NCAA athletes subject to long practice hours

With about 40 hours per week dedicated to sports, practice time may be affecting FAU athletes.


Photo by Mohammed F Emran | Web Editor

Josue Simplice, Sports Editor

Coaches will do anything to gain an advantage, even if that means breaking a rule and leaving their athletes with little time for a social life.

Wake up at 6 a.m., go to practice, watch game film, finish classes, go to afternoon practice and workouts. A Florida Atlantic athlete’s day is a full one.

“I’d say I spent about 26 hours per week on basketball [supervised by coaches] during the season,” says a former anonymous basketball player who entered the program under former head coach Mike Jarvis.

These estimates exceed the allotted practice time for collegiate athletes and could have resulted in sanctions if reported. If found to be true, FAU could have faced a reduction in practice time, coaches and staff members.

The University of Michigan docked itself of 130 hours of practice time and released two members of its quality-control staff during the 2010 season.

Those found responsible for the unreported practice time were punished, ranging from being fired to receiving a letter of reprimand.

The National Collegiate Athletics Association instituted the 20-hour practice rule in 1991. Before this, there was no cap on the hours that a collegiate team was allowed to practice.

Hours only count toward the allotted time limit if a coach is present. Any medical examinations, voluntary meetings, fundraiser events, or educational and training room activities do not count.

There are loopholes, however. Because game days and the preparation leading up to them only count as three hours, a team can travel and arrive early for a nighttime road game and still spend the entire day preparing. That could equate to six to eight hours of preparation. Game days at Northwestern University last for as long as 12 hours when traveling, and preparation is taken into account.

There is no limit on the amount of time that a team can practice during holiday breaks. When the semester is over, coaches can have players practice for as long as they see fit, since the rules do not apply.

In the first College Football Playoff Championship, Ohio State practiced as long as they wanted since their semester ended before Oregon’s did. Ohio State defeated Oregon 42-20 in this year’s national championship.

During former FAU head football coach Carl Pelini’s tenure, players did activities that lasted from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the activity.

“He was real strict about it and made sure we didn’t go over because we only had 20 hours to practice every week,” says former FAU offensive lineman Jonathan Ragoo. “I’d say we practiced about 18 hours per week, with two or three days of wearing upper pads in between the weeks leading up to game day.”

There are athletes who practice voluntarily, which does not count against the 20 hours the teams are allowed.

Capture“Me and a couple of guys, we come into [the Arena] at night and try to get in as many shots as we can. I’m always trying to work on my game and get better,” says FAU sophomore basketball player D’Andre Johnson.

Another current basketball player, senior forward Kelvin Penn, said his days start early in the morning and do not end until late at night.

“I wake up early in the morning and my day usually ends at about 11,” says Penn.

Athletes like Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman and ex-NBA player Rashad McCants say that while they were able to obtain a free education, their constant practice schedules did not permit them to put all of their effort into gaining a valuable education that they could rely on after college.

This past fall, the FAU men’s basketball and football teams both had low GPAs relative to other FAU programs. Football, with an average 2.66, had the lowest and men’s basketball had the third-lowest with an average of 2.78. Those numbers are cumulative for the fall 2014 semester.

Sherman said before Super Bowl XLIX, “No, I don’t think college athletes are given enough time to really take advantage of the free education that they’re given, and it’s frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say they’re not focused on school and they’re not taking advantage of the opportunity they’re given.”