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DIII SAAC favors allowing more peer participation

Committee wary of proposal that calls for it to double in

The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee supports an amended legislative proposal that would give liaisons from partner conferences more access to SAAC meetings and calls, but would not double the committee’s size by mandating that each conference have a representative on the committee at all times. SAAC reached its position after a lengthy discussion at a meeting last week in Indianapolis.

While the national SAAC members expressed reservations about the original proposal calling for the committee’s size to double, the majority of members voted in support of it, reflecting the way their conferences and partner conferences had cast votes before the amended proposal was put forth. SAAC also voted for the amended proposal. Members noted they did not believe doubling the committee’s size would result in effective representation, but they recognized the need to bolster student representation from all conferences. The amendment would maintain the committee’s current size of 22 members while creating new mechanisms for student-athlete liaisons from partner conferences to participate.

“We do not believe that doubling national SAAC’s size will improve communication or increase student-athlete opportunity in the intended way,” said Kayla Porter, committee chair and former volleyball student-athlete at Frostburg State. “We voted to support the original proposal and the amendment because, reflective of our membership, we are fully supportive of the sponsors’ intention to create more opportunities for student-athletes. However, the amendment does this in a more intentional and nuanced manner. It strikes a balance by increasing representation and student-athlete opportunity in the same way as the original proposal while still maintaining the small and personalized environment that we feel is crucial.”

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, with costs subsidized by Division III. The liaison also would be able to attend as a substitute for any meeting that the primary representative was not able to attend and 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. Liaisons also would have the option to attend the NCAA Convention, where they would take part in select SAAC meetings and additional programming if institutions or conferences cover expenses. Regardless of the outcome of voting on the proposals, existing conference partner pairings will be reviewed and revised by SAAC advisors, conference commissioners and NCAA staff.

Both proposals will be up for a membership vote at the 2018 NCAA Convention.

Graduate transfers

SAAC also supported a governance-sponsored proposal that would permit student-athletes who graduate from a Division III institution and are enrolled in a graduate or second baccalaureate degree program to compete at the Division III institution of their choice. They must have athletics eligibility remaining and must participate within the pre-existing 10-semester/15-quarter limit. (These do not have to be continuous.)

SAAC members felt the proposal would provide student-athletes who graduate with remaining eligibility a wider range of educational opportunities, rather than being bound to their current school. The committee also noted the proposal addressed concerns raised about a similar proposal last year, which would have also permitted Divisions I and II student-athletes to transfer to Division III schools as graduate students. Currently, a waiver exists that allows student-athletes to remain eligible and compete while pursuing graduate studies at another school, but it’s only available to those who graduate in fewer than four years and have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

“We believe the waiver is too restrictive,” Porter said. “This proposal solves all of these issues by closing the loopholes from last year’s proposal, but is realistically achievable for all student-athletes.”

Other legislation

SAAC supported each of the remaining seven pieces of 2018 Convention legislation, including the following key proposals:

  • More clearly defining academic misconduct and clarifying what actions constitute misconduct.
  • Eliminating the legislated penalty for sports wagering and allowing violations to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Changing the first permissible practice date in football to 25 days before the first Saturday contest date.

For more information on each proposal, see the 2018 Division III Second Publication of Proposed Legislation.