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NJCAA changes rule regarding international players

Marco Tulio Andrade, shown here dribbling through traffic last fall, was one of seven international student-athletes on the men’s soccer roster. A national rule change by the NJCAA will take effect in 2012-2013 limiting the percentage of international athletes on junior college rosters. Marco Tulio Andrade, shown here dribbling through traffic last fall, was one of seven international student-athletes on the men’s soccer roster. A national rule change by the NJCAA will take effect in 2012-2013 limiting the percentage of international athletes on junior college rosters. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik

NWC coaches see little impact locally

A winter rule change by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) regarding international players is expected to have a significant impact when it takes effect in two years. Locally, though, Northwest College officials aren’t seeing many changes to the way things are done on campus.

Under current NJCAA regulations, member schools are limited to having no more than 25 percent of their scholarship players come from outside the United States. After a narrow vote this winter, the wording of the rule will change. Starting in the 2012-2013 academic year, NJCAA-affiliated schools will be limited to having 25 percent of their rosters comprised of international students.

While the change may seem minor, the impacts will actually be quite significant for some schools.

“What a lot of people were doing was they would award 25 percent of their scholarships to international students, but then they’d fill their rosters with other international students as well,” noted Northwest College athletic director Andy Ward. “Those kids may have been paying their own way, or they may have been getting some other sort of scholarship from the school.”

As an example, Ward pointed to the case of a men’s soccer team in the state of Texas this past season.

“They had 22 international players on their roster,” Ward said. “So what the NJCAA is saying now is that you get 25 percent. That’s how many can play, period.”

Only the men’s soccer program exceeded that 25 percent threshold this past year. The Trappers debuted the sport of men’s soccer last fall with a roster that included seven international players among its 22 members.

“As an institution, we haven’t carried as many international players as some other schools,” Ward said. “It is still something that we need to be aware of though, because we do recruit internationally.”

The biggest impact, Ward notes, could come regarding players offered the chance to walk on to the Trappers’ programs.

“We’ve had international walk-ons in the past,” Ward said. “Under the new rule, those student-athletes might not get that opportunity, because now they’ll count against your percentage. So now, you might not be able to look at them like you could in the past.”

Overall though, since the Trappers have stayed under that 25 percent threshold, Ward said he doesn’t see any significant impact from the rule change.

“There might be a case where the rule makes a decision for you over whether or not to take a kid that you would have before,” Ward said. “For the most part, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of change on campus though.”

If anything, Ward hints that it might become easier for schools like Northwest College, who have traditionally been under that 25 percent mark, to attract students to campus.

“Some of those kids that have been going to schools (with more than 25 percent international participation) are going to have to look a little harder,” Ward said. “They’re not going to just give up and decide they don’t want to play. They’re going to look for a program that has space available.”

And, to be sure, the Trappers will be looking for them as well.

“We’ll keep looking at international students,” said Trapper women’s basketball coach Janis Beal, who has brought in students from Latvia, Brazil and the Dominican Republic during her two-year tenure at Northwest College. “That’s one of many avenues you have to build your team.”

While the rule change might influence coaches in their recruiting decisions and recruiting strategies, it will likely pass largely unnoticed by fans in the stands.

“I don’t think it will change the quality of the student-athlete we attract internationally,” said Ward. “The same types of students that have been looking to play junior college ball in the past will still be looking at that level. I don’t think it will shift where those kids look.”

Fans might notice the changes to opposing rosters, though. While the Trappers fall beneath the 25 percent threshold, the same cannot be said of some of the schools Northwest College routinely faces in competition.

“When you look at the rosters, there are several that have lots of international students on them,” Ward said, noting, for instance, that one team his men’s basketball program faced last winter carried six international students on its roster. “For schools that have increasingly recruited international players, they’ll have to sit down and change their focus. There will definitely be some programs nationally that this rule change hits rather hard.”

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