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DIII addresses present and future at 2013 Convention

Division III delegates were 13-for-13 at the Jan. 19 business session, approving all of the legislative proposals to wrap up four days of governance meetings at the 2013 NCAA Convention in Grapevine, Texas.

Only two of the votes were close. Proposal No. 4 to require sickle cell trait status confirmation of incoming student-athletes (first-year and transfer student-athletes) this coming year was adopted by a 254-200-15 margin. The new legislation requires confirmation for all student-athletes by 2014-15.

While that proposal was controversial from the start of the legislative cycle, the other close vote came on a proposal that generated some contention down the stretch. Likely because of pre-Convention opposition from the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Proposal No. 9 to deregulate electronic communication with prospects (including social media) passed only by a 246-227-4 count.

Neither Proposal Nos. 4 nor No. 9 was brought up during the business session’s window of reconsideration.

“The sickle ell proposal was important,” said Gustavus Adolphus President Jack Ohle, who took the baton from Western Connecticut State’s Jim Schmotter as chair of the Presidents Council after the Convention concluded. “As was discussed on the floor, it really is about providing information and education to students and maintaining our need to be concerned about their well-being. I credit in many ways the educational outreach done over the last year that was put together not to ‘blitz’ the membership or attempt to persuade an outcome, but to provide information that is educational.”

The other 11 proposals breezed through by wide margins. They included:

  • Proposal No. 2, stipulating that a Division III institution is not eligible for Division III championships and Division III grant funding once the school begins the Division II reclassification process. The Division III SAAC opposed this measure in November but reconsidered at its pre-Convention meeting. A plea from the Convention floor to oppose based on the proposal’s effect on current members’ in-region scheduling requirements went unheeded in a 428-40-3 landslide.
  • Proposal No. 3, granting conferences the ability to provide a postgraduate scholarship up to $7,500 in value to one male and one female student-athlete who have excelled in the classroom, in athletics and the community and who have exhausted their eligibility. That was adopted in a 422-50-2 vote.
  • Proposal No. 6, establishing Nov. 1 as the first date of competition in ice hockey. That passed, 191-31, with 251 abstentions based on the sport’s sponsorship. The Division III Management Council subsequently adopted noncontroversial legislation to allow competition on the previous Friday if Nov. 1 falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
  • Proposal No. 11, allowing student-athletes who participate in athletics while in a foreign exchange or study abroad program to not trigger outside-competition legislation. That was adopted, 460-15.


Recruiting working group to continue

Besides the business session, the other guiding event was the Jan. 18 issues forum, during which hundreds of attendees heard about topics that likely will shape the division’s agenda this coming year.

One was a discussion of the year-round recruiting model in Division III. After a presentation from a working group formed six months ago to explore whether to pursue possible modifications, a straw-poll vote overwhelmingly said the group should continue to seek improvements.

One of the working group’s co-chairs, Karen Tessmer, said the group plans to survey all Division III coaches through their individual sport coaches associations.

“We need to hear directly from coaches, as each sport is unique and has specific needs,” she said. “The feedback from coaches will allow the working group to evaluate if Division III has recruiting challenges overall and by sport.”

The working group also will talk with various sports’ national governing bodies about the ever-changing youth sports culture and how it affects college recruitment. US Lacrosse, for example, issued a statement on the topic last fall that the working group found influential. In addition, the comprehensive division-wide survey coming up later this winter will probe the current recruiting landscape, the youth sports culture and the impact on the work/life balance of coaches. Conference offices and commissioners also will have a chance to provide input.

Tessmer, an associate athletics director and head women’s basketball coach and compliance officer at Worcester State University, said the working group will analyze all of those findings and report them to the Management and Presidents Councils at their October 2013 meetings. A follow-up presentation to the membership at the 2014 Convention is likely. Pending continued membership endorsement, legislative proposals could be presented at the 2015 Convention.

Ohle said he was pleased with the feedback, as well as the format in which it was obtained. All forum attendees, not just voting delegates, were equipped with electronic voting units to conduct several straw-poll votes to give direction. The final vote on whether the working group should proceed generated 500 “yes” votes, with only 49 opposed and 17 abstentions.

In the near term, Ohle emphasized engagement with campus faculty and staff, especially in enrollment management and admissions offices

“Having been at a Division I school previously, the recruitment of athletes in some sports was really done by the athletics staff, and very little by the admissions staff,” said Ohle, who was at Drake for 11 years in the 1980s and 90s. “It is totally different in Division III, where it’s really about a partnership among the coaches, the athletics staff and the admissions staff. There are many students who end up being student-athletes who choose the school based on the recruitment of the admissions office. So we want to make sure we keep that balance.”

More Convention outcomes

The four-day Convention also included:

  • Approval from the Management and Presidents Councils on a conference grant “best business practices policy” and third-party review process designed to help conferences both account for – and be more accountable for – dollars they spend through the Division III conference grant program.
  • Action by the Presidents Council to allocate $25,000 per year for the next two years to distribute among Division III institutions that voluntarily submit student-athlete graduation rates data. The allocation will be split evenly among institutions that submit relevant student-athlete data by the June 1 deadline. The Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee will discuss at its meeting in March future program allocations, including the issue of honorariums for new versus continuing participants beyond 2013-14.
  • Review of a proposed sports-safety package from the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports that could be developed into a legislative package for the 2014 Convention. The competitive-safeguards committee is advocating that all three NCAA divisions adopt legislation this coming year requiring, among other things, designation of a team physician, reporting of catastrophic injuries and sudden-death data, and certification of all full-time coaches in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator usage. Delegates expressed strong support for the sports-safety package, in concept, during the forum. About three-fourths said it was appropriate legislation and almost two-thirds said they would like CSMAS to bring it back as formal legislation.

Ohle said the Convention not only clarified the membership’s stance on legislative proposals but also gave the governance structure a good idea of what to focus on for 2013-14.

“I’ve been attending NCAA Conventions for a long time now, and I believe there was more conversation and more openness at the Division III sessions than ever before,” he said, noting that the issues forum was particularly helpful.

“Using the electronic voting units to allow everyone to have a voice, so to speak, was unique and productive,” Ohle said. “Quite often in a roundtable format there are individuals who have something to say but they are not heard because perhaps there isn’t enough time or there are one or two others at that table who dominate the discussion. Others perhaps are reluctant to approach the microphone during the report-out portion of a roundtable format and speak their minds in front of so many people.

“So when they were able to touch the keypad and say this is how I feel about this issue right now – and knowing that it wasn’t a binding vote – everyone could weigh in. This helped put the agenda in front of us.”