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Division III Presidents Council explores dues increase

Group also meets with Division III conference commissioners, rejects financial aid proposal

After several months of discussion, the formal process for a potential Division III membership dues increase has been set in motion.

At its April 29-30 meeting in Indianapolis, the Division III Presidents Council charged the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee with formulating options for a dues increase. When that committee convened in March, it discussed a dues increase at length but did not reach a consensus on a potential course of action. The Presidents Council has now given it a mandate to find that consensus.

During their discussion, Presidents Council members noted that the $900 in annual dues that Division III members currently contribute have not been raised in three decades. They felt a dues hike could help offset anticipated increases in championships travel and operation costs in the coming years. As lodging rates rise, per diem allowances – which were cut last year – will need to follow suit.

Initial feedback indicates that Division III members would favor a modest dues increase. During the Division III Issues Forum at the 2015 NCAA Convention, 86 percent of straw poll respondents indicated they would favor an annual increase. Fifty-three percent favored an increase of $900 or more and 21 percent favored an increase of $1,800 or more.

Division I schools currently pay $1,800 in annual dues and several Presidents Council members noted that figure could serve as a potential benchmark for an increase. Doubling the annual dues — which are paid by the roughly 450 Division III institutions ($900) and 43 conferences ($450) — could increase divisional revenue by nearly $500,000 annually. That additional revenue could offset the anticipated future increases in travel costs and provide additional funding that also could make initiatives unrelated to championships, such as conference grants, more robust.

The committee will discuss different options for a dues increase in the coming months, focusing on how much dues should jump, when they should jump, and if increases should be handled incrementally or all at once. It will present options to the management and presidents councils when they reconvene this summer. Any recommendation for a dues increase that emerges from this process would be subject to a membership vote at a future NCAA Convention.

“I think it’s appropriate and fair. For what you get as an institution from the NCAA, a $900 increase is nominal. And we can take this over two years – it doesn’t have to be a one-time hit,” said Alan Cureton, presidents council chair and president of the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. “I think a lot of the institutions are going to say, ‘Where are you spending the money?’ All we have to do is look at championships – the cost for per diem and the cost for travel. It’s going to eat that half a million up in no time.”

Other notes:

  • The Presidents Council spent a portion of its meeting speaking with leaders from the Division III Commissioners Association in hopes of determining ways that presidents within Division III’s governance structure can work better with conference commissioners. Each of Division III’s 43 voting conferences is represented by a member on the Presidents Council or a Division III Presidential Advisory Group member (including two presidents who serve on the Management Council). The Presidents Council encouraged presidents who serve on those two bodies to communicate more frequently with the conferences they represent. The Presidents Council also discussed ways it can enhance presidential leadership at the conference level and the role commissioners can play in achieving that goal. The Division III staff at the national office will work with the commissioners association to identify best practices that advisory group will review in August.

    “We had an opportunity to engage our conference commissioners,” Cureton said. “We needed to talk through the budgets and help everyone understand why decisions are being made so that there’s an element of transparency across Division III.”
  • The Presidents Council voted not to sponsor a legislative proposal that was approved by the Division III Management Council earlier this month. The proposal would have lifted the requirement that student-athletes must seek reinstatement if they’ve received impermissible financial aid – provided the student was unaware the aid violated rules and the school’s athletics department staff was not involved in the violation. The Presidents Council worried that the proposal might make it easier for coaches, athletes or financial aid administrators to bend the rules and feign ignorance. Instead, the Presidents Council encouraged further discussion on the topic and endorsed NCAA staff using its authority to limit the impact of the reinstatement process when it is clear a student-athlete is not at fault and had no knowledge that the financial aid was impermissible.
  • The Presidents Council reviewed the work done thus far by the Division III Management Council’s Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee as part of its comprehensive review of all rules pertaining to playing and practice seasons. The subcommittee has identified seven areas it will explore in greater depth to determine whether any changes are necessary or beneficial. The Presidents Council encouraged the subcommittee to rely on feedback from members and student-athletes to help it make informed decisions and reinforced the notion that Division III’s philosophy should be a guiding principal as it formulates concepts. Presidents Council members stressed that ensuring a proper balance among athletics, academics and budgetary constraints should be strongly considered when making recommendations.
  • The Presidents Council approved the proposed budget for 2015-16, which includes championships and non-championships enhancements. It also endorsed the best practice documents developed by the Division III Recruiting Working Group and Division III Athletics Direct Report Working Group. Both documents will be distributed to Division III members during the next few weeks.