Collegiate student-athletes may spend more than 40 hours a week practicing, leaving little time to keep up with academic commitments, according to a recent lawsuit against the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the NCAA, the organisation that governs college sports.
Filed by two former UNC student-athletes, the lawsuit claims that they were deprived of a “meaningful education” while representing the school on the field. The lawsuit — first reported by The Washington Post — follows a scathing investigative report released October 2014, detailing a decades-long academic scandal that predominantly affected UNC student-athletes.
The scandal centres around so-called “paper classes” — which typically never met and only required a final paper — that were offered through the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. These classes were explicity utilized by members of both UNC academic and athletic departments to help athletes achieve a minimum GPA to maintain their NCAA eligibility, according to former Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein’s report.
Officially, the NCAA restricts student-athletes’ in-season practice to 20 hours per week, or four hours per day. Many student-athletes, however, reported that they practice at least 30 hours a week on average, with some sports reporting weekly practice commitments of more than 40 hours, according to a 2011 NCAA survey cited in the UNC lawsuit.
Here were the weekly average hours student-athletes reported they spent:
The UNC students’ lawsuit also cites a separate NCAA survey, from 2006, which found that student-athletes spent an average of 45 hours per week on athletics. The 2006 survey also breaks down how many hours student-athletes spend in practice each day:
One potential explanation for the popularity of UNC’s “paper classes” is that the amount of time the school’s athletics commitments took up prevented them from handling a full course load.
“If these young men and women are going to come in and put in 30, 40, 50 hours, the least we can give them is a set of circumstances academically that really allows them to benefit educationally from what they have put into the athletics context,” Robert Orr, one of the lawyers representing the UNC students filing the lawsuit, told Business Insider.
The disconnect between the NCAA’s stated policy and what student-athletes actually experience may be due to the organisation’s definition of what constitutes a practice. Various activities — such as “voluntary” student-led work outs — do not qualify for the 20-hour rule.
Here’s how the lawsuit describes the potential problem:
The 20-hour rule itself is also rife with loopholes. Administrative meetings, weight-lifting, conditioning, film study, and activities incidental to participation, such as taping, visits to the trainer, and rehabilitation, do not count towards the 20-hour limit. Nor do “voluntary” activities where no coach is present. Game days count as three total hours, even though they often require travel and hours of pre- and post-game meetings and activities.
Plaintiff and former UNC basketball player Rashanda McCants released the following statement to Business Insider Friday:
I want to call on all athletes to stand with me and Devon Ramsay. We must stand strong so that we can be seen as more than just mere athletes. We are humans; we have voices; and, although we all love our school, we also love ourselves and the dignity we built within our own right. My intention is for people to know that I did everything that was asked of me, on the court and off the court. But the university and the NCAA failed to keep their promise to me and other college athletes, and in turn we seek justice. With this said, I hope and pray my fellow athletes stand with me and Devon in this effort to hold the powers that be accountable.
We have reached out to the NCAA about the lawsuit’s criticism about the enforcement of the 20 hour rule and will update with any comment we receive.
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