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Monday, August 21, 2006

More on scholarships

A kind reader sent me USA Hockey's reference to eliminating scholarships. It comes from their Player Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities (PRRR) document adopted in June. While on the whole I agree that a document like this is needed, from a legislative clarity standpoint I question why many of the items placed within this document are here, when they should be in the Rules and Regs. The PRRR should be a plain-language document for general public use, and be supported by the Rules and Regs. Instead it appears to function as a separate legislative document, and that will only generate more confusion.

Section II of the PRRR document addresses the scholarship issue:
Team Individual Player Scholarships Prohibited

That no team scholarships/financial discounts shall be allowed to any individual player based upon his skill and ability or game performances, without that individual player performing meaningful, productive work in exchange therefor off the ice and away from team competition. (See 2005-2006 NCAA Division I Manual, By Law Article XII – Amateurism, Section 12.1-General Regulations, Sub Section 12.1.1- Amateur Status (a).
I have a number of problems with this. First off, the NCAA citation is wrong. There is no 12.1.1(a), 12.1.1 refers to institutional responsibility for validating a student-athlete's amateur status. I suspect the intention was to cite 12.1.2(a). Here is the complete 12.1.2:
12.1.2 Amateur Status

An individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a particular sport if the individual:

(a) Uses his or her athletics skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport; (Revised: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02)

(b) Accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation;

(c) Signs a contract or commitment of any kind to play professional athletics, regardless of its legal enforceability or any consideration received;

(d) Receives, directly or indirectly, a salary, reimbursement of expenses or any other form of financial assistance from a professional sports organization based upon athletics skill or participation, except as permitted by NCAA rules and regulations;

(e) Competes on any professional athletics team per Bylaw 12.02.4, even if no pay or remuneration for expenses was received; (Revised: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02)

(f) Subsequent to initial full-time collegiate enrollment, enters into a professional draft (see also Bylaws 12.2.4.2.1 and 12.2.4.2.3); or (Revised: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02, 4/24/03 effective 8/1/03 for student-athletes entering a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/03)

(g) Enters into an agreement with an agent. (Adopted: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02
Part (a) seems simple enough, except that when you look down to part (d), you find that the NCAA differentiates between "pay" and "reimbursement of expenses," and then only concerns itself with reimbursement from profressional organizations. Upon further examination of the legislation, one finds the nearest equivalent reference to the issue of reimbursement for expenses:
12.1.2.1.3.1 Educational Expenses -- Prior to Collegiate Enrollment

A prospective student-athlete may receive educational expenses (i.e., tuition, fees, room and board, and books) prior to collegiate enrollment from any individual or entity other than an agent, professional sports team/organization or a representative of an institution's athletics interests, provided such expenses are disbursed directly through the recipient's educational institution (e.g., high school, preparatory school). (Adopted: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02)
Since there does not appear to be any language within NCAA legislation regarding travel teams (one exception below), I believe that treating junior hockey teams as educational institutions is acceptable (after all, they are "accredited" by USA Hockey). Indeed, I believe that Shattuck's participation in the MnJHL in recent past serves as an excellent reference. Does Shattuck provide academic scholarships? I'll bet they do, and I'll bet that in certain cases these scholarships extended to their hockey players. Note, the reference to "representative of an institution's athletics interests" refers to a collegiate program and/or boosters... you can't have a college booster pay for prep school then have that kid later go to the booster's school.

Not convinced? There's more... in 12.1.2.1.4.3, the NCAA addresses "Expenses from Outside Team or Organization," prohibiting:
...Expenses received from an outside amateur sports team or organization in excess of actual and necessary travel, room and board expenses, and apparel and equipment (for individual and team use only from teams or organizations not affiliated with member institutions, including local sports clubs as set forth in Bylaw 13.11.2.3) for competition and practice held in preparation for such competition. Practice must be conducted in a continuous time period preceding the competition except for practice sessions conducted by a national team, which occasionally may be interrupted for specific periods of time preceding the competition. (Revised: 1/10/90, 1/10/92)
Hmmmm...

So what now? You got me. If USA Hockey wants to maintain this "regulation," it's up to them, but they should do it 1) under their normal legislation and 2) without using the NCAA as their sword of justification. Personally, I am against the rule, because it reduces the incentive to build a strong program off the ice. Follow me for a moment... only those franchises strong enough financially to afford scholarships can (excuse me, were able to offer them). Why work harder financially if the result can't manifest itself on the ice in the form of scholarships? Doesn't this contradict many of the intentions of Tier I? Why promote financial stability at one level, and enacting a reg at another level that is seemingly detrimental?

Anway, that's more than enough of this for folks to chew on for a Monday. I'll be curious to see where this goes from here.

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