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DIII members offer guidance on health and safety, enrollment management

Convention Issues Forum provides venue for feedback on the division’s most pressing issues

At the Issues Forum, attendees engaged in discussions about how to ensure available health and safety resources reach student-athletes, highlighted success stories on their campuses and drew attention to areas where improvements are needed. NCAA Photos

Division III members gathered Friday to discuss topics that will shape the division’s present and future. At the Division III Issues Forum at the 2019 NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida, members were asked to weigh in on current health and safety resources; using athletics as a means to meet enrollment goals; and 2019 NCAA Convention legislation, which will be up for vote at Saturday’s Division III business session.

Health and safety

In last year’s membership survey, Division III members indicated ensuring student-athlete health and safety is the chief concern for Division III and should remain a priority. At the Issues Forum, attendees engaged in discussions about how to ensure available health and safety resources reach student-athletes, highlighted success stories on their campuses and drew attention to areas where improvements are needed.

Attendees were asked to rank their top health and safety priority in a straw poll, and mental health garnered 57 percent of the vote, with nutrition, sleep and performance earning 19 percent and concussion 9 percent. Maddie Burns, Randolph-Macon soccer student-athlete and forthcoming Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee chair, made note of school-specific mental health resource cards that have been developed by SAAC. They will be distributed to student-athletes and will include relevant contact information for mental health and other support services at each school that completes an online form and requests a card. For those that do, the cards should arrive on campus in April.

Attendees also were asked if they had used the following health and safety resources produced by the NCAA and the Sport Science Institute and learned how many members have used them:

  • Seventeen percent have used the Substance Abuse Prevention Tool Kit.
  • Twenty-five percent have used 360 Proof. 
  • Thirty-two percent have used Mental Health Best Practices.
  • Thirty-eight percent have used the Sexual Violence Prevention Tool Kit.

When asked if they would direct head coaches to watch student-athlete health and safety modules in the new Division III University, 87 percent of respondents indicated they would. NCAA staff and relevant committees will use this feedback to inform further efforts to promote and enhance these resources.  

Enrollment management discussion

Via the membership survey, Division III schools indicated they increasingly are relying on the recruitment of student-athletes to keep their enrollment at healthy levels. But how can colleges and universities balance the need to drive enrollment via athletics while keeping athletics costs and demands on staff reasonable? Members discussed how to strike that balance and if any reductions in playing seasons or recruiting time might prove beneficial.

Via straw polling, members indicated they did not want reductions on competition or recruiting periods, and several student-athletes noted that they felt any such reductions or new restrictions would diminish their college experience.

Members also provided feedback on whether Division III should further research and develop certain playing-season restrictions:

  • Sixty-six percent opposed competition or training dead periods. 
  • Sixty-seven percent opposed recruiting dead periods.
  • Seventy-six percent opposed reducing maximum weeks of competition.
  • Seventy percent opposed reducing maximum allowable dates of competition.
  • Fifty-eight percent supported adjusting the beginning and end dates of playing seasons.

2019 Legislation 

Issues Forum attendees reviewed several proposals that will be on Saturday’s legislative slate, including ones that would establish a new preseason start date in football, deregulate some social media restrictions and establish a three-day acclimatization period in field hockey and soccer. While those proposals elicited clarifying questions and a few comments from attendees — the social media proposal, in particular — none sparked substantive debate during the session.

Notably, though, NCAA staff offered additional insight regarding the football preseason proposal, which would establish that the first permissible practice date fall 23 days before a school’s first contest. At Wednesday’s Division III Management Council meeting, the group opted not to implement a blanket waiver for institutions that have scheduled their first contest in the second week of the season against schools that play during the first. Instead, due to the variability in academic calendars, the Management Council reaffirmed that, should the proposal be adopted, schools can apply for waivers on a case-by-case basis via the Division III Subcommittee on Legislative Relief.