Division II schools cut back on length of seasons, practice time
By Steve Wieberg, USA TODAY
ATLANTA — The nearly 300 sports-playing schools in the NCAA
‘s Division II moved further Saturday from the excesses of bigger-time Division I.
In the interest of both cutting costs and easing demands on athletes, the schools and their conferences closed the NCAA’s annual four-day convention by endorsing a series of measures that scale back playing and practice seasons and carve out a seven-day, everybody-out-of-the gym break at Christmastime.
The plan delays the start of practice for football and other fall sports by a week and pares the number of permissible games in basketball, baseball and eight more men’s and women’s sports. The changes take effect in August.
The moves are part of the division’s “Life in the Balance” initiative, and more are in the works. School presidents and other officials are weighing a second phase that will target, among other things, the number of in-season and out-of-season hours that athletes can put into their sports.
“We are not Division I,” said Tim Selgo, the athletics director at D-II power Grand Valley (Mich.) State. “We are not Division III. We are unique, and we believe this helps define us.”
Pfeiffer (N.C.) President Charles Ambrose, a former chairman of the NCAA’s Division II Presidents Council, termed the moves “a game-changer.. .. Institutions are being forced to change commensurate with the demands of society and the economy.
“If we’ve got 30% of our athletes leaving without a degree,” he said, “that’s not going to cut it.”
Saturday’s action came in a series of four votes, all but one garnering more than two-thirds support from the 280-some schools and conferences with representatives in attendance. The exception, the Christmastime “dead period,” got 61% backing.
That Dec. 20-26 break will keep athletes in every winter sport off the playing and practice field and effectively bar athletes in all sports from participating in workouts on campus.
Other measures slash baseball teams’ allotment of games by more than 10%, from 56 in a season to 50, and the allotment in men’s and women’s basketball from 27 to 26. Modest reductions extend to men’s and women’s soccer and golf, women’s volleyball, softball and field hockey.
Delays in the start of practice in fall sports — soccer, volleyball, field hockey and cross country athletes, as well as football — will effectively lengthen athletes’ summer vacation by a week. Football’s playoffs will start a week later in November to accommodate the move.
Opponents argued, unsuccessfully, that many of the proposals were too restrictive and were rushed through the NCAA’s rules-making process.