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DIII health and safety proposal advances

The DIII Presidents Council endorses independent medical care proposal

The Division III Presidents Council on Thursday endorsed a key piece of legislation designed to protect student-athletes.

The proposal, introduced by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and recommended last month by the Division III Management Council, calls for athletics health care providers – such as team physicians and athletic trainers – to have unchallengeable autonomous authority for medical management and return-to-play decisions. It also requires schools to designate an athletics healthcare administrator to provide oversight for health care administration and delivery. These administrative duties can be passed on to any current staff member, who would be tasked with ensuring campuses are adhering to established best practices and protocols for medical care. 

The council endorsed the proposal at its quarterly meeting in Indianapolis. It will be subject to a membership vote at the 2017 NCAA Convention.

A subtle but significant element of the proposal did spur lengthy discussion. The proposal indicates coaches should neither supervise nor have hiring, retention or dismissal authority over athletics medical providers. That distinction ensures autonomy for medical providers but presents a potential challenge for schools at which the athletics director also works as a head coach.

In Division III, nearly 20 percent of athletics directors serve as head coaches. In those instances, if the legislation were adopted, athletics departments would have to take extra measures to ensure the athletics director cedes oversight of athletic trainers and other medical personnel regarding medical decisions relevant to the sport they coach.

The Presidents Council stressed schools with that arrangement might have to create a new or modified reporting line – such as moving oversight of athletic trainers to another relevant department or office at that school – to ensure the department is adhering to the legislation and that the athletics director/coach holds no impermissible influence over the medical staff. Satisfied that Division III schools would be able to create appropriate reporting lines if the legislation were adopted, the Presidents Council endorsed the proposal.

“We have 79 institutions in Division III that have an athletics director who is also a coach, and we want to put the responsibility of decisions regarding the welfare of our student-athletes in the hands of someone who doesn’t have a coaching responsibility,” said Alan Cureton, Presidents Council chair and president of the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. “How do we solve that? That’s going to have to be determined by institutions on an individual basis.”

Other actions:

  • The Presidents Council voted in support of an NCAA Board of Governors resolution to continue its ongoing evaluation of the board’s composition and responsibilities. Using feedback from all three divisions, the board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structure and Composition will craft a recommendation regarding the board’s composition – currently, 12 members from Division I and two each from Divisions II and III – and responsibilities no later than April.

    “We believe that this is a positive move forward,” Cureton said. “We want to work alongside Division I and Division II as they’re processing this initiative. The council fully supports these next steps.”
  • The Presidents Council endorsed a portion of a legislative proposal related to financial aid. The Management Council and Division III Financial Aid Committee recommended legislation that would do two things: no longer require institutions to review outside aid awards of $1,000 or less to ensure those awards comply with NCAA regulations; and prohibit outside financial awards that consider athletics if they restrict the recipient to attending a single institution. The Presidents Council did not support the measure that would have eliminated reviews for awards $1,000 and below. It did, however, endorse the latter half of the proposal, which will be subject to a Convention vote.
  • The Presidents Council convened with the Division III Presidents Advisory Group and discussed a range of issues, including efforts to improve diversity and equity in Division III, a new communications best practices guide for conference commissioners and school presidents, and this year’s slate of legislative proposals.

    A proposal sponsored by the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that would permit graduate students with remaining athletics eligibility to transfer and compete at a school other than the one they attended as an undergraduate generated a lengthy debate. Some felt the rule would expand academic opportunities for student-athletes who wish to continue their athletic careers while pursuing a graduate degree, while others voiced concern that it would encourage students to make graduate school decisions based on athletics, not academics, and would be inconsistent with Division III’s philosophy statement. If the proposal receives a co-sponsor by Sept. 1, the Presidents Council will take an official position at its fall meeting, and the proposal will be subject to a membership vote in January.