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DIII Management Council mulls playing season changes

Optional baseball schedule with fall, spring sessions under review

After a thorough review of feedback from roundtable discussions and straw polling at the 2016 NCAA Convention, the Division III Management Council Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee has whittled its comprehensive evaluation of playing season rules down to two areas.

The Division III Management Council convened Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis and endorsed the subcommittee’s recommendation, a move that sends two potential legislative concepts to appropriate committees for input.

The first pertains to the structure of the Division III baseball season. The subcommittee has asked that a few pertinent Division III committees review a legislative concept that would create an optional two-period model in baseball. Schools choosing to take advantage of the optional two-period model would be able to stretch the regular season over the fall and spring. Other programs could choose to maintain the existing traditional and nontraditional segments.

The subcommittee made the recommendation because many Division III colleges and universities are forced to play a majority of their baseball games in a small window – in some areas, winter weather is often too harsh at the beginning of the season. Because of the condensed schedule’s demands, students competing in baseball have indicated they miss more class and are away from campus more than student-athletes in other sports. The subcommittee is seeking feedback on potential dates to begin play in the fall, the potential impact on institutional budgets and facilities, and the amount of practice time needed before the first contest, among other areas.

The Management Council also deemed the subcommittee’s concept to standardize contest exemptions worthy of further review. The concept would eliminate all exemptions save for an end-of-season tournament and a conference tournament; the concept would also allow each sport two additional exemptions (for example, scrimmages, exhibitions or joint practices) to use against any opponent. The recommendation was triggered by strong support at the 2016 Division III Issues Forum, where 63 percent of straw poll respondents supported standardizing contest exemptions. Exemptions now differ from one sport to the next.

The handful of committees that have been asked to review both concepts will discuss the issues in detail throughout the spring. The subcommittee and the Management Council will take that feedback into consideration as they decide what legislation, if any, to shape for the 2017 NCAA Convention.

“We need to provide true transparency and do the work of the membership to its full end,” said Tracey Ranieri, Management Council chair and athletics director at the State University of New York at Oneonta. “The subcommittee needs more information before making any recommendations. I applaud the actions they are taking to complete a comprehensive review.”  

Other actions

  • The Management Council endorsed a recommendation from the Division III Financial Aid Committee that, if adopted, would decrease the burden placed on financial aid offices at Division III colleges and universities. Currently, if an incoming student-athlete receives any financial aid from an outside source that takes athletics into account in any way, the financial aid office must review the award to determine if it is permissible.

    The proposal, however, calls for a $1,000 limit on that review. For any student-athlete whose total financial aid from outside sources is $1,000 or less, schools would not have to individually review outside financial aid awards. For any student-athlete whose total financial aid from outside sources exceeds $1,000, member schools would be required to continue the existing two-part assessment: determining if any of the awards consider athletics in any way; and, if so, if they meet legislated requirements. This change would allow financial aid officials to focus time and energy on large financial awards, rather than being burdened reviewing the many small awards that have little impact on a student-athlete’s overall financial standing. The proposal would also clarify that an award may not bind a student-athlete to a particular school.

    The Division III Presidents Council will discuss the recommendation at its meeting next week. If endorsed by the Presidents Council, the proposal will be added to the legislative agenda at the 2017 NCAA Convention.
  • The Management Council discussed the need to further increase the engagement and influence of faculty athletics representatives in Division III. Much like the division did to engage athletics direct reports, the Management Council considered ways to spur more involvement from faculty who work closely with student-athletes. Feedback from the discussion will be used to engage college presidents to help determine next steps, such as a potential survey or working group that may lead to best practices or Convention programming.
  • The Management Council also approved a series of recommendations for championships enhancements and bracket expansions from the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee and Division III Championships Committee.