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DII leaders: Census affirms strategic plan

More than 2,800 in membership weighed in through assessment survey

As Division II prepares for a midterm assessment of its six-year strategic plan, the results of a new membership census will serve as a compass guiding the division’s future objectives and initiatives. And in large part, the division’s leaders received affirmation that they’re headed in the right direction, with respondents to the 2018 census expressing continued support for the core values, characteristics and Life in the Balance philosophy that serve as the bedrock of Division II.

The census was sent in January to college presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, conference commissioners and staff, and other athletics administrators at the 315 schools in Division II. More than 2,800 people responded, an increase of 815 from the inaugural census issued in 2013.

The 2013 census helped shape the 2015-21 strategic plan and was deemed so useful that Division II members agreed to conduct a similar survey every five years.

Pennie Parker, athletics director at Rollins and chair of the Division II Management Council, said she was encouraged this year by the feedback on the division’s championships. “The data on our championships, our festivals and regionalization supported that Division II is providing a quality championships experience,” Parker said. “And it showed that access to championships remains a priority for our membership.”

Division II’s regionalization model, which was created to ensure schools in every region of the country have access to championships, is supported by most administrators and 90 percent of presidents and chancellors. The national championships festivals, another unique component of Division II, elicited positive feedback, particularly from those who have attended one. More than 80 percent of conference staff and around three-quarters of presidents, chancellors and athletics directors who have been to a festival indicated the student-athlete experience at the festival is worth the financial investment.

In considering the allocation of championships resources, all groups agreed that increasing per diem is a priority.

The census also covered topics related to athletics operations, governance, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete advisory committees, among others.

The Division II Presidents Council and Management Council reviewed the results at their spring meetings and noted a trend: For many of the questions, coaches’ answers differed significantly from the other responding groups’. This gap appeared in the 2013 census results, too, when only 21 percent of responding coaches were aware of the division’s strategic positioning platform and just 65 percent supported the Life in the Balance approach — 16 points lower than any other group. This year, nearly 1,400 coaches responded to the census, 635 more than five years ago. Still, the data show more work needs to be done to engage these sport leaders.

Glen Jones, Henderson State president and chair of the Presidents Council, emphasized the presidents’ responsibility to continue to support and advocate for the Life in the Balance philosophy, both as it pertains to legislation at the national level as well as decisions made on campus. Centered on the principle of providing student-athletes a well-rounded college experience, Life in the Balance was deemed “the right way” to approach college athletics by 90 percent of the responding presidents and chancellors.

“We saw strong support in the data for Life in the Balance,” Jones said. “But the only time it comes up is when we want to add more playing time or extend the length of seasons. I do think it’s important for us to remember it’s really about graduation success, about student success, about getting kids those opportunities. If we’re not careful, we end up rewarding things that are not as important to us.”

More highlights from the 2018 census include:

  • When asked to rank the characteristics of Division II that they value most, respondents most often selected the strategic positioning platform as the top characteristic.
  • Athletics directors are feeling more squeezed financially than five years ago, while commissioners are feeling less squeezed. Forty-three percent of ADs agreed that their school has allocated a sufficient budget to allow for the effective operation of the athletics department, while 91 percent of commissioners feel they have sufficient budget. In 2013, 58 percent of ADs and 66 percent of commissioners agreed with the statement.
  • There is some ambivalence around the impact of the Make It Yours brand enhancement at the campus level. Between 36 and 43 percent of respondents picked “neither agree nor disagree” when asked whether Make It Yours has established institutional pride and most respondents indicated more work is needed to promote the brand. 
  • While most respondents agree SAACs are productive leadership groups on campus, the respondents were split on whether SAAC members are more engaged in campus events than other students.
  • All responding groups generally agree that athletics help diversify the student body, and that their schools and athletics departments support a culture of diversity and inclusion.
  • All categories of respondents except coaches expressed much less concern about the status of Division II within the NCAA than in 2013. However, about three-fifths of each group indicated concern about the overall status of intercollegiate athletics.

Read more key findings from the 2018 census here or view the complete results here.