August 27, 2002

Seven-Week Rule Adds Challenge for Teams

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The presidents of the eight Ivy League institutions passed a new piece of legislation early this month that will place restrictions on the amount of time student-athletes spend in training during the academic year.

The Sun has learned that this new seven-week rest period rule will take effect immediately. It will require that all teams in all eight institutions schedule 49 days throughout the academic year to be designated as a rest period.

This new rule requires that during these seven weeks, athletes will not be required to attend mandatory or optional team practices, captains practices, or any activity supervised or condoned by the team’s coach. While the seven weeks may be broken up over the course of the academic year, each rest period must last for at least seven days. Each coach must also notify the league office of the rest periods scheduled throughout the year.

The intent of this new rule is to allow student-athletes in the Ivy League a better opportunity to take advantage of the non-athletic opportunities available to them, specifically other extracurricular activities.

“It was felt that athletics was becoming too significant a part of the student-athlete’s life,” said Cornell’s compliance coordinator Patty Weldon. “We want them to have equal parts of academia, athletics, and the larger part of the college community.”

This new rule presents an added challenge to athletes and coaches in preparing for each season. While each team’s schedule of games falls during a certain part of the academic year, practice and conditioning activities take place throughout the year. Off-season conditioning is considered by many coaches to be an integral component of a team’s success during the season. This challenge is magnified by the fact that this legislation was announced so close to the start of the academic year.

“It isn’t hard to find seven weeks if you start looking [early],” said Weldon. “I would say it probably impacts about 20 percent of the sports really significantly.”

There is no precedent for a rule such as this, though a similar arrangement has been discussed recently by several Division I football coaches throughout the country.

Weldon believes that other conferences or even the NCAA as a whole may follow suit.

“This is a hot topic throughout collegiate athletics,” she explained. “Are student-athletes really student-athletes in some cases? At larger institutions where full grant and aid is a part of the picture, there are very significant questions that have to be answered.”

The full effect that this new policy will have on the performance of Ivy League teams remains to be seen. The specifics of the policy are expected to remain a work in progress as the rule is seen in practice.

Archived article by Owen Bochner