NCAA News Archive - 2008

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Audio commentary explains practice-player interpretations


Nov 12, 2008 10:58:04 AM

By Jack Copeland
The NCAA News

The NCAA membership services staff has produced an audio commentary that seeks to explain two recent interpretations addressing the use of coaches or managers as practice players.

The Division III Management Council approved official interpretations at its October meeting that coaches and managers are limited to performing coaching and managerial roles for a team and therefore cannot serve primarily as a practice player, and that student coaches and managers who participate as a team member in practice or other physical activities must be charged with a season of participation.

The Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee issued the interpretations August 13.

The recorded commentary on the interpretations – the first such aid the membership services staff has produced to assist in understanding an interpretation of Division III legislation – is available as an MP3 file here.

“Sometimes NCAA rules or interpretations may prove hard to understand, because each person who reads them may have a different view of how they apply on their own campus,” explained Jay Jones, NCAA director of membership services and Division III governance liaison. “For that reason, when there is a rule or interpretation that has been written, it is often easier to talk through that issue than it is to try to rewrite the interpretation or draft an educational column using different language.”

The commentary provides background on the issue and notes the relevant bylaws in the Division III Manual underlying the interpretations. It also addresses reasons why the interpretations were issued, and identifies uses of coaches and managers (or students serving in those roles) that likely are not appropriate under Division III legislation.

“The interpretations are aimed at ensuring that individuals are not being labeled as a coach or manager only to be practicing or participating in team activities,” Jones explains.

The interpretations also address what may be seen as ways to circumvent Division III’s ban on redshirting, or what constitutes a season of participation.

The first of the interpretations, titled “Coaches and Managers Serving as Practice Players,” confirms that “coaches and managers may not participate as practice players with the institution’s team if they are not eligible student-athletes per NC AA Bylaws 14.1.8.1 (requirement for practice) or 14.1.11 (male practice player eligibility). A coach or manager’s role should be limited to performing coaching or managerial duties and not serving as a practice player under the guise of being a coach or manager.”

In the audio commentary, Jones explains that the ILC “was in no way trying to define” coaching.

“The interpretation isn’t attempting to say that coaches can’t jump into the action or participate in a practice scrimmage with their players. However, it is clear that nonenrolled students are not supposed to be full-time practice players,” he says.

“The most important words in the interpretation are focused on serving as a practice player under the guise of being a ‘coach’ or ‘manager.’ Managers have duties such as laundry, assistance with statistics, helping organize travel and other important team roles. They are not meant to be practicing with the team unless they are eligible and charged with a season of participation. Coaches also have a diverse plate of responsibilities.”

The second of the interpretations, titled “Student-Managers and Student-Coaches Using a Season of Participation,” confirms that “if a student-manager or a student-coach (regardless of gender or team) participates as a team member in practice or other physical activities during the timeframe set forth in Bylaw 14.2.4.1 (minimum amount of participation), the student would be charged with a season of participation. A student-coach or student-manager’s role should be limited to performing coaching or managerial duties and not serving as a quasi team member under the guise of being a coach or manager.”

In the audio commentary, Jones says the point of the interpretation is that if full-time enrolled students are practicing with a team, regardless of what they are called, they must be charged with a season of participation.

“The real point, put into simple terms, is this: How you coach a team is entirely up to you, and is not something that is regulated,” Jones says. “However, if your managers are practicing with your team, or you’re designating former athletes as coaches purely to provide a better practice player, there is a problem.”

Jones invited membership feedback on whether the audio commentary is useful in understanding the interpretations.

“There is a hope that these audio commentaries could be used in the future if they are well received by the membership,” he said.


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