By Brian Hendrickson
Members of Division II soundly supported three health and safety proposals that impact student-athlete eligibility and well-being during Saturday’s business session at the NCAA Convention.
More than 80 percent of voters backed proposals that require every member school to designate a team physician to oversee their sports medicine operations, and to reduce the penalty for a first-time positive test for street drugs — such as marijuana — to 50 percent of a season of competition.
In addition, Division II members also adopted a proposal requiring institutions to report student-athlete catastrophic fatalities, near fatalities and catastrophic injuries to the NCAA on an annual basis. All three proposals were initiated by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and were sponsored by the Management Council and Presidents Council.
The designation of a team physician establishes a new mandate, but the practice has already been common among NCAA institutions. A 2011 athletics health care survey of the membership showed that, among the 583 institutions that responded, 96 percent reported that they already designate a team physician. The proposal was considered important for ensuring that institutions meet the minimal requirements for health care policy and oversight responsibilities. The proposal passed 263-15 with no abstentions.
The reduction in the street-drug penalty was recommended by CSMAS to distinguish penalties for street-drug use from performance-enhancing drugs, the use of which is considered cheating.
By contrast, Karen Stromme, senior woman administrator at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and chair of the Division II Management Council, said the use of street drugs such as marijuana was often a coping mechanism for stress, and a reduced penalty would allow schools to keep student-athletes in a supportive environment where they can get help.
Megan Davis, a former track student-athlete at Saint Joseph’s College and a member of the Division II National SAAC — which supported the penalty reduction — also urged voters to view the proposal as a student-athlete well-being issue.
“Based on our experiences on campuses, the reduced penalty will likely increase the chances that a student-athlete who tests positive will remain on campus during their period of ineligibility,” Davis said. “If student-athletes remain on campus, then institutions will have a better opportunity to intervene and provide a support system of education, counseling and treatment.
“Although this proposal may appear to disregard the severity of abusing street drugs and a positive test,” she continued, “the benefits of this proposal far outweigh any negative implications associated with this concern.”
BASKETBALL, FOOTBALL PROPOSALS PASS
Two pieces of legislation that drew mixed support from Division II’s leadership bodies last fall passed by wide margins during the business session Saturday.
A proposal to permit men’s and women’s basketball programs to exempt two games each year from their maximum number of contests played as part of a conference challenge event passed 187-115. The legislation was proposed as a means to promote more in-region, non-conference competition. The current trend has seen basketball programs scheduling non-conference games against nearby Division III and NAIA schools rather than Division II programs in other conferences.
But concerns rose last fall over whether the legislation would reverse changes instituted by the Life in the Balance legislation the division adopted at the 2010 Convention, which reduced the number of basketball games from 27 to 26 as part of its focus on reducing missed class and study time. Both the Legislation Committee and the Presidents Council agreed to oppose the legislation for that reason.
Another proposal, which allows strength and conditioning coaches to design and conduct workouts for football student-athletes beginning June 1 through the conclusion of the institution’s summer vacation period, passed 108-60 with three abstentions in a vote limited to schools and conferences that sponsor the sport.
The Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport previously agreed to support the proposal because it would also require those coaches to obtain a national certification before conducting the workouts. Student-athletes currently participate in those workouts voluntarily without supervision.
Members of the Management Council and Presidents Council discussed in October the possibility that this legislation, if passed, might lead other sports to request similar workouts. Both committees voted to take no position, feeling it was best to let schools that sponsor football decide the issue.
CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION CHANGES PASS
A proposal to create standardized selection criteria for all Division II Championship team sports passed 248-51 with two abstentions.
The proposal, in development for two years, was created because sports were found to be evaluating their postseason participants by widely varying criteria, language and definitions. It made the proper evaluation of postseason participants difficult for selection committee members to understand and consistently apply.
The proposal passed on Saturday aims to streamline the process by establishing baseline standards for postseason selections in all team sports, and allows each sport to add additional criteria to tailor evaluations to their needs. The proposal will help sport committees focus their evaluations on objective measures of performance.
The new criteria go into effect for the 2015-16 academic year.