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DII Presidents Council approves funding for proposed Athletes into Medicine and Science pilot

Collaboration with medical organizations initially would target African-American male student-athletes

Division II has pledged financial support for a proposed pilot program aimed at increasing the number of African-American male student-athletes pursuing careers in medicine and biomedical research.

At a meeting this week in Indianapolis, the Division II Presidents Council approved a proposal to earmark approximately $300,000 of Division II surplus funds annually to support a three-year pilot program in anticipated collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges and the National Institutes of Health. In total, the division has earmarked $900,000 for the project.

Wayne State (Michigan) President M. Roy Wilson, a physician who serves on the Division II Presidents Council and also holds leadership positions at the AAMC and NIH, spearheaded the proposal as a way to address the nationwide decline in African-American men in medicine and biomedical research careers.

“When I graduated from medical school in 1980, there were more African-American males in medical school than there are now,” Wilson said. According to a report by the AAMC, 1,336 men who identified as African-American or black applied to U.S. medical schools in 2014; in 1978, that number was 1,410. “African-American men are a special group that needs attention.”

The proposed Athletes into Medicine and Science program would focus on providing eligible Division II athletes who are interested in pursuing medical school with targeted academic resources and advising, networking and mentoring opportunities, and career development. The budget estimates are anticipated to fund one conference model, consisting of a group of Division II schools working together to support a cohort of student-athletes, as well as a separate model for individual schools.

“Physicians excel because of so many traits that are commonplace with student-athletes: intensity, passion, daily challenges, learning how to pick yourself up after a defeat, goal-oriented behavior,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline. “Yet student-athletes often don’t choose a medical career because they do not believe they can combine pre-med classes with academic excellence. The Athletes into Medicine and Science program will address this challenge, thereby giving student-athletes a wonderful career pathway while tackling a profound public health crisis.”

Members of the Presidents Council deliberated how the proposal aligns with broader 2019-20 Division II priorities that were approved earlier in the meeting. One of the priorities is to examine factors affecting graduation rates of African-American males, which have been relatively constant over the past decade while rates for other student-athletes of color, including African-American females, have risen.

Ultimately, the council agreed to dedicate funds to the pilot program with an added request for a thorough evaluation of program success at the end of each year. The NCAA and AAMC will work together to determine next steps.

“Division II has always believed in life in the balance, meaning that we believe that excellence in academics go hand in hand with excellence in athletics, and this particular project goes a long way in supporting academic excellence among the target group,” said Daemen President Gary Olson, chair of the Division II Presidents Council. “In addition, Division II has always had a real commitment to diversity, and this program will enhance diversity and inclusion among our students, especially our student-athletes. The Presidents Council feels this is a worthy cause to partner with the Sport Science Institute and others to try to make an intervention.”

Task force on enforcement and infractions

The Division II Presidents Council also approved the formation of a task force to examine Division II enforcement and infractions case trends and recommend potential reforms to the infractions process. The task force was a recommendation from the Division II Management Council after NCAA enforcement staff presented the group with data showing a rise in major violations in Division II in recent years. The new task force will review reforms made in Division I and determine if any changes make sense in Division II. The Division I reforms include a change in the penalty structure, requiring greater cooperation among school presidents and athletics staff in the investigations and infractions process, and whistleblower protection, among others. The task force will be made up of presidents, athletics directors, conference commissioners, faculty athletics representatives and other athletics administrators and is expected to begin its work this fall.

2020 Convention legislation

The Presidents Council sponsored several new proposals for the 2020 Convention:

  • A proposal to move up the competition start date for men’s and women’s soccer in years in which the Division II National Championships Festival occurs in the fall.
  • Proposals to add women’s wrestling and acrobatics and tumbling as NCAA emerging sports for women in Division II.
  • A proposal to change the terms of service for the Presidents Council so that members would serve six-year terms instead of four-year terms; additionally, the proposal would state that the chair and vice chair would not serve for a period longer than three years, instead of two years.

The council also formally sponsored two proposals it had previously supported in concept:

  • A proposal that would specify that a student-athlete transferring from another NCAA division, a two-year college or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics would be subject to the season-of-competition legislation applicable to the school where the athlete competed, rather than Division II legislation. Division III student-athletes would not be charged with a season upon transfer if they only practiced at the Division III institution.
  • A proposal that is being considered in all three divisions that would require every school and conference to establish a diversity and inclusion designee for athletics.

The council did not sponsor one proposal recommended by Management Council that would have permitted student-athletes to accept donations from an institutional staff or faculty member, excluding athletics staff, when fundraising to cover expenses for participation in outside competitions.

Elections

The Presidents Council extended the term of vice chair Sandra Jordan, chancellor of South Carolina Aiken, through August 2020, and ratified the election of Jim Johnson, athletics director at Pittsburg State, as vice chair of the Management Council.