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New online program may replace DII coaches test

Committee recommends switch to 'Division II University' for certification

A new Division II online education program set to launch this spring could become the replacement for the required certification test that Division II coaches take annually. The Division II Legislation Committee recommended this change after reviewing a beta version of the online program, named Division II University, at its meeting this week in Indianapolis.

The committee recommended a legislative proposal for the 2019 NCAA Convention that would eliminate the current coaches test — an online exam traditionally proctored by faculty athletics representatives on schools’ campuses — and would instead require the completion of online training modules in Division II University. The group also recommended legislated penalties for coaches who do not successfully complete the required modules by the time their coaching certification expires each year on Aug. 1. Under current legislation, coaches who do not complete or pass the coaches test are prohibited from contacting and evaluating prospective student-athletes off campus. The committee proposed maintaining the recruiting restriction but also adding a prohibition in participating in countable athletically related activities with the coach’s team until the required modules are completed. The committee is targeting the 2019-20 academic year for the change. The proposal will be reviewed in concept form by the Division II Management Council and Presidents Council in April.

Division II University is intended to enhance coaches’ engagement and understanding of the rules and issues that pertain to their role in Division II athletics. The initial rollout of the program is anticipated in late April or May and will include 26 modules, most of which address recruiting and eligibility rules. It also will include health and safety training: Two modules have been developed in conjunction with the NCAA Sport Science Institute addressing mental health and sexual violence prevention. Additional modules will be developed for future use.

The program will be housed in a new learning management system that will be accessed through the NCAA single-source sign-on application. It will be a voluntary resource for schools to use at their own discretion, unless the membership adopts the new proposal.

“Instead of just a test, there’s an educational component,” said Legislation Committee chair Linda Van Drie-Andrzjewski, the executive director of Title IX, Clery Act and regulatory affairs at Wilmington (Delaware). “(Division II University) is going to provide more of a learning opportunity for coaches rather than just a regurgitation of what they already know.”

The health and safety modules will arm the coaches with tools to better protect their student-athletes, Van Drie-Andrzjewski added. “It’s not just going to educate them as far as what’s in the manual … but it’s also going to assist them with what they need to know to assist our student-athletes. We know our coaches are more than what they do on the field. In a lot of ways, they’re also de facto parents to our student-athletes.”

In the coming months, the Legislation Committee will work through details of its recommendation, including the number and topics of courses coaches might be required to take each year. Coaches likely would have several months to complete the modules on their own leading up to Aug. 1. They would be able to retake any failed modules until they have achieved a perfect score. Legislation Committee members believe this approach would improve the learning process and provide a better educational experience for the coaches.

Significant membership feedback has been gathered since the online education program for coaches was approved for funding in April 2016 by the Division II Presidents Council. Staff distributed a survey to Division II coaches, held focus groups and vetted the idea with numerous committees during the past year. Feedback has been largely supportive of the program and the potential elