Today marks the day that more than one dozen new or amended NCAA rules take effect to further control how school administrators, coaches, athletes, and parents interact with each other.
Although the NCAA spends enormous resources trying to convince the public that “student-athletes” are just like any other student on campus, this time of year always provides a laughable reminder that this is simply not true.
One example generating a lot of headlines today is the NCAA’s new social media rule, originating as Proposal 2015-48, that details how coaches can “like” or retweet a recruit’s posts. A coach can like a post, but a thumbs-up emoji is just too damn much for the NCAA to handle under the policy now known as “Click, Don’t Type.”
In addition to attempting to control recruiting on social media, the NCAA also amended its rules on when a school’s staff member can attend a funeral.
Yes, there is a rule for that.
Since 2005, NCAA Bylaw 13.1.9 has limited when a coach or administrator can attend a funeral for an athlete’s family member. Bylaw 13.2.8 also placed a $100 limit on charitable donations in relation to that funeral.
However, thanks to an idea by the SEC, Proposal 2015-47 went into effect on August 1, 2016. The old rule limited coaches to attending funerals of “immediate family” of athletes and recruits. The new rule permits attendance at a funeral for any family member as amended below:
A. Bylaws: Amend 13.1.9, as follows:
13.1.9 Funeral/Memorial Services. An institutional staff member may attend the funeral or memorial services of a student-athlete, a prospective student-athlete or a member of the student-athlete’s or a prospective student-athlete’s
immediate family, at which prospective student-athletes also may be in attendance, provided no recruiting contact occurs. The involved prospective student-athlete must have signed a National Letter of Intent, or a written offer of admission and/or financial aid with the institution, or the institution must have received a financial deposit in response to the institution’s offer of admission.
B. Bylaws: Amend 13.2.8, as follows:
13.2.8 Life-Threatening Injury or Illness. An institution may provide a donation (up to $100) to a charity on behalf of a prospective student-athlete or may provide other reasonable tokens of support (e.g., flowers, card) in the event of the death of the prospective student-athlete or the death or life-threatening injury or illness of a member of the prospective student-athlete’s
immediate family, provided the prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent, or a written offer of admission and/or financial aid with the institution, or the institution must have received a financial deposit in response to the institution’s offer of admission.
As Wolverine 247 pointed out, since recruits can sign financial aid agreements with multiple institutions, it leads to a possible situation in which coaches from different programs could attend a funeral service for a member of a prospect’s immediate or non-immediate family. Awkward.
The $100 charity limit, along with the need to stress that a card is permissible is also somewhat bizarre. Sadly, the monetary limit is probably necessary as I have no doubt that certain schools would use such an opportunity to try to impress a recruit.
Similarly, the NCAA is likely trying to do the right thing here by recognizing that the loss of any athlete’s cousin can have the same impact as losing a parent or sibling. We want an athlete’s on-campus parents — the coaches — to react to such a situation appropriately and not have their hands tied by the NCAA telling them whose funeral they can and cannot attend.
However, why have such a rule for current student-athletes in the first place? Certainly, there is a need to curtail potential recruiting abuses when a recruit is particularly vulnerable. But why codify how athletes and their coaches can interact in a time of mourning?
Nick Saban could attend the funeral of any Alabama student’s family member or friend, and make whatever charitable donation he chooses, so long as that student is not an athlete. Yet if Tim Williams loses a best friend, the NCAA wouldn’t let his coaches join him at the funeral.
Although the funeral rule rarely come into play, by continuing to treat athletes differently with rules involving every imaginable aspect of their lives from social media to funerals, it further highlights just how far removed “student-athletes” are from the “student” part.
Steve Silver is a former sports reporter for the Las Vegas Sun and is now a lawyer in Philadelphia representing athletes in eligibility proceedings. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thelegalblitz.
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