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Division III committee explores options for graduate students

Recommendation would allow those student-athletes to compete at another school after graduation

Division III student-athletes who move on to graduate school could have more options to continue their athletics careers if a recommendation from the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee is adopted.

During its Feb. 13-14 meeting in Indianapolis, the committee recommended easing restrictions on graduate students who still wish to compete by allowing them to continue their careers at a different school after graduation. The division’s current rules prohibit graduate students from participating in college athletics at any Division III institution other than where they received their undergraduate degrees.

In a recent membership survey, more than half of respondents indicated they agreed that graduate students should be able to compete at an institution other than the one where they received their undergraduate degree, provided they have athletics eligibility remaining. With more Division III students taking time to study abroad or graduating early, and then moving on to graduate schools that offer advanced degrees in their preferred field of study, there is budding concern throughout the division that they should be allowed to compete elsewhere.  

That feedback seems at odds, however, with the 92 percent of respondents in the same survey who agreed that Division III athletics should be tied to the four-year undergraduate experience. But given the changing academic climate, the committee recommended that the graduate school restriction be lifted. The Division III Management Council will debate and possibly act on the recommendation during its April meeting.

“While it is part of our mission to have Division III athletics be a four-year undergraduate experience, times have changed and maybe the spirit of the legislation needs to change with it,” said Jason Fein, committee chairman and athletics director at Drew University. “There are more students, non-traditional students, graduating in three years or coming back to school after an extended time away. There are all kinds of scenarios where they want to come back to school, get a graduate degree and the current legislation says that they have to go back to the same school. Does that make sense for us now?”

Other topics:

  • Under current rules, whenever student-athletes receive financial aid that is granted, even in part, because of their athletic ability or accomplishments, the aid is deemed impermissible. Those student-athletes are then  declared ineligible and must go through the reinstatement process. But for cases in which the student-athlete is unaware that he or she has received the impermissible aid, the committee agreed that the student-athlete shouldn’t be forced to go through the reinstatement process and that all punishments should be levied against the school, not the student. Rather than make a formal recommendation to the Management Council, the committee is asking SAAC for input before moving forward.
  • The committee recommended that Division III adopt noncontroversial legislation that mirrors a recent Division I rule change that would lift restrictions tied to awards given to student-athletes by outside organizations. The committee argued that the outside awarding body should be allowed to cover any and all expenses it sees fit related to the award ceremony for the student-athletes and their families and that those financial decisions should be left to the discretion of the awarding body, not the NCAA. The Division III Management Council will discuss this recommendation during its spring meeting.
  • Legislation was adopted at the 2014 NCAA Convention that prohibits scouting of scrimmages or exhibitions in Division III. Last fall, the committee recommended that the proposal be amended to allow coaches in each sport to scout one exhibition or scrimmage against a non-Division III opponent every season. The Management Council rejected the recommendation, claiming it wanted the proposal to go forward for a vote “as is.” But the committee once again recommended that the Management Council consider allowing one exception given the large number of schools and conferences that voiced concern about the restriction at Convention. Division III scrimmages against Division I opponents, for example, are popular events in certain regions that many coaches have grown accustomed to attending.   The Management Council will discuss the recommendation during its spring meeting.