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DIII panel suggests consequences for not meeting conference requirements

By Gary Brown

The Division III Membership Committee is recommending refinements in the consequences for conferences that fall below the required seven core members and are still below the minimum composition requirement after the two-year grace period expires.

Meeting Feb. 15-16 in Indianapolis, the committee determined that conferences under those circumstances would lose automatic-qualification privileges to NCAA championships and their conference vote at the NCAA Convention. Such conferences also would not have access to Division III conference grant funding (though individual schools from that conference could access grant funding as independents). Those conferences would also be required to complete an educational exercise. 

The restrictions are similar to those that individual institutions face when they fail to satisfy membership requirements. 

The committee’s recommendation was necessary after Division III adopted Proposal No. 2 at the 2012 Convention, which:

  • Confirmed that member conferences must be composed of at least seven core Division III institutions;
  • Specified that institutions may be a core member in only one multisport conference; and
  • Specified that a member conference is entitled to a two-year grace period if it fails to satisfy the conference composition requirement.

In addition to eliminating the potential for future “umbrella” conferences (in which two smaller conferences align under one overarching conference, primarily to increase automatic qualification to NCAA championships), the proposal also intended to provide consistency related to the broader concept of what it means to be a member conference of the division.

With the two-year grace period in play, the Membership Committee needed to determine what happens next if the conference doesn’t “get well.” 

The benefits afforded to active conferences would continue to apply during the grace period. But committee members recommended that once a conference enters the two-year grace period, it is required to submit a progress report within 18 months after the grace period begins that is signed by all member schools’ presidents or chancellors.

The Membership Committee’s recommendations will go to the Division III Management Council for possible approval in April.

Exploratory schools

While this meeting was not one in which the Membership Committee evaluated potential new members’ progress toward active status (that will occur in June), it did accept requests from the following four institutions to conduct an exploratory year beginning on Sept. 1, 2012:

  • Alfred State College (Alfred, N.Y.)
  • Berea College (Berea, Ky.)
  • Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Iowa Wesleyan College (Mt. Pleasant, Iowa)

Five other schools are conducting an exploratory year in 2011-12. They are:

  • State University of New York at Canton (Canton, N.Y.) 
  • Houghton College (Houghton, N.Y.) 
  • Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, N.Y.) 
  • Southern Virginia University (Buena Vista, Va.) 
  • Valley Forge Christian College (Phoenixville, Pa.) 

In other action at the Membership Committee’s Feb. 15-16 meeting, members discussed the new one-time application fee for schools seeking Division III membership.

In July, the Management Council approved noncontroversial legislation that allows the Membership Committee to annually determine application fees for new and reclassifying members based on the continual analysis of expenses and benefits associated with the membership process.

That came about after the Membership Committee reviewed preliminary research on the value of being a Division III member and the expenses relating to the provisional/reclassifying membership process (the NCAA Executive Committee in fact encouraged all three divisions to undertake such a review).

The one-time application fee in Division III used to be $20,000, but research suggested that administrative costs are at least that much, if not more, and the benefits of NCAA membership are substantially more. Thus, the Membership Committee implemented an approximately $40,000 fee applicable to prospective members who enter the four-year process in 2013-14 (that includes the four schools asking to conduct their exploratory year in 2012-13; however, the five schools that are in their exploratory year in 2011-12 would not be subject to the new fee structure if they decide to apply for provisional/reclassifying membership in 2012).

The committee did ask staff to conduct a four-year analysis of membership costs and benefits in order to determine whether the current fee should be adjusted in the future. Because the number of exploratory and provisional members in the process in a given year affects programming costs, the committee wants to see whether basing the application fee on a four-year rolling average rather than a one-year analysis would be more appropriate.

The committee also selected a new chair to succeed Washington and Lee Senior Woman Administrator Shana Levine, who has spent the last two years as chair (the maximum, per committee policy). While Levine’s term on the committee lasts through the 2013 Convention, Nichols College Athletics Director Charlie Robert will assume responsibilities as chair through that time. Robert’s term on the committee also ends after the 2013 Convention, at which time the committee will select a new chair.