TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Starting Wednesday, a new piece of NCAA legislation will go into effect, one that takes away a student-athletes' required weekly day off.
This NCAA Division I rule change was proposed last year by the Sun Belt Conference, which includes schools such as Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Troy.
The conference said the reasoning behind it is to "create flexibility for institutions to make adjustments to competition schedules when a set of extenuating circumstances arises and it also creates a requirement to ensure all student-athletes' time for rest and recovery is never compromised."
While basketball previously had this exception, it will now be extended to other sports like swimming, volleyball and lacrosse. But for both the Toledo men's and women's head basketball coaches, they agree: This rule is still not for their programs.
"I think the main thing is, it doesn't really change what we do," said Tricia Cullop, Toledo women's head coach. "I think it's important to give the players time off. And I just think, if you go too many straight days in a row, you burn them out. As long as we're not breaking the rules by continuing to do what we're doing, I think we found a way that works. It's kept our players fresh."
"I'm all for student-athlete welfare and making sure we do what's best for our individual players and their needs," said Tod Kowalczyk, Toledo men's head coach. "I'm opposed to it. I think by having the time demands they already have academically and athletically, we don't need to be adding hours. They need that mandatory day off is much needed."
Under this new ruling a 28-day cycle could be created where athletes are training or competing for 24 consecutive days.
The two requirements to utilize the no-day-off policy include: A school has three scheduled regular-season games in one week and they provide the student-athletes with two days off in either the previous or subsequent week.
So the breakdown would look like this:
- Week 1 – two days off followed by five days of training.
- Week 2 – both have three games and four days of training.
- Week 3 – both have three games and four days of training.
- Week 4 – five days of training followed by two days off.
"Everybody has their different ways of doing things," Cullop said. "I'm sure there's a coach out there that has a reason for it. But in our perspective I would say no."
Even though the total amount of days off will not change with this new ruling, and the Sun Belt Conference said, "It should be noted that when our conference proposes legislation, student-athlete well-being is at the forefront of the proposal development process", some coaches don't see it that way."
"Through the years you've seen more rules pass just about protecting their time. So it's kind of ironic that this one is not," Cullop said.
Coach Kowalczyk has a simple solution to the issue.
"The last thing you want to do is a take a day off the day before you play. And if you play three games in a week I can see some issues, but my thing with that is don't schedule three games in one week," he said.
While some coaches may think the more you put in, the more you get out, Kowalczyk said just the opposite.
"I learned a great deal that less is more, that by practicing less you can get more out of your team, they're fresher at the end of the year," he said. "So we would never take advantage of this rule and go 20-some straight days in a row, that to me, I wouldn't want to do that to our players, I think that would be counterproductive."
Besides the impact it has on some teams and their current players, this new ruling could also play a factor in recruiting.
"I will tell you, one thing we talk about in the recruiting process is just that, when I have a recruit who's interested in a specific major, one thing we always talk about is the fact we schedule around what they need academically," Cullop said. "My practice time varies. And I take great pride in that because I want them to graduate on time, and I want them to graduate in the major they want, not just what fits around my practice schedule. So this is one of those topics that fits into that category. If I'm a student-athlete, I'm going to pay attention to that because I want somebody who cares about me as a person before the basketball player. And I think when you show a student-athlete that, they'll run through the wall for you."
Besides a risk for mental burnout, this new ruling could make impacts on the student-athletes academically as well, not to mention the physical risk they're putting on their bodies.
"Physically there's not enough time to recover, to recover appropriately, you usually see a higher rate in injuries, there's more things that come up," said Brad Pierson, University of Toledo athletic trainer.
Pierson is the athletic trainer for the Toledo Women's Basketball Team. He said putting student-athletes on a schedule that requires them to practice or play for 24-straight days could lead to issues similar to those who specialize in one sport for multiple years.
"A long period of time with no rest, you're going to see higher rate in injuries, you're going to see a lower performance standpoint, just your energy level is going to be depleted much quicker," he said. "But the largest part is just physicality, you're going to lose a lot of the physicality of the game, the game is going to slow down, and then you're also a much higher rate for injuries like we talked about."
With injuries, the way athletic trainers will work to get that athlete back on the field or court with even be impacted by this new rule.
"From a sports medicine and athletic training perspective it's now, how can we get them to recover faster and what's the best quality of recovery? Half the time it's rest," Pierson said. "It would be a lot of work upfront because now we're no longer working on a seven-day cycle. We're working on a 24-day cycle and that's a lot to program."
Pierson studies the training and rest of some of the top athletes in the world like LeBron James. He said if this new ruling were put towards pro athletes, you would see a decrease in performance.
"Recovery is just as important to them, if not more important, to their career," he said. "But as an athlete, there's no way they can stay at that high-level for that long."
Both Pierson and Coach Cullop agree, this legislation goes against past rulings and they don't see it lasting.
"I wouldn't be surprised if within a year or two you see legislation changing again," Cullop said. "I just don't see it being successful. I really don't. There's too many other things put in place to protect the time of a student-athlete, I think the student-athletes are going to stand up against it, I really do."
"I think we keep on trying to advocate for the student-athlete. And I don't think we're advocating for the student-athlete," Pierson said. "I think this is turning into, what is good for the game. And that is an important part of our job, what can we do to better the game. But we also have to look at what our products are and it's not healthy for them."