There is plenty of time to spare on the sunny beaches of Sandestin, but the question is whether student-athletes’ voices will be heard at the SEC’s annual spring meetings.
Time demands on student-athletes is a hot topic throughout the NCAA this offseason and it will likely be issue No. 1 for athletic directors, school presidents, coaches and the five student-athletes attending the SEC’s annual spring meetings beginning Tuesday and ending Friday.
The hot-button issue reached a boil during the spring semester thanks to a questionnaire issued by the NCAA.
Responses from 44,058 Division I athletes in an online questionnaire pertaining to time demands was released in April. Topics ranged in subject, but what was particularly pertinent is the discussion surrounding no-activity periods and the NCAA’s 20-hour limit athletes spend participating in team activities. The SEC, like the Pac-12 earlier this month, will discuss the study and hear from several athletes on the topic at its spring meetings this week.
The NCAA’s study revealed most coaches, players and administrators agreed there should be a mandatory no-activity period immediately following a season. Also, concerns about whether players are properly being provided eight hours of rest overnight between activities were included in the survey completed by nearly 50,000 participants.
Sixty-three percent of athletes believe travel should count toward the 20-hour limit, while only 7 percent of coaches agree. Football players were also the least supportive of a potential proposal to increase the 20-hour limit.
While the numbers are not necessarily surprising, putting voices behind the on-paper demands could be a big step forward for the SEC and the Power 5 conferences.
The SEC’s first step? Inviting players to participate in the SEC’s meetings. Arkansas tennis player Flavia Arago, Ole Miss baseball player Brady Bramblett, former Mississippi State football player Jay Hughes, Tennessee basketball player Diamond DeShields and Texas A&M swimmer Antoine Marc will be present at the SEC’s spring meetings for the first time in conference history.
Three of the athletes represent the SEC in the NCAA’s autonomy voting, but do not have a vote in the SEC’s meetings, according to CBSSports.com. The students’ power in the conference, however, could change as efforts are made to provide athletes a voice, according to an SEC source. The SEC is expected to form five-member councils for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball this week or later this year.
“One of the challenges is given the seasons and schedules, how do you interact with football and men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes?” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told CBSSports.com. “We’ve been intentional about wanting to implement something that is fresh and that’s sustainable.”
The Pac-12 released a 22-page report on the topic of time demands last week, but the SEC is not expected to develop any proposals related to the subject in the immediate future. The Pac-12’s report went as far to point out various sports’ infamous “voluntary workouts” in the offseason, which players want to amend in the NCAA’s rulebook in an effort to “curtail perceived abuses” of a rule they believe lead to many believing the workouts are “not voluntary,” according to USA TODAY.
The Pac-12 shared the study with its fellow Power 5 conferences sharing autonomy power and the discoveries and suggestions are sure to be a hot topic in Destin, even if proposals are not likely to be developed by the SEC.
At the very least, steps are being taken to hear players’ concerns.
Simply put, some power — even if it is slight — is beginning to shift to the players.