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DIII Management Council backs conference grant review plan

By Gary Brown

The Division III Management Council at its Jan. 16 meeting endorsed 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.

Proposed timeline for the new grant review process beginning in 2014:

  • July 15: Conference impact forms and self-certification due.
  • Aug. 1: Staff completes comprehensive Level 1 review.
  • Sept. 15: NCAA distributes monies to each conference office.
  • Oct. 15: Conference third-party external review due.
  • Nov. 15: Level 2 for cause grant assessment notification by NCAA.
  • Dec. 15: Level 2 assessment materials from the conference due to the NCAA.
  • Jan. 15: Level 2 assessments completed and results given to conferences.
  • February: Report to Strategic Planning and Finance Committee – Level 2 assessment results.

The policy recommendations came from a six-member working group, including three commissioners, that was formed this summer after the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee and the Management and Presidents Councils advocated for a more formal annual review of one of the division’s most beneficial programs.

A grant-assessment reporting tool was deemed necessary because of the significant dollar amount allocated to conference offices through the grants (about $2 million annually), and the desire for conferences to be accountable for the use of those funds. The working group stopped short of recommending an annual comprehensive audit, believing instead that a best-practices review policy was the better approach.

Pending Division III Presidents Council approval, the review process will become effective in the 2013-14 academic year, with initial review forms from conferences due at the national office by July 15, 2014.

“We’ve talked about this kind of review before, and we’ve worked with the Division III Conference Commissioners Association all along the way, so this policy document should not be a surprise to most folks,” said University of Redlands Athletics Director Jeff Martinez, who chaired his final Management Council meeting before his term on the Council expires at the end of the Convention. “This isn’t so much an ‘audit’ as it is a way for conferences to more efficiently manage funds that benefit their operations. The grant program is such a big part of the division’s success. Most programs of that importance in any business or organization likely have some sort of formal review component. Ours should be no different.”

Conferences already are required to submit an “impact form” every July 15 that explains how their grant dollars were used in the previous year. The additions in the recommended process are a self-certification form and retention of a third party to review fund usage (examples of a third party could be a school’s business office, the chair of the conference’s presidential oversight body, the conference’s bank or an outside accounting firm). Such third-party entities likely already have dealings or oversight with conference accounting. The resulting accounting burden is expected to be a minimal portion of a conference’s overall fiscal operation.

A secondary or more in-depth review would be triggered only if information submitted in the first review in July reveals accounting inconsistencies or a lack of detail. Those “Level 2” reviews would be conducted by the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, which oversees the grant program.

If that assessment shows that funds have been used inconsistently with the grant program policy, the committee is authorized to take action that could involve deducting the misused funds from the conference’s next annual grant allocation or requiring the conference to reimburse the NCAA in an amount equal to the misused funds.

Gustavus Adolphus President Jack Ohle, incoming chair of the Presidents Council and current chair of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, said the process is simply intended to reassure the committee that Division III funds are being accurately reported and are being spent in accordance with the grant program and the Division III strategic plan.

“Many, if not most, Division III conferences are following several of these guidelines already,” Ohle said. “But beyond being more efficient and more prudent, the assessment approach also has a development component to it, as it provides an opportunity for conferences to ask specific questions and allows the committee to give constructive feedback.”

Social media proposal

Management Council members also used their Convention meeting to prep for the Division III business session on Jan. 19 during which 13 legislative proposals will be considered.

One proposal in particular prompted discussion – and it wasn’t the controversial one regarding sickle cell trait confirmation status, either. Rather, it was Proposal No. 9, which would expand the realm of contact to prospects to include private communication through social networking sites (similar to email).

Sponsored by the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Proposal No. 9 would allow contact as long as it is strictly between only the sender and recipient (for example, no use of public chat rooms, message boards, or public communication through a social networking site).

The proposal comes a year after Division III adopted legislation that regulates text messaging according to the same standard as telephone, email and fax correspondence in the recruiting process. That proposal did not include social media, however. A proposal that would have was withdrawn on the 2012 Convention floor. But sponsors of this year’s proposal cite growing concerns that “current prohibitions on electronic transmissions are outdated and lagging behind prospective student-athletes’ use of technology.”

Because of the nature of the topic, the Management Council and other governance groups have looked to the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for advice.

The SAAC had preliminarily supported the idea when the proposal first entered the legislative cycle in July but changed its stance during an in-person meeting in November. Meeting again this week at the Convention, SAAC members reaffirmed their opposition, with the sticking point continuing to be the nature of the contact and whether it could intrude into a prospect’s personal life.

SAAC member Dalaine Whitlock of
Concordia Texas, who also serves on the Management Council, said the proposal removes all boundaries and thus makes many SAAC members uneasy.

