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DII Presidents Council advances safety, academic legislation

By Josh Looney

The Division II Presidents Council at its Aug. 8 meeting in Indianapolis finalized the legislative agenda for the 2014 Convention by supporting legislation that impacts student-athlete health and safety, addresses penalties for drug testing, and supports student-athletes’ path to graduation.
Highlights of legislation the Division II membership will vote on at January’s convention are as follows:

Street drug testing changes

Division II Presidents Council chair Patrick O'Brien explains the reason for supporting legislation designed to enhance student-athlete safety.

The council sponsored legislation previously endorsed by the Division II Management Council to reduce the penalty for a first-time positive test for street drugs. The legislation, proposed by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport, would set the penalty at 50 percent of a season of competition. Currently, student-athletes testing positive for a street drug at a championship event are declared ineligible for one calendar year and are charged with a minimum loss resulting in one season of competition.

In addition, the Presidents Council approved a recommendation from the DII Drug Testing and Education Project Team that would add marijuana (THC) and synthetic cannabinoids (SC) to its year-round testing program,backing the endorsement given by the Management Council at its July meeting. With the passage of this policy change, those drugs would be added to the testing program beginning with the 2014-15 season.

Health and Safety package approved

Division II Presidents Council chair Patrick O'Brien and Vice-Chair Tom Haas explain the reasons for supporting legislation that would reduce the penalty for a positive marijuana test to 50 percent of a season.

The Presidents Council also sponsored two elements of a health and safety package recommended by CSMAS, supporting the requirement that all programs designate a team physician to oversee all of its sports, and implementing a new process for reporting catastrophic injuries, near fatalities and fatalities.

The Presidents Council supported the Management Council’s decision to refer another element of CSMAS’ overall package back to the safeguards committee for review. That element, which would require strength and conditioning personnel to be nationally certified, contained wording that the committee determined was too vague and could pose complications beyond the intention of the proposal. A revised proposal could be revisited at the 2015 Convention.

Progress toward degree

The Presidents Council also supported the “Path to Graduation” package recommended by the Division II Academic Requirements Task Force and passed by the Management Council last month. The package of proposals would alter progress-toward degree requirements.

The package will give Division II members three proposals to consider at Convention:

The West Texas A&M President walks through the thought process behind legislation that the Division II Presidents Council supported at its August meetings.

  • The first proposal would require student-athletes to maintain a 2.0 GPA while earning nine-semester/eight-quarter hours on term-by-term basis. Student-athletes would need to earn 18-semester/24-quarter hours during the traditional academic year to remain eligible. Credits earned during the summer would not count toward the 18/24 academic year requirement.

  • The second proposal would require student-athletes to achieve a minimum of 27-semester/40-quarter hours each year, and 54/80 by the end of their second year. Maintaining the averaging prior to the designation of a degree in year three provides academic flexibility in the first two years when student-athletes are required to earn 27/40 per year. Credit hours earned during the summer would count toward year-by-year eligibility. Following the designation of degree in year three, 24/36 hours would need to be maintained year-by-year. The decrease in required credit hours provides flexibility when not as many degree-specific courses are available.

Should the second proposal pass at Convention by a membership vote, proposal three would become moot.

  • The third proposal requires 24/36 hours year-by-year, or 48/72 hours in years one and two combined. Credit hours earned over the summer would count toward year-by-year eligibility and an annual 24/36 hour requirement would be required following the designation of degree after year two.

All three proposals have an Aug. 1, 2016 effective date for all certifications occurring Fall 2016 and thereafter.

Initial Eligibility and Two-year College Transfers

The Presidents Council also supported legislation requiring that, beginning Aug. 1, 2018, graduating high school seniors would need to carry a minimum core GPA of 2.2 in order to become a Division II qualifier. Partial qualifiers would need to carry at least a 2.0 GPA. Any prospect falling below a 2.0 GPA would become a non-qualifier.

For qualifying test scores, a sliding scale paired with core GPA would be implemented to help eliminate disparate effects on access for student-athletes of underrepresented groups. No changes will be made to the core-course requirement of 16 set to take effect in August 2013.

Another proposal would grant immediate eligibility for two-year college transfers possessing an associate of arts degree from an accredited institution , as long as they have been enrolled at the two-year college for a minimum of two full-time semesters.

Those who were qualifiers coming out of high school (about 87.5 percent) and only have one term of attendance at the two-year college would be required to post a cumulative GPA of 2.2 and have completed 12 semester or quarter hours of degree credit with no more than two physical education activity credits included.

To be immediately eligible, all other qualifiers, partial qualifiers and non-qualifiers would be required to have completed at least two full-time semesters (three full-time quarters) with at least a 2.2 GPA in 12 semester or quarter hours of transferrable degree credit, including math, English and science. Physical education activity credits would be limited to two. Two-year college transfers with a cumulative GPA of less than 2.2 but more than 2.0 who were non-qualifiers and meet all other requirements would be eligible to practice and receive financial aid but not compete in their first year at the four-year institution.

The proposal for two-year college transfers would be effective for student-athletes initially enrolling in Division II institutions on or after Aug. 1, 2016.