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UPDATE: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Impressive, and congrats to all involved! The delayed enrollment portion of 09-22 indeed suspended for 2010-2011. Solid work from many constituents in order to maintain the crucial balance embedded in 09-22. Outstanding and inspired work from Amateurism Cabinet and Legislative Council (LGC) members. Also major kudos and congrats to the several coaches associations, compliance professionals, and many stakeholders who presented solid arguments and precedent/research-based data that would build a strong case for the LGC to agree on amending 09-22 and suspending the delayed enrollment portion. And a note of recognition to a group that rarely receives praise, but most frequently is chastised and criticized in popular media: the national office staff… Their efforts should be appreciated by all involved parties, in streamlining the legislative process, engaging in constant educational and communication outreach efforts, learning and teaching key constituents (and each other) in the membership’s usually mercurial course of policy-making. There are good, balanced, hard-working, highly motivated people in Indy right now, trying to maintain the extremely delicate balance between the Association’s principles and contemporary reality, which often just does not allow for maintaining the traditional principles this miracle of higher education and sport entailed from its creation through the 20th Century.

As always, a word of caution to keep the balance: this means that recruiting will be fierce this year (especially during what is left in the spring and summer recruiting periods with 2010 prospects who might have been untouchable until now but will be pursued even for this Aug enrollment) and going into the 2010-2011 season (with coaches further aspiring at recruiting-friendly amendments during the 10-11 legislative cycle). Hopefully coaches will remain constrained by their values and upholding the Association’s fundamental principles. If they do select to go the route of cut-throat intercollegiate athletics recruiting and competition in a take-no-prisoners industry, they may get their wishes fulfilled… On one hand, what most everyone agreed on, they will be able to recruit (pre-HS graduation) kids that will be immediately eligible even though they did play professionally, as long as the 12.02.4 provisions and expenses’ aspects analyzed below are in place. On the other hand, most remarkably, it will not even matter if currently recruited or now recruitable prospects graduated HS as early as the summer of 2006 (!) when they were 16, i.e. in the case of UK soccer SAs, and played pro/semi-pro for the past 4-5 seasons, but without going above and beyond actual and necessary expenses and abiding by 12.02.4 (worth here to put another plug-in to our mystery colleague at the Bylaw Blog for simply outstanding work, truly brilliant and insightful posts, for a creation that the world of Compliance and the industry needed for some time… keep the mystery and solid contributions going).
Shrewd coaches will start today, if not already, to look at such prospects, research their particular academic and amateurism conditions, encourage them to immediately register with the Eligibility Center, and we could be looking at an amazingly competitive recruiting and playing season in 2010-2011, and possibly beyond… This year’s gate might involve hard to control floods in ensuing years, even after a modified proposal on delayed enrollment and organized competition attempting to keep the balance between deregulation and upholding amateurism/institutional control/SA welfare/competitive equity principles in the 2010-2011 cycle.

So go crazy in what is left with this year’s recruiting period, find your athletically seasoned and hopefully academically prepared difference-makers, continue to provide the exquisite opportunities for young athletes to experience the true blessing that is higher education in the US, enjoy the process of building bridges between the worlds, have fun… and please recruit responsibly!

For a retrospect on Proposal 2009-22, refer to earlier entries here.

After considerable deliberation, membership feedback, and Amateurism Cabinet recommendations, the Legislative Council (April 12-13, Indy meetings) will proceed with the necessary review of the membership override request and may decide to follow the recommendation of the Amateurism Cabinet (supported by several sports’ governing actors, coaches associations, and member institutions), deferring the effective date of the delayed enrollment portion of the legislation to one year later than the original adoption.

The legislative process diagram here, and the 09-10 calendar here.

Some interesting findings at this point and whilst the proposal follows its way through the legislative cycle:

1) As many would foresee at the advent of this proposal, we do have an override request. Ironically, however, considering past history, the override did not target the deregulation portion, i.e. the preemptive treatment of prospects who would have been in the past deemed professionals due to the surrounding circumstances of their sport participation (frequently on clubs playing at the top professional level prior to High School (HS) graduation but w/o otherwise compromising amateur status but for i.e. being teammates of professional players).

2) The override targeted the delayed enrollment portion of the legislation (Bylaw et seq.), which the several policy-drafting actors and membership feedback framed in a way to counterbalance the above deregulation direction. In essence, other than the three sports treated separately in Prop. 2009-22 (men’s ice hockey, skiing, and tennis), every other sport would see prospects, who participated in organized competition following the “one-year grace/testing the waters period” subsequent to post HS graduation, charged with a season of eligibility as well as having to red-shirt their first year in residence. The major criticism revolved around a) cases of early HS graduation (such as prospects from the UK and other educational systems where HS graduation can come as early as the age of 16) and b) cases of international and Olympic-level competition training post-HS graduation and pre-enrollment at a DI member institution.

This particular focus of the override for most submissions, has been a sign that there was legitimate concern over the negative impact on select classes of prospects, as well as certain sports featuring more absolute numbers of such student-athletes. On the other hand, others hold that this is another confirmation that a growing number of the membership wants both deregulation, as well as the benefit of the doubt whilst recruiting (“have the cake and eat it too” commentary).

