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Making a Partnership Work--An NCAA Rules Guide

So if the CHL is really serious about forming some kind of partnership with the NCAA(stick with me here), and because I'm still amazed at the amount of confusion that I see over this, I decided it would be wise to trudge my way through the NCAA's Division I manual, specifically through Bylaw 12, which deals with amateurism to see just how much distance there is.

In an unnecessarily long 444-page tome filled with all sorts of confusing lawyer language("final non-certified certification") the NCAA is remarkably clear on the CHL, giving it it's own sub-sub-sub-sub-section: Major Junior A Ice Hockey. Ice hockey teams in the United States and Canada, classified

by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association as major junior A teams, are considered professional teams

under NCAA legislation.

That's fine. We all obviously already knew that. But what if that rule disappeared from the rulebook?

The most commonly cited rule--and why it's the most commonly known is beyond me--is what is known as the "playing with pros rule." Here's what that rule actually looks like: Professional Player as Team Member. An individual may participate with a professional on a team, provided the professional is not being paid by a professional team or league to play as a member of that team (e.g., summer basketball leagues with teams composed of both professional and amateur athletes).

Basically, it's not so much that the player's teammates are professionals, as that the player's teammates were assigned by a professional team to play there. This answers one of the more frequently asked questions I get about why it is okay for college players to play with pros at events like the World Juniors.

The CHL's relationship with the NHL is a little too close for the NCAA's comfort in terms of amateurism. This is a pretty huge sticking point, because as unlikely as a partnership between the NCAA and CHL seems, having the CHL and NHL end their partnership is a million times less likely. It may not seem like a big deal, but that partnership essentially makes the CHL the low, low minor leagues in the NCAA's eyes.

There's a couple other issues I've come across in looking over the rulebook.

I'm sure you're surprised this is banned: Salary, Gratuity or Compensation. Any direct or indirect salary, gratuity or comparable compensation.

I've always said it would at least be interesting to have an investigation into some of the rumored under-the-table payments made to players that go beyond, "Do you super-swear you didn't cheat, Dale Hunter?"

I was kind of hoping that lawsuit against Jeff Jackson would go into it, but we're now at one year, five months, and four days since Kitchener and Windsor threatened their lawsuit, and shockingly, nobody in Canada has bothered to write anything about it since the original story(which is now so old it has disappeared from the internets). Great follow-up, guys!

Here's an interesting one: Educational Expenses from Outside Sports Team or Organization—After

Collegiate Enrollment. Educational expenses provided to an individual after initial collegiate enrollment

by an outside sports team or organization that are based on any degree on the recipient’s

athletics ability [except as specified in Bylaw], even if the funds are given to the institution

to administer to the recipient. (Revised: 1/10/95, 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02)

That would make any potential education package earned by playing in the CHL void, upon entering college hockey, and the CHL obviously loves loopholes that get them out of having to pay education packages they've promised.

If you ever wondered why CHL teams were so intent on getting players to sign documents that were in no way legally binding due to the players age, it's because of this rule:

12.2.5 Contracts and Compensation. An individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate

sport if he or she has entered into any kind of agreement to compete in professional athletics, either orally

or in writing, regardless of the legal enforceability of that agreement.

Yep, they're the totally cooperative good guys in all of this.

Any gifts, trip, etc. that teams sometimes get after making the Memorial Cup, or doing well in the season are banned: Payment Based on Performance. Any payment, including actual and necessary expenses,

conditioned on the individual’s or team’s place finish or performance or given on an incentive basis, or receipt

of expenses in excess of the same reasonable amount for permissible expenses given to all individuals

or team members involved in the competition. (Revised: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02)

Section 12.4 has a lot of complicated stuff I won't bother copy-and-pasting on players using their name, reputation, photo, whatever, to sell stuff. Suffice to say that you can't put yourself in a video game, sell jerseys or t-shirts with your name on it, and a lot of other stuff.

Could all of this stuff be worked around? Potentially, yes. There's even the possibility for a little quid pro quo in that if the CHL took care of the numerous steps necessary to be more amateur, the NCAA could maybe work something out in regards to the CHL/NHL relationship. But it's a long and difficult road, and whether that is in anyone's best interest in another question altogether.