Student-athlete health and safety, time demands and academic misconduct are shaping the latest legislative proposals in Division II. Last week, they took center stage at the Division II Management Council meeting in Indianapolis.
The Management Council voiced support for new concepts that address independent medical care for student-athletes, nonchampionship segments across various sports and the rules defining academic misconduct, among others. The Presidents Council will review the concepts in August and consider whether to sponsor them as 2017 NCAA Convention legislation.
Independent medical care
A health and safety concept is being considered across the Association that would increase the decision-making authority of medical personnel in college sports. The recommendation is that schools establish team physicians and athletic trainers as the unchallengeable authorities for medical management and return-to-play decisions for student-athletes. In addition, schools would be required to designate an athletics healthcare administrator to oversee the entire athletics health care structure.
The five autonomy conferences in Division I adopted this concept as legislation at the 2016 Convention, and last month, the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended similar legislation to the rest of Division I and Divisions II and III. In addition to the CSMAS recommendation, three Division II conferences submitted the concept last month as a membership-sponsored proposal for 2017, ensuring the issue will go to a vote at the Division II business session.
Support for the concept continued to grow July 18 when the Division II Management Council recommended that the Presidents Council become co-sponsors to the membership proposal. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and the Gulf South Conference are the current sponsors.
Management Council members agreed on the importance of not only having qualified medical personnel for athletics but also empowering them to make appropriate decisions related to student-athlete health and well-being without outside pressure from coaches or other administrators. The bulk of the discussion centered on whether such a medical care model should be legislated in Division II or issued as a best practice.
“We have a responsibility and a due diligence to look at legislation and Division II priorities and put things out there for our members to consider,” said Jacqie McWilliams, commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Management Council chair. “At the end of the day, we are responsible for protecting our student-athletes.”
Nonchampionship segment activities
The Management Council supported a recommendation from the Division II Legislation Committee that would regulate how much a student-athlete can practice and compete during the nonchampionship segment. The recommendation is intended to simplify the current legislation pertinent to the nonchampionship segment, which has caused confusion among administrators and student-athletes.
It also would provide Division II athletes with additional time off. Concerns about student-athlete time demands were reinforced by the 2015 NCAA GOALS study, in which Division II student-athletes reported spending as much or more time on their sport during the offseason as during the competitive season.
The recommended legislation, if sponsored by the Presidents Council, consists of four parts:
- In all sports with a nonchampionship segment, it would prohibit all countable athletically related activity for two days each week during the nonchampionship segment.
- In all sports with a nonchampionship segment other than golf, rowing and tennis, it would limit student-athlete participation in countable athletically related activity to four hours per day and 15 hours per week during a period of 45 consecutive days, with exceptions for school vacations, exams and closures.
- In golf and tennis, it would limit student-athlete participation in countable athletically related activity to four hours per day and 20 hours per week during a period of 60 consecutive days, with the above exceptions.
- In rowing, it would limit student-athlete participation in countable athletically related activity to four hours per day and 15 hours per week during a period of 65 consecutive calendar days, with the above exceptions.
The Legislation Committee crafted the recommendations at its June meeting after conducting a thorough review of the legislation and examining feedback from Division II sport committees. The committee believes golf and tennis should have additional hours and a larger window to use the hours during the nonchampionship segment because, in those sports, competition during that period counts toward the championship selections. In addition, the committee felt rowing student-athletes needed a longer window of time to prepare for their sport.
The Management Council endorsed a recommendation from the Division II Academic Requirements Committee that would clarify when academic misconduct involving student-athletes falls within the purview of the NCAA and when it should be strictly an institutional matter. It would also expand the legislation’s reach to any situation in which a college or university staff member is involved.
The Academic Requirements Committee is encouraging changes that will help better define and clarify academic misconduct legislation, which has not been revised in the Division II manual since 1983.
Also at its meeting, the Management Council:
- Supported a legislative concept that would enable a college athlete to try out with a professional athletics team or permit a professional athletics team to conduct medical examinations at any time, as long as the student does not miss class.
- Supported a legislative concept that would provide greater flexibility for student-athletes participating in permissible promotional activities or fundraising projects.
- Supported a legislative concept that would ease Division II restrictions on recruiting student-athletes at NAIA schools.
- Supported a legislative concept that would enable a school to cover the pre-enrollment fees of a committed prospective student-athlete.
- Supported a legislative concept to amend the Division II philosophy statement to better align with the Make It Yours brand.
- Reviewed and approved last week’s decisions by the Membership Committee.
- Approved the three 2017 financial aid proposals in legislative form.
- Approved a recommendation from the Championships Committee to split the Division II sport committee overseeing cross country and track and field into two separate committees.