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Division II Championships Committee recommends changes to neutrality policy

Committee looks to enhance atmosphere at preliminary rounds of championships

With the goal of enhancing the atmosphere of postseason competition, the Division II Championships Committee is recommending loosening a policy that commands neutrality during championship preliminary rounds.

The committee this week recommended the Division II Management and Presidents Councils modify the current policy to allow preliminary round hosts in all team sports to give their season ticket holders first right of refusal for on-campus NCAA postseason competition. Additionally, the committee recommended a one-year pilot for the preliminary rounds of the Division II Football Championship, the Division II Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships and the Division II Softball Championship that would allow hosts of these rounds to conduct the same kinds of pregame promotions and celebrations they run during their regular-season home games.

Preliminary championship rounds are hosted by participating schools in on-campus venues, and Division II policy rewards top seeds with the opportunity to host, provided minimum specifications are met. However, the NCAA has long maintained that host schools provide as much of a neutral environment as possible since the event is an NCAA postseason competition rather than a home competition. The current policy allows hosts to use any special effects or celebration only if they are equally used between the home and visiting teams, both pregame and in-game.

The Championships Committee took up the issue after hearing from representatives in the membership who expressed interest in loosening the neutrality policy. That interest was affirmed when the committee issued a survey to the Division II National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, conference offices, sport committees and members of the Coaches Connection program.

“There have been a lot of viewpoints brought up by the membership that our championships events were too sterile because of neutrality, and it just wasn’t as good an experience for fans or student-athletes as a typical home event,” said Sue Willey, UIndy vice president for intercollegiate athletics and chair of the Championships Committee. “There was a feeling that in order to improve the quality of the game environment, we would allow (the two changes) … so it still feels exciting and like a big event.”

If approved by the councils, the increased flexibility for season ticket holders would take effect immediately across all sports.

If the pilot is approved to allow pregame celebrations such as fireworks, cannons or special announcements at the select sports’ preliminary rounds, the Championships Committee will assess the impact after a year and determine whether to pursue a policy change across all sports. The pilot would not allow such promotions and celebrations to occur in-game, consistent with the current policy.

Membership proposals for 2020 NCAA Convention

The committee also reviewed two membership proposals for the 2020 NCAA Convention, which will take place in January in Anaheim, California. It voted to support a proposal that would increase the permissible length of tryout activities for prospective student-athletes who participate in golf to five hours. It took no position on a proposal that would amend the recruiting calendar in women’s basketball. Both proposals will be up for a membership vote at the Division II business session at the Convention.