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With eye on budget, committee votes against increase for per diem expenses

DIII Championships Committee recommends against proposals that would cost $1 million in added travel expenses for championship events

This year Division III governance meetings – from sport committees to the Presidents Council, and all in between – will be focused on addressing the budget concerns the division is starting to face. The Feb. 10-11 Division III Championships Committee meeting was no exception.

Championship travel costs are at the heart of rapidly rising expenses that have triggered budget deficits during the last two years and are projected to continue. Given that, the committee’s top priority in the meeting was to begin to formulate changes that could prevent budget overruns in the short term and beyond.

Its first step, a minor one compared to the potential for larger changes to championship formatting and structure that will be discussed throughout the year, addressed the per diems allotted to participating teams and individuals who travel to championship events. A $5 increase, from $95 to $100 per day, was set to be implemented in 2014-15. Given that the per diem had already jumped from $85 to $95 in the last two years, the committee recommended delaying the new increase. That savings will help the division accommodate the other escalating costs of championship travel.

The committee also recommended scrapping a plan to extend an extra half-day of per diem money to all team championship participants. When necessary, exceptions can still be made that would allow extra per diem funds to be allocated on a case-by-case basis, but providing it for all participants comes at an enormous cost.

Together, these two cost-cutting measures would relieve some of the short-term financial pressure. Combined, they are projected to save the division more than $1 million annually. The Division III Management Council will vote on the recommendations at its April meeting.

“We know there’s a budget issue already. So why would we offer that knowing that next year we’d have to do away with it?” said Sue Lauder, chairwoman of the Division III Championships Committee and athletics director at Fitchburg State. “We know it’s a stopgap, but it will give us a little immediate relief and start us thinking about what other hard decisions we have to make about the budget.”

While those were the only immediate budget-centric recommendations the committee made, it did begin preliminary discussions of the larger, structural changes that will likely be needed to curtail the long-term projected escalation in championship spending. Potential changes to Division III championships – including access ratios to determine bracket sizes, travel party limits, the time between selection and booking travel, among other variables – will be discussed throughout the year.

“As our membership expands, it follows that we would have more participants and more student-athletes having those championship experiences, but I’m not sure that we can cover that with our budget,” Lauder said. “I think collaboration with sport committees and other constituent groups within the division is huge. If anything, you’ve got to be a part of the decision-making to own the decision. I think that’s a critical part of it. Nobody likes to be told what to do, but if you have the option to play a part in that decision I think that makes all the difference.”

Other highlights:

  • Currently, if a Division III student-athlete is found to have competed while ineligible, his or her team must forfeit any games in which the student-athlete competed. Forfeiture creates difficulties and confusion for championship selections and record-keeping. Given that, the committee got closer to a recommendation that Division III adopt a nullification and fine system like the one now used in Division II to assess penalties for teams with ineligible student-athletes. The mathematical system is applied at the time of championship selection and affects criteria such as overall win/loss percentage, opponent winning percentage and in-division winning percentage, which sport committees use to determine at-large championship bids.  At its May meeting, the committee intends to finalize a recommendation that will be forwarded to the Management Council for approval.
  •  The committee voted to revise the list of conferences that will receive automatic qualification to the 2014 Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship. The New England Collegiate Conference was added to the list, bringing the total of conference automatic qualifiers to 24. The proposal had been recommended by the Division III Women’s Lacrosse Committee.
  • The committee also voted to allow the results of early season interregional meets to be included in data used for championship selection (provided they take place no more than seven weeks prior to NCAA regional championships). Previously those meets were excluded from the “late-season performance” data that the committee used in the championship selection process. This proposal had been recommended by the Division III Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee.