The Division I Council adopted the legislation Wednesday at the NCAA convention and it is effective immediately.
Previously, college athletes could compromise their eligibility to compete for their schools by accepting some benefits that are provided to potential Olympians.
Under the new legislation, athletes designated elite by the USOC or other organizations such as USA Swimming or USA Track and Field can have travel expenses paid for parents, coaches or trainers. The new rules also will allow potential Olympians to spend more time working with their college coaches without breaking NCAA rules regarding practice limits.
“I think the Olympic definition of amateurism and the NCAA definition of amateurism are not quite aligned and that makes it very unfortunate for people who are at that level,” said Ginny Thrasher, who won a gold medal in women's 10-meter air rifle at the 2016 Summer Games while still competing for West Virginia University. “I think if you have been identified by your national governing body as being eligible to receive those funds, I think it would be very helpful and I think it's something the NCAA should allow.”
Thrasher said allowing elite athletes to tap into those benefits will help solidify the relationship between the NCAA and the Olympic movement.
“It would make it easier for people on that path to continue and not have to deal with any sort of division of conflict of interest," Thrasher said.
In other news, the Board of Governors is working on expanding the NCAA's sexual violence policy, though no details were provided. The current policy is focused on education in sexual violence prevention for athletes, coaches and administrators. The NCAA may look at changing policies on athletes with a history of sexual violence who transfer to other schools to play.
There have been calls from some victims' advocacy groups for the NCAA to ban from competition individuals who have faced legal charges or discipline for committing acts of sexual violence. NCAA member institutions have resisted stepping into that area in part because laws defining sexual violence vary from state to state.
Ohio State University President Michael Drake, chairman of the Board of Governors, said a special meeting would be scheduled for the upcoming weeks to craft a policy.
“This has been active area of discussion for us over these last several months and years,” Drake said.