Council Executive Director Jeffrey Orleans says conference and school officials are busy working through how to apply the directive in the real world. “We want to ensure that there is appropriate safety supervision for the kinds of voluntary conditioning activity that will be permitted,” he explains, “but we want to limit that supervision to only what really is required for safety, and not convert it back into a team workout.”

Another issue was avoiding restrictions on athletes simply because they’re on intercollegiate teams. Closing weight rooms to off-season athletes, for instance, wouldn’t be fair, when other students can work out any time.

“The Council was very clear in saying that student-athletes should be able to engage in voluntary activity in a safe way,” says Orleans. “And on the other hand, they said they want more time during the year where any activity truly is voluntary, not required, and not team-supervised.”

Whether the Ivy League’s mandatory time-off period is a harbinger of what may be mandated by other conferences remains to be seen. Orleans says the idea has gotten some interest, though.

“We’d like to think that the models that we’re using would work at any kind of institution,” he says. “In that sense, if people look at them and say ‘This is something that we can also do,’ that’s a good thing. In that sense, we would like to be leaders.

“Every conference has got to figure out how best to do this on its own,” Orleans continues. “I do know from talking to people involved at other conferences and thinking about this for the [NCAA Division I] Board of Directors that the idea of time off is one that seems to be gaining attraction for people.”

The issue is under scrutiny by a Division I Board of Directors task force and the Championships/Competition Cabinet Subcommittee on Play and Practice Seasons, says Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle Kallander, a member of the subcommittee. The panel originally began looking into the issue from the perspective of deregulation but soon realized that there was more to the question than streamlining definitions of such terms as “voluntary” and “offseason.”

“In the Big South,” says Kallander, “when you talk to our student-athletes, one of their major concerns is the time demands of quote-unquote out-of-season work spent on their sport.”

The Board has asked for models for reviewing student-athletes’ time demands, though no concrete proposals have been developed, Kallander says. The six biggest Division I-A conferences are also jointly studying the issue.

Conferences want to see what they can do to minimize sports’ invasiveness on academic achievement, Kallander says, but other issues emerge, including competitiveness. No conference wants to take a major step unilaterally, he says.

A lot of attention has been focused on the non-traditional seasons, such as fall baseball and spring volleyball, and on how much time athletes spend on off-season conditioning and summer work—how much is truly voluntary, and what’s actually mandatory. “The majority of us in the business realize the model we have right now is not the model we want to stay with,” Kallander says.