“We understand that social media is becoming more integrated in our society, but we aren’t comfortable with completely removing the boundaries,” she said. “We feel texting and email have been consistent as far as the format is concerned over time, so we continue to be comfortable with those forms of contact, but we are uncertain about the future of social media.

“We also believe that the proposal favors coaches more than it benefits prospective student-athletes.”

That was somewhat persuasive for the Management Council, which had supported the proposal initially in July, but not enough to convince the Council to oppose the proposal.

Rather, the Council voted to take no position on Proposal No. 9 and let the debate play out on the Convention floor. Council members respected SAAC’s concern about privacy but also understood the sponsors’ desire to make recruiting more efficient. Council members also do not believe that coaches would use social media as the sole, or even the primary, method to recruit prospects.

Divisions I and II permit the use of the private communication function in social networking sites. Further, Divisions I and II also permit an athletics department staff member or coach to “friend” a prospective student- athlete, it is noted that the identification of the prospective student-athlete as a “friend” or “follower” on an athletics staff members profile page confirms only the institution’s potential recruitment of that individual. Formal “friending” would not be permitted by Proposal No. 9.

Division III SAAC members said the Divisions I and II policies did not affect their decision.

Other legislative proposals

The Division III SAAC decided to support Proposal No. 2, which states that a Division III member institution would be ineligible for Division III championships and Division III grant funding once it begins the Division II reclassification process.

Proposal No. 2 replaces current legislation that allows reclassifying schools to be eligible for Division III championships and grant funds until they reach Candidacy Year No. 2 in the three-year Division II membership process (unless the school chooses to immediately begin awarding financial aid, at which point they become ineligible for Division III championships and grants).

SAAC members opposed the measure in November, initially believing that the restrictions were too severe on student-athletes at the reclassifying school. They agreed with the limits surrounding the grant piece of the legislation, but not the limits surrounding championships competition for student-athletes, especially seniors.

Upon reconsideration at their meeting this week, though, members thought more about the philosophical ramifications of allowing championship access to reclassifying schools and decided to support Proposal No. 2.

The SAAC continued to support Proposal No. 4, which would require schools to confirm sickle cell trait status for all student-athletes no later than the 2014-15 academic year, including mandatory confirmation of status for all incoming student-athletes (first-year and transfers) in 2013-14. SAAC members in fact took it upon themselves to find out their own sickle cell trait status in recent months. Many reported how easy it was to find out through their family physician or parents.

Other highlights

In other action at the Division III Management Council’s Jan. 16 meeting, members:

  • Agreed that if Proposal No. 6, which seeks to set Nov. 1 as the first competition date in ice hockey, is adopted at Saturday’s business session, the Management Council will approve noncontroversial legislation at its post-Convention meeting on Saturday to allow teams to compete on the preceding Friday if Nov. 1 falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
  • Received an update on the collaboration with NASPA to address alcohol and other drug abuse on campus. Among the first priorities for about two dozen Division III schools participating in a pilot program this year is to conduct “personalized feedback interventions,” which begin this month. The PFI is an online instrument that surveys students about perceived norms and their own drinking behaviors and then provides feedback on the impact of those behaviors and what the actual typical student drinking norms are. The mechanism has been empirically shown to reduce the negative consequences of alcohol use by college students. Officials also are seeking a branding and marketing firm to help schools implement recommendations for specific campus protocols.
  • Recommended that the Membership Committee consider as part of that group’s regular review of the Institutional Self-Study Guide (ISSG) expectations for fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) student-athletes and institutional staff as a part of its student-athlete well-being inquiries and reporting requirements.
  • Heard an update on 75th anniversary of men’s basketball championships from Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president for men’s basketball. As a one-time experience, the 2013 Divisions II and III championship games will be played in conjunction with the Men’s Final Four in Atlanta. The Divisions II and III championship games will be on Sunday, April 7, the day between the Division I semifinals and final. The Divisions II and III semifinalists will be included in the Salute Dinner and will be introduced at the Division I semifinal session, and the two champions will be recognized again during the Division I final. Gavitt noted the promotional opportunities available for the Division III identity initiative as well.
  • Recognized eight members whose terms on the Management Council expire at the end of the Convention. The outgoing members are current chair and Redlands Athletics Director Jeff Martinez, Plattsburgh State student-athlete Tucker Glass (Glass’s term officially ends in May but this was his last Council meeting), Nichols AD Charlie Robert, Moravian President Chris Thomforde, Gallaudet FAR Kitty Baldridge, Penn State Altoona AD Fredina Ingold, Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham AD Bill Klika and College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Commissioner Chris Martin. The new officers for 2013 are Wilmington (Ohio) Athletics Director Terry Rupert (chair) and Allegheny AD Portia Hoeg (vice chair).