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DIII Management Council recommends amended SAAC proposal

Group also takes a position on other membership-sponsored legislation

The ongoing discussion regarding the composition of the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee evolved significantly this week.

The Division III Management Council, at its fall meeting in Indianapolis, recommended the division’s Presidents Council oppose the proposal from a trio of conferences that calls for each Division III conference and the group of independents to have a representative on the national SAAC. If the proposal were to be adopted at the 2018 NCAA Convention, SAAC would expand from 23 members to 44, a size the Management Council felt would hinder the committee’s effectiveness.

“The prevailing sentiment is to ensure that student-athletes who express an interest in leadership and management have an opportunity to fully participate in a setting in which those interpersonal skills are fully developed,” said Brit Katz, Management Council chair and vice president of student life and dean of students at Millsaps. “We balanced that prevailing sentiment with our collective experiences, which suggest that a group becomes too unwieldy when the size exceeds a certain number of participants.”

However, the Management Council largely agreed with the proposal’s merits — ensuring more leadership opportunities for student-athletes and providing a forum for each conference’s athletes to have their voices heard. Given that, the Management Council has recommended an amendment to the proposal, which would expand the role of student-athletes from the conferences not represented on the national SAAC without formally expanding the committee to 44 members.

The amended proposal calls for conferences that don’t have a SAAC representative in a given year (current “partner conferences”) to appoint a “partner conference SAAC student-athlete liaison.” The person filling that role would be invited to attend the SAAC’s July meeting, which would be subsidized by Division III. The liaison also would participate in a fall SAAC conference call. Before and after the SAAC in-person meetings in April and November, SAAC representatives would communicate directly, via a teleconference, with their conference partner liaisons to provide updates and seek input. The liaison also would have the option to attend the NCAA Convention, where they would take part in select SAAC meetings and additional programing if institutions or conferences cover expenses. Existing conference partner pairings would be reviewed and revised by SAAC advisors, conference commissioners and NCAA staff.

The Management Council relied on input from a SAAC representative in attendance, former Defiance softball student-athlete Megan Warren, who relayed SAAC’s sentiments about the original proposal and thoughts about how it could be amended.

“SAAC’s main reservation was the effect 44 people would have on the business we do. We didn’t think that an increase that large would be beneficial,” Warren said. “The rationale for the original proposal was to increase communication with those conferences not directly represented, so we hope that this amendment accomplishes that without impeding the work that we do as a committee — along with providing more opportunity to student-athletes.”

The Division III Presidents Council will decide whether to sponsor the proposed amendment at its meeting next week, which would send the proposal to the Convention floor for a vote in January.

“The compromise that has been sought and will be discussed next week with the Presidents Council is to enhance the presence of the partner conference liaison,” Katz said, “so that every single conference feels like it can have input at key moments.”

Alumni contest proposal

After a lengthy debate, the Management Council took no position on a proposal sponsored by six Division III conferences that would permit an annual exemption for one alumni contest in all sports save for football. The conferences brought the proposal forward in response to legislation adopted at the 2017 Convention that standardized the annual contest and date of competition exemptions and eliminated the alumni contest as a standalone exemption. The sponsoring conferences feel that alumni events carry a unique purpose relative to scrimmages, exhibitions and joint practices and shouldn’t be subject to the same restrictions.

Because the room was nearly evenly split on the issue, the Management Council decided taking a position of support or opposition wouldn’t accurately reflect the tenor of its discussions. 

“We don’t want to send the signal that we were unconditionally supportive of this exemption when we’re not,” Katz said. “So we went back, reconsidered, and decided to take no position, feeling that the presidents, of course, can override this decision. We have sent to them the best decision we could render.”

Other membership-sponsored proposals

The Management Council voted to endorse a proposal from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and State University of New York Athletic Conference that would establish the first permissible contest date in basketball as Nov. 8. If adopted, the proposal would shorten the preseason by one week, permitting more games to be played before the second half of the academic year begins. When Nov. 8 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, schools would be allowed to hold their first contests on the preceding Friday.

The Management Council also endorsed a proposal related to ice hockey from the Middle Atlantic Conferences and Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which would move the first permissible on-ice practice date to the second Monday in October. The conferences stipulate that the earlier practice date gives student-athletes more time to prepare for the season, providing a health and safety benefit.

Both proposals will be subject to a membership vote at the 2018 Convention in Indianapolis.

Ice hockey pilot program

The Management Council recommended that Division III launch a pilot in December that would alleviate the burden for evaluating eligibility for first-year international ice hockey players from schools. In the pilot, the NCAA Eligibility Center would conduct the participation history review. The pilot would apply to men’s and women’s ice hockey for the 2018-19 season, and the NCAA will cover the $135 cost of each review. 

Certifying eligibility for international student-athletes has proven burdensome for many Division III institutions, so the pilot study will examine the efficacy of moving the process through the Eligibility Center. If successful, Division III members could consider expanding the program to other sports. The Presidents Council and Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee will have opportunities to review the program before it launches.