After rocketing from straw polls and roundtable discussions to legislative proposals in just three months, a pair of recruiting proposals will head to the 2015 Convention for an official vote.
In its April 23-24 meeting in Indianapolis, the Division III Presidents Council endorsed a pair of proposals from the Division III Recruiting Working Group. The first would allow coaches to contact potential student-athletes on each day of competition instead of waiting until the end of the event. The second would allow coaches to reach out to potential student-athletes after they’ve completed their sophomore year of high school rather than after their junior year. Both garnered strong support in a 2013 membership survey as well as at the Division III Issues Forum at the 2014 Convention, and both were endorsed by the Division III Management Council earlier in April.
“We’re happy to support those proposals,” said Sharon Herzberger, chair of the Division III Presidents Council and president of Whittier College. “We know that it’s more efficient and that the old rules regarding when you could contact players really added a burden …With respect to the ability to contact students in their sophomore year, everyone else contacts students in their sophomore year – our admissions teams do – so this just made sense. What we’re trying to do as a council is to look at proposals of this nature and say, ‘Does it make sense? Let’s take away regulations that don’t make sense.’ That’s what we did in this case.”
Championships per diem
The council voted to endorse a recommendation from the management council and the Division III Championships Committee that suspends the implementation of per diem increases slated for 2014-15. Individual championships per diems were poised to increase from $95 to $100 and an extra half-day of per diem money was set to be extended to all team championship participants. Together the delays, effectively immediately, will save the division roughly $1.2 million annually as it strives to balance its budget.
“We felt that in this environment where we’re trying to understand the overall financial picture and the resources that are available to us, delaying implementation was an important move,” Herzberger said.
The per diem reductions are the first steps in a larger budget review. The championships committee is working with the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee to find solutions to counter rising championships travel costs and balance the budget. The council was updated on the committees’ initial ideas, including such potential steps as reducing the division’s reserve balance, having a minimum of four days between selections and the first day of competition and eliminating mid-week early round games for three-team pods played on the weekend, among others. The committees will generate a formal proposal over the summer that management council will review and forward to the presidents council, which will review at its August meeting.
Traditional and Nontraditional seasons
The council also discussed potential membership-driven legislation that could arise in the near future. Changes to the nontraditional segment (the offseason) were at the center of those debates. Should it be reformed? Many expressed fear of overregulation and of denying coaches access to student-athletes at any time during the year, while others cautioned that nontraditional seasons without restrictions could make athletics too heavy of a year-round burden for Division III student-athletes.
The council asked the management council’s Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee to explore possible reforms to the nontraditional segment and also asked for the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to weigh in before the presidents council reconvenes in August for further discussion.
“We’ve asked the management council to go back, talk about it more, and come to us with more information about the benefits and the drawbacks of the nontraditional season and, perhaps, come to us with some ideas about alternatives,” Herzberger said. “In particular, we like the idea of coaches having contact with student-athletes in the offseason. Coaches are educators, and they’re very important people in the lives of our student-athletes. So we’d like there to be some contact. But the shape of that contact and the extent of that contact still needs to be determined.”
A similar conversation took place regarding the traditional season. NCAA staff informed the council that potential membership legislation could come forward soon that would call for regular season maximum contest limits to be reduced by 10 percent. Many on the council felt reducing the maximum number of contests in each sport except football would curtail the time demands and the effect of missed class time on student-athletes. Limiting the number of contests could also help institutions contain costs, they said. The council referred the idea of lowering maximum contest limits for all sports other than football to the playing and practice seasons subcommittee for further discussion.
Graduate student transfers
In a February meeting, the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee recommended that graduate students with remaining athletics eligibility be allowed to compete at Division III institutions other than where they received their undergraduate degree. Earlier this month, the management council expressed reservations about this recommendation and sent it back to the committee for further clarification. Division III Management Council chair and Director of Athletics at Wilmington College, Terry Rupert, updated the presidents council on that discussion.
While the council wasn’t asked to take a formal position on the issue, a majority of council members vocalized sincere concern regarding the unintended consequences of such a rule, worrying it would create an entirely new recruiting process for athletically-gifted graduate students, who might cluster at a certain set of athletic programs rather than choose graduate schools with their academic best interests in mind.