3) Considering the conflicting arguments above and the always difficult balancing act that the proverbial sausage-making process of policy entails, it appears that there is significant support for “giving it a year” (delaying the commencement of the effective date) to tease out any membership reactions and after some time has elapsed consider new regulation perhaps amending the delayed enrollment portion of the legislation. Conceivably, the ones who requested an override on that note, would be satisfied. Conversely, the few that might have still held that the deregulation portion fundamentally compromises DI Amateurism (“failed professionals” arguments of the past), or any voices to defeat Prop. 2009-22 altogether, would still like to see 2009-22 reach the DI membership vote on the floor of the 2011 Convention, and enter the maelstrom of the fun vote-clicker where as recent history shows… anything goes. However, the only way to see that taking place would be for both the Legislative Council and the Board of Directors to assume a passive (or others would deem it consistent with prior adoption decisions) stance in the upcoming April meetings. At this time, this appears highly unlikely, and many feel that we are approaching another modification and yet another 60-day override period, which would take us into the end of June, at which point sufficient time will have elapsed to truly gauge where the membership stands on 2009-22 and everything it entails. This latter scenario appears convenient and prudent, considering the above comments and the fact that, possibly, had the ones who requested the override known that there would be a one-year deferment of its effective date, they would not have  submitted the legislation override requests in the first place. Of course, during that second 60-date override period… anything can happen, such as more voices from membership’s old-time proponents of an original interpretation of amateurism (Con. Law theory would refer to them as originalists) gaining more support over the ones (the vast majority as recent voting confirms) who favor flexibility and a contemporary interpretation and application of amateurism policy (the evolutionists or proponents of a dynamic, living amateurism). In that case, the prospect of an up-down vote on the floor of the Convention in Jan remains an intriguing one.

4) In the extreme “no-way” scenario category, as of Friday, March 12, 2010, the number of total override requests was almost halfway there to the 100 mark for suspending the full effect (deregulation and delayed enrollment combined) of 2009-22 (best way of following the # of requests is via a quick LSDBi search under DI Props and plugging in “2009-22″). Should the above defined as originalists wish to pursue that route, there would still be five full days of lobbying and convincing membership constituents that 2009-22 in its entirety was a bad idea and it should be defeated/and at this point in time immediately suspended. Yet, there is also a fascinating twist to this: should the several coaches’ associations, conference and member institutions’ staff, etc who wanted to submit overrides to stall the effective date of the delayed enrollment portion, continue to submit requests, with some originalists’ help, they run the risk of losing what most everyone agreed on and adopted in January, the deregulation portion and treatment of the “vicarious professionalization” problem. That would indeed be absolutely captivating to observe… and remarkably disappointing for the main contributors to the deregulation portion of 2009-22.

Update: Indeed no-way.

5) Bottom line, what does all this mean?
Reiterating what has been written elsewhere… we have come a long way. From conservative applications of amateurism and “failed professionals” preemption, narrowly interpreting the letter of the policy, to a liberal, flexible, and even arguably risking inconsistency reality. Per the recent Amateurism Cabinet’s report and significant discourse to that end, there needs to be continued monitoring of the benefits prospects receive for pre-enrollment athletic participation. It needs to be herein repeated that the continuation of the expense valuation methodology pilot program initiated by the amateurism certification (ACP) staff, utilizing the US Census Bureau Web site (w/ links to country-specific rates and standards), needs to be continued for the long-term. The main disagreement these lines would pose to recent discussion in the Amateurism Cabinet and among ACP staff would be that it is precisely now that this program is needed to start compiling the data that both recruiting institutions and overseas prospects would need to particularly define what is the extent of compensation/benefits a young athlete can receive in each region, to remain below the professionalization threshold and within the actual and necessary expenses rules of Bylaw 12.02.4. The reason for this being a more pressing necessity now, with the advent of the deregulation portion of 2009-22 effective Aug 1, 2010, is that overseas prospects will continue to be recruited, at higher rates, and now even from a higher competitive plane due to 2009-22’s amateurism deregulation and the reconsideration of withholding conditions for such prospects who play on top pro teams; thus, it will be imperative to ensure everyone has benchmarks and as clear data as possible to utilize during the “difference-makers” recruiting attempts, as it is these difference-makers, that will pose 12.02.4 interpretation problems in regard to their compensation limits, so now — correctly — it won’t be their teammates that affect their amateur status, rather their own (financial) relationship with a club; and that is exactly where each institution would love to have immediate financial reference points updated constantly per each region, for each sport and for each recruited prospect. If legislation continues to move along this deregulation path, it is conceivable that very meaningful research, practically useful for ACP staff, coaches and compliance personnel, would yield lists of allowable compensation limits for each region, broken down per sport, level, league, etc, i.e. hypothesize that in A1 Women’s basketball in Greece a prospect’s benefit from a club should not go over appx. 500 Euros/month as a total deemed permissible per several of the 12.02.4 actual and necessary expenses, in Paris and London those would be higher due to higher cost of living, in other parts of the world considerably lower…
And there is still a tremendously significant point that policy-drafting bodies featuring learned colleagues and especially the ones trained in the fine art of the Law cannot discount. And that is the valid concern raised in various courtrooms of this country this past year and surely in ensuing ones as well, barring anticipated waves of litigation settlements, that progressive compromise of what traditionally has been the most successful line of defense and the one most appreciated and upheld by courts, amateurism, will lead to dangerous pitfalls in legal cases’ management, where more and more lower courts and even the appellate adjudication levels will hold that NCAA interpretations and applications of amateurism may no longer pass muster as effortlessly as in the past. On this more here and here.


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