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Division II adopts six proposals at 2016 Convention

Strength and conditioning coach certification, unattached competition proposals pass

Division II delegates adopted six pieces of legislation at Saturday’s business session.

Delegates from Division II schools and conferences adopted six pieces of legislation Saturday morning at the 2016 NCAA Convention in San Antonio. The new additions to the Division II rule book include legislation that will require national certification of designated strength and conditioning coaches and require student-athletes to be athletically and academically eligible in order to compete as individuals in “unattached” competition.

More than 300 voting representatives – including one from each school, conference and, for the first time, the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee – weighed in on a total of eight proposals at the Division II business session. In addition to the original legislative proposals, the members voted against a proposal – previously designated as a noncontroversial amendment – that would have removed equestrian from the NCAA’s list of emerging sports in Division II.

The strength and conditioning coach certification proposal drew some of the most discussion among members in the months leading up to the Convention.  Beginning Aug. 1, any person designated as a school’s strength and conditioning coach will be required to be certified by a nationally recognized strength and conditioning program. For schools that don’t designate a strength and conditioning coach, any person who conducts strength and conditioning workouts outside of practice would need to be certified.

The division has been exploring the issue of strength and conditioning certification since 2012 at the advisement of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports. A Division II working group was charged with crafting the proposal, which 88 percent of delegates supported on Saturday. “The proposal represents an important step in continuing to provide a safe environment for our most important constituents, our student-athletes,” said Linda Bleicken, president of Armstrong State University and a member of the Presidents Council.

Members also adopted legislation that will add eligibility requirements for student-athletes who want to compete as individuals in outside competitions during which they would not be representing their schools. Sixty-one percent of voters were in favor of the new requirements outlined in the proposal.  

Opponents expressed concern about unintended consequences the legislation could have on individual sports in which unattached competition is engrained in the culture. But supporters argued the legislation would encourage ineligible student-athletes to focus on their coursework and promote more consistency between team and individual sports. “The proposal places academics at the forefront of the student-athlete experience by emphasizing eligibility before one’s sport,” said Ayanna Tweedy, a track and field athlete from Bowie State University who spoke on behalf of the Division II SAAC.

Four other proposals received majority support

  • A proposal that, beginning Aug. 1, will provide greater flexibility for student-athletes to participate in a foreign exchange or study abroad program recognized by the school during the nonchampionship segment without it triggering eligibility concerns.
  • A proposal that, beginning Aug. 1, will permit a student-athlete who is required to have designated a degree program to use up to six credit hours per term earned in a voluntary or optional minor to meet credit-hour requirements under progress-toward-degree rules.
  • An allowance for football student-athletes to participate in up to two hours of individual skill instruction per week outside of the playing season during the academic year, effective immediately.
  • A new regulation that, beginning Aug. 1, 2017, will make automatic qualification for Division II championships more accessible for various sports.

The delegates voted against allowing “conference challenge events” in the sports of softball, baseball and volleyball. The events would have permitted up to two contests, played between two or more conferences from the same region, to be exempted each year from the maximum number of contests. In the proposal, which was sponsored by two Division II conferences, the events would have been limited to being held during the first full weekend after the first permissible contest date. Conference challenge events are currently only permitted in basketball.

While some members viewed the additional participation opportunities as a positive, others argued such legislation would encroach on the Division II philosophy of “life in the balance.” The delegates decided to split the proposal in order to separate the volleyball vote from the softball and baseball vote, but ultimately both proposals failed by approximately three-quarters of the vote.

Lastly, a proposal which addressed the start date and frequency of on-court practices during the basketball preseason was not moved by its sponsors and did not come to a membership vote.