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Hainline clarifies health and safety legislation for DIII Management Council

By Brian Burnsed

At the Division III Management Council meeting Oct. 21-22 in Indianapolis, NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline answered questions about the sport safety package and street drug penalty reduction that will be up for vote at the 2014 NCAA Convention.

Hainline told Management Council members that he felt the NCAA’s role should be to establish best practices for drug use deterrence; that educating student-athletes about street drugs and providing intervention services should be foundational and that the street drug penalty reduction was a step in the right direction.

Some Management Council members expressed confusion about the scope of the sport safety package’s designated team physician mandate. Hainline stressed that schools would not have to hire physicians as full-time employees, nor would team physicians have to attend every game. The proposed rule requires that schools designate a licensed physician to oversee the medical services for injuries and illnesses related to a student-athlete's participation in intercollegiate athletics.

Hainline further clarified that each member school would determine the duties of the team physician.

“I think the approval of the sport safety package will be huge,” said Terry Rupert, Division III Management Council chair and director of athletics at Wilmington College. “It’s better for the welfare of the student-athlete.”

Management Council chair Terry Rupert and vice chair Portia Hoeg weigh in on the athletics direct report working group and the proposed sport safety package legislation.

The council discussed a myriad of other topics and took action on several other pieces of legislation that will be voted on at the 2014 Convention:

Football helmets

The council voted to oppose legislation that would permit the use of football helmets in out-of-season athletics activities. A majority of council members argued that the use of helmets in spring non-contact events like conditioning sessions and instructional periods would only encourage contact and aggressive play.

Helmets should not be needed if coaches are adhering to the rule that those out-of-season workouts are devoid of contact, several council members argued. The American Southwest Conference and the Southern Athletic Association, which proposed the legislation, disagreed. They noted that, if passed, the rule change would ensure student-athlete well-being.

"Under the proposal of the American Southwest Conference and the Southern Athletic Association, the permissible use of helmets sought for the spring football segment mirrors the permissible use of helmets during the first two days of the fall preseason acclimatization period,” said Amy Carlton, commissioner of the American Southwest Conference. “When wearing a helmet, the student-athlete is not only provided a level of safety, but also a better opportunity to improve visual and tactile football skills and physical conditioning."

Championships selection criteria

The Division III Championships Committee recently recommended that nonconference strength of schedule be used as a primary championship selection criterion. The committee felt that the nonconference schedule strength would be an asset for selection committees when they evaluate teams for championship consideration. Overall strength of schedule, however, already is a primary criterion and incorporates games played outside the conference. The council felt there was no need to give extra weight to nonconference games and that doing so might have unintended budget consequences. Teams might feel compelled to travel across the country to seek the nation’s toughest opponents, causing travel expenses to spike. And student-athletes might be impacted too, the council said. More travel means more time away from classes and campus, which could be detrimental to their studies. The council did not vote the measure down, but returned it to the championships committee for further consideration.

Preseason scouting amendment

The Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee recently recommended an amendment to scouting-centric legislation that will be voted on at Convention.

The legislation would bar all preseason advance scouting of exhibitions or scrimmages. The committee, however, suggested that teams be allowed to scout one preseason contest between a Division III team and a non-Division III opponent. These contests are common in some areas, such as Wisconsin, where Division I Wisconsin-Madison routinely competes against its in-state Division III counterparts in preseason exhibitions.

The Management Council voted to reject that amendment. Council members felt that the effect of the proposed scouting bans should be gauged before the rule is altered in any way.

“There’s already proposed legislation out there and we’d really like to see how the membership votes on that prior to going forward with this,” said Portia Hoeg, Division III Management Council vice chair and director of athletics and recreation at Allegheny College. “We want to see how that plays itself out before coming up with any additional rules or waivers.”

Athletic direct report working group

The council approved a proposal to create an athletics direct report working group. Recent Division III surveys indicate that roughly 80 percent of Division III athletics directors report to an administrator other than the school’s chancellor or president. Yet those direct reports (e.g., chief academic officers, chief student affairs officers, vice presidents or deans, among others) are often left out of the governance process.

The working group would examine the current involvement and role of athletics direct reports, develop a best-practices document and provide resources and opportunities for athletics direct reports to be more engaged in the governance process.

The group will be comprised of one conference commissioner, three athletics direct reports (including one from the Management Council), a member of the Presidents Council and one athletics director. The members will be culled within the next month and begin conference calls in December.

“The approval of the working group for athletic direct reports is important for us because we find that in Division III the majority of our athletics directors report to someone other than a president,” Rupert said. “So anything we do with an athletics direct report working group can only enhance the reporting lines and the communication on campus for Division III.”

Rule changes with budget implications

Sport rule changes made by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) often have facility and/or financial implications for institutions. PROP has recently decided, for instance, to alter the markings on basketball courts to accommodate a new rule pertaining to the lower defensive box in women’s basketball.

Facility changes like that come with a price tag, and institutions need time to budget accordingly. The council heard of a likely membership-sponsored resolution to allow a year grace period before schools are held accountable for implementing any change that would have a financial and facility impact. Both the Division II and Division III Management Councils have requested that PROP consider allowing such a delay for all such rule changes in the future. The council agreed to consider the resolution, if submitted, during its pre-convention meeting in January.