Despite significant membership support for the idea, it appears Division III coaches will not soon be allowed to hold de facto tryouts on campus.
During its meetings this week in Indianapolis, the Division III Management Council struck down a proposal from the Division III Recruiting Working Group that would have permitted coaches to evaluate potential student-athletes’ athletic abilities on campus.
The working group pushed for the change because it felt allowing potential student-athletes to come to campus would ease the travel burdens that recruiting places on coaches. But the council expressed concern that coaches’ evaluations of athletic prowess would have too much sway over admissions decisions. The emphasis on academics, a core tenant of the Division III philosophy, would be diminished, the council argued. Council members also expressed concern that coaches would hold these evaluation sessions in addition to their already-swollen workloads rather than using them to replace numerous recruiting trips.
The council’s decision contradicts opinions expressed by many in the membership: 84 percent of members who participated in a straw poll at the 2014 NCAA Convention indicated they wanted the recruiting working group to pursue legislation that would permit on-campus evaluations.
“I was surprised by the defeat,” said Division III Management Council chair and Director of Athletics at Wilmington College, Terry Rupert. “I think it falls back to the Division III philosophy; some people had concerns about looking more like Divisions I and II. I think that’s why it was defeated.”
The other recruiting proposal brought to the council, one allowing institutions to use a non-binding athletics celebratory signing form, passed easily and will be subject to a membership vote at the 2015 NCAA Convention. The legislation would allow schools to provide prospective student-athletes that have been accepted for admission with a standard form produced by the NCAA. Those student-athletes could then use the form at signing ceremonies held in their high schools or communities alongside their peers who sign National Letters of Intent or similar documents indicating they will compete at Division I and II schools.
Unlike letters of intent in Division I or II, though, the Division III form will not bind a student-athlete to the school and will be completely ceremonial in function. Current rules permit signing ceremonies, but bar Division III student-athletes from signing a standard form provided by an NCAA institution, which, council members argued, dilutes the experience.
“I think moms and dads and kids get really excited about being able to sign something and to say that they’re moving on with their athletic and their academic careers,” Rupert said. “I think everybody wants that. Division II and Division I have done that for years and our kids have always felt a little left out.”