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DIII Championships budget reduction proposal advances

Proposal would trim deficit by an estimated $2.17 million

The Division III Management Council voted in favor of five proposals from the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee during its meeting this week in Indianapolis, which will eliminate an estimated $2.17 million from the championships budget in the 2014-15 academic year.

If adopted, the proposal would pull Division III within about $340,000 of balancing its budget. A sixth proposal – eliminating the newly implemented softball superregional tournament structure – could make up that difference and will be considered in the fall once the Division III Championships Committee reviews the results from this year’s event, the first with the new format.

The council also voted in favor of a proposal to reduce the division’s reserve balance – an emergency fund in place to keep the division operating for a year – from 80 percent of the division’s annual revenue allocation to 50 percent. The change in reserve policy will provide the division with additional funds, if necessary, to cover expected budget deficits through the 2017-18 academic year. While members of various committees who have explored the issue acknowledge the division can’t rely on the reserve balance to cover budget imbalances in perpetuity, they believe reducing the balance to 50 percent would be consistent with other nonprofit best practices and would buy the division more time as it works toward a long-term solution for budget issues triggered by rising championship travel and operating costs.

The Division III Presidents Council will have the final vote on the budget proposals when it convenes in early August. They will be implemented immediately if the Presidents Council votes in favor of the proposals.

The Management Council noted the need for broad-based membership education regarding the entire Division III budget, including available resources, allocations and process. In particular, the council discussed the implications of altering the current championships access ratio of one bracket position for every 6.5 teams competing in team sports, which was legislated during a more hospitable economic climate. That ratio was nudged down incrementally from one bracket position for every eight teams to its current level throughout the last decade. While pushing the ratio back up would help ease budget woes, a change to the access ratio would require a membership vote.

The Division III Issues Forum at the 2015 Convention will provide an opportunity for the membership to discuss all aspects of the budget planning process, including current policies and priorities, resource reallocation and potential new revenue sources (e.g. a targeted championships special assessment, or a potential increase in membership dues).

“I do think the championship budget is going to be torn apart in a lot of different ways and looked at,” said Division III Management Council chair and Director of Athletics at Wilmington College, Terry Rupert. “I think the challenge is going to be affordability with access. How much are you willing to give up? Whether it is a change in access ratio or a different way of putting championships together, it will be a challenge for the championships committee.”

Other actions:

  • The council voted down a proposal from the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee that would have allowed graduate or post-baccalaureate student-athletes to compete at a Division III schools other than where they received their undergraduate degrees. Despite support from the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the council felt the change would cause student-athletes to make graduate school choices driven by athletic reasons, not academic. Additionally, the council argued it would create an undue burden on coaches who would feel compelled to recruit from within the division’s ranks in addition to their other recruiting obligations.
  • The council endorsed a proposal from the interpretations and legislation committee that would allow prospective student-athletes to make an official visit to a member institution any time on or after Jan. 1 of their junior year of high school. Currently, official visits are prohibited until classes begin in a prospective student-athlete’s senior year. The membership will vote on the legislation at the 2015 NCAA Convention.
  • The council endorsed a proposal by the championships committee that would change the way the division reprimands schools that field ineligible players. Currently, institutions are forced to forfeit contests in which ineligible athletes compete, but forfeits have proven to be a recurring problem for sport committees when debating teams’ merits during championship selections.

The proposal, which will be on the legislative agenda at the 2015 Convention, would implement a nullification system that mirrors the one currently in place in Division II. The system would assess a mathematical penalty that affects a team’s win-loss percentage and strength of schedule. And, consistent with an existing NCAA bylaw, a $250 fine would be imposed for each violation, up to a total of $2,500.