When fall athletes returned to campus for preseason 10 days ago, they were given a two-day breather before plunging into multiple-practice days.
In previous years, athletes came on Sunday and began practices early Monday morning for a full week of workouts before classes. This year, teams had to wait until Wednesday before they hit the turf, court or track.
To ensure fairness across the conference, the National Collegiate Athletic Association regulates how much athletes can practice before their first competition.
According to Eastern’s NCAA compliance officer and athletic trainer John Post, nothing changed in the rules, the process was merely clarified.
Each fall sport is allowed to hold 16 “units” before their first day of competition on Sept. 1. During the week when classes begin, each day is considered one unit, excluding Sundays. Prior to the first week of class, each day is worth two units, but, Post said, there is no limit to how many hours a team meets during a unit.
Before this summer, each university had to interpret these rules and calculate its preseason start date. In August, the NCAA sent a computerized program to schools that generates the first day of preseason automatically based on the school’s first day of classes.
The athletics staff only discovered their original start date was wrong about two weeks before the athletes arrived. Post said trying to change the move-in date “would have been a nightmare.”
Instead, coaches were given Monday as a free day, encouraged to participate in service projects, and Tuesday was used to complete required NCAA compliance meetings.
“We had to do what we had to do,” Post said. “Had we gotten that formula late June, even July, we could have made the arrangements.”
Post said a motion to create a standard start date has been discussed, which would give coaches and teams ample time to prepare.
With their “free” Monday, field hockey and men’s and women’s soccer completed various service projects, on and off campus.
Field hockey traveled to Coatesville to organize a warehouse full of donated medical supplies and other items.
Men’s soccer served at a local domestic violence shelter for women, cleaning out the basement and attending to repairs around the home.
Women’s soccer coach Dan Mouw kept his team on campus to help plant operations by weeding flower beds.
“We wanted to do a service project this season, but it wasn’t intended to be the first day,” Mouw said. “It was actually a great opportunity to work with each other.”
Even with some four-session days, Mouw said he did not cram more practices into the shortened week.
“There’s only so much you do in a day,” Mouw said. Asking the girls to do much more is just “begging for injuries.”