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DIII social media deregulation proposed

Committee recommends legislation that would relax restrictions for coaches, athletics staff

A Division III committee last week took a significant step toward deregulating some of the division’s social media rules.

At a meeting in Indianapolis, the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee recommended legislation that would permit athletics department staff members, including coaches, to take public actions related to content posted by prospective student-athletes, such as favoriting or republishing a post. The committee also asked the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to provide feedback on the proposal as the division’s governance considers it this year.

“Social media continues to evolve at an exponential pace, and it is becoming the primary method of communication for millennials,” said Chuck Brown, Interpretations and Legislation Committee chair and faculty athletics representative at Penn State-Behrend. “Based on our discussions, students continue to get smarter and more savvy regarding their public and private usage of social media. In addition, the social media privacy protections have gotten better.”

The Division III Management Council and Division III SAAC will review the proposal this spring. Divisions I and II recently adopted similar legislation. Should the Management Council approve the proposal, it would be subject to a vote by Division III members at the 2019 NCAA Convention.

Though a similar but more permissive proposal was defeated by Division III members at the Convention in 2016, Interpretations and Legislation Committee members felt social media use has evolved since then and needs to be revisited. Plus, given the slew of social media platforms that have emerged in recent years, ensuring compliance with current rules has proved difficult for school administrators.

“It is tremendously challenging monitoring social media activity,” Brown said. “The committee believes that Division III is ready to move ahead and propose its usage similar to what has been approved by Divisions I and II.”

Student-athlete meals

What began as a review of rules related to nutritional supplement use among student-athletes evolved into a discussion focused on legislation related to meals. The Interpretations and Legislation Committee found loosening rules surrounding supplements unpalatable, given loose government regulation of the supplement market and the fact that some supplements are expensive and could strain some schools’ budgets.

The committee, though, did express interest in relaxing rules related to the type and frequency of meals and snacks that can be provided to Division III student-athletes. The committee, armed with more information from NCAA staff, will revisit the topic this spring and could propose permissive legislation regarding what food can be provided, pending that review. 

“This fruitful discussion led us to consider the broader aspects of where Division III is regarding the allowability of providing food to our student-athletes,” Brown said. “Before considering whether we should expand the allowability of nutritional supplements, we want to be sure that we are in the proper place when it comes to providing nutritional food to our student-athletes.”

Experiential learning proposal

The committee recommended Convention legislation related to eligibility of student-athletes who engage in experiential learning requirements (for example, student-teaching, internships, capstone projects, etc.).

Student-athletes now must be enrolled full-time during their final term before their experiential learning assignment to be eligible to practice and compete. That requirement can force student-athletes to take classes they wouldn’t otherwise need. The committee, mirroring legislation recently adopted in Division I, has recommended a proposal that would permit student-athletes to enroll less than full-time during the final term before an experiential learning requirement, provided that experience takes place immediately after the term in question. The Management Council will review the proposal this spring.