Student Well-Being

NCAA Surveying Student-Athletes About Time Demands of Sports

By Bryan Toporek — February 29, 2016 3 min read
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After tabling any concrete discussions over student-athlete time demands at its annual convention in January, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is soliciting feedback from every Division I athlete on the topic.

The NCAA distributed a survey on time demands to all 346 of its member schools last week, asking student-athletes about “in-season countable athletic-related activities (CARA), out-of-season time demands, and travel,” according to’s Adam Rittenberg. Northwestern University athletic director Jim Phillips, the chair of the Division I council, told Rittenberg that a “massive legislative package” regarding time demands will be introduced no later than September, setting the stage for a vote at the 2017 NCAA convention next January.

“The question of student-athlete time demands is our absolute top priority,” Phillips said in a statement on the NCAA’s website. “This is an opportunity for the Division I council to come together and work collaboratively with the autonomy conferences,”

Rittenberg tweeted portions of the online survey on Friday:

“We could have passed legislation at the [2016] NCAA convention around time demands, but that wasn’t the right thing to do because each sport has its own ebb and flow and their own calendar where they play and practice,” Phillips told Rittenberg. “As much angst as there is about specific rules out there that people are using that are legal, the right approach has been to take this in a comprehensive review.

“We want to hear what the student-athletes have to say.”

According to Michelle Brutlag Hosick of, the Division I council plans to focus on five specific areas when it comes to student-athlete time demands:

  • The 20-hour weekly limit on athletic activities, along with how they’re counted.
  • Playing seasons.
  • Time demands beyond the regular season.
  • “Opportunities for additional focus on academics and career development.”
  • Travel.

In recent weeks, the issue of student-athlete time demands has been at the forefront due to Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is taking his team to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., during spring break. That rankled Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, who has asked the NCAA to prohibit college football teams from holding practices during spring break, according to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. Citing a “high-ranking source,” Dodd reported “an effort similar to Michigan’s will most likely be prohibited in the near future but a decision is not expected to be handed down in time to prevent the planned trip to Florida.”

According to a report commissioned by the Pac-12 Conference last year, the average student-athlete at a Pac-12 school logs roughly 50 hours per week on athletics during his or her respective sport’s season. While the NCAA has a 20-hour limit on required athletic activities per week, Pac-12 athletes reported spending an average of 21 hours a week on such activities. They also claimed to spend an additional 29 hours on voluntary athletic activities, receiving treatment, and traveling for competitions, which don’t count as required activities under the current NCAA limit.

While the NCAA is just beginning this time-demand process, the legislative package that eventually goes up for a vote could have a significant impact on future collegiate student-athletes. Those interested in pursuing an athletic career after high school should pay close attention to developments on this front over the next calendar year.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.