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Tuesday, July 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Power Five conferences propose significant reductions to student-athlete grind

The commissioners of the five preeminent NCAA conferences have agreed on proposed changes that would athletes significantly more time off.

You can see all the changes in the press release below, but in my mind the biggest change would be requiring schools to give athletes one day off a week during the season. Currently, teams are allowed to travel on those days off, which can lead to a pretty full off-day for athletes trying to get home to Pullman from, say, Tucson.

This change would likely cause a few headaches for coaches, particularly in sports like basketball where a team can be playing games or traveling five days out of the week, leaving little time for practice, film, weight-lifting, etc. But it's a challenge that all the teams would face equally, and I imagine the players themselves would be pretty thrilled to see it enacted.

Another proposed change requiring an eight-hour block of free time overnight seems like it would have a very positive impact on the mental health of the athletes (and strength coaches).

Here's the full press release from the Pac-12:

Four Broad Areas: Post-Season; Academic Year; In-Season; Overnight

SAN FRANCISCO -The commissioners of the five autonomy conferences today announced an agreement in concept on changes they will propose that are intended to give students who play sports more time off.  The purpose of the changes is to rebalance the student experience between athletics and campus life, providing students with more time to focus on other college interests, including academics, work experience, travel, and additional rest.
The first area of change called “Flex 21” will provide students, in many cases, with at least an additional 21 days in which they are free of required athletic activities during the academic year. These 21 days are in addition to the current rules related to time off.
Recognizing that every sport has different needs, the proposal includes flexibility so coaches, students and athletic directors can come up with a plan that best suits each sport.  The proposed changes are the result of in-person meetings and survey feedback from students, head coaches, faculty, and athletics administrators.
“We believe we have found the right balance between helping students participate in sports while also providing them with more down time,” the commissioners of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC said in a joint statement.  “Different sports have different demands and we think the concepts we’ve agreed to will help tens of thousands of students achieve more balance as they pursue their academic and athletic commitments.”
Post Season: Under the plan, all students would be free of required athletic activities for at least one week (7 consecutive days) at the conclusion of the season in order to recover from the season.  Exceptions would exist for the purpose of training for elite national/international events.  (For Spring teams that end their season in summer break, the seven-day period is not necessary as the summer break would accomplish the goal of this requirement – recovery directly after the season.)
Academic Year: To allow students to engage in other collegiate activities, each student would be provided at least 14 additional days during the academic year during which there would be no required athletic activity.  These days-off could take place during the season, if agreed to, or outside the season but must be taken during the academic year.
In Season: Beyond Flex 21, the conferences will also propose that every student playing a sport have at least one day a week free from sports, including travel, during the season.  While current rules require one day a week off, teams may currently use travel days to meet that requirement.  The new proposal would recognize that individual circumstances may require a flexible approach in the application of this proposal, but is intended to provide student-athletes with more time away from athletic activities (e.g., travel delays, etc.).
Overnight:  In addition, students would have a consecutive eight-hour block of free time overnight, between the hours of 9:00pm and 6:00am.  
For example, if a women’s rowing team schedules a 5:30am workout, the team must cease all required athletic activities by 9:30pm the evening before the morning workout.  If a team has a 6:00am workout scheduled, all athletic activities would have had to end by 10:00pm the night before.
In order to implement these proposed changes, head coaches and athletic directors will be required to work with the students on a plan so all parties are aware of anticipated time that will be committed to athletically related activities.  The definition of “required athletic activities” is intended to be broader than the currently countable hours which includes activities such as practice, games, and conditioning. For example, this expanded definition would include, but not be limited to activities such as media requirements and mandatory community service.
“We heard from our students that they would like more certainty in their schedules in order to engage in other activities,” the commissioners said.  “We recognize there will need to be a level of flexibility and reasonableness in carrying out these changes, especially with regard to travel, but students deserve time off and we want athletic departments to work in a sensible and appropriate way to provide it.  We want administrators to have some degree of flexibility in implementing these rules, but they must be mindful that rest is important to a student’s health, in addition to their athletic and academic performance.”
"I'm grateful that college sports leaders around the country have recognized that student-athletes need more time and flexibility to adequately fulfill our academic obligations and to participate in the full spectrum of campus life," said former California student-athlete Taylor James. “Flex 21 is a step in the right direction, and is a direct result of increased collaboration between athletics leadership and student-athletes."
These proposals represent an agreement in concept by the membership in each Autonomy 5 conference, noting that each conference retains the right to pursue additional changes if they see fit.  Formal proposals will need to be submitted to the NCAA at a later date in order to be considered at the January 2017 NCAA convention at which time they would be voted upon.

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Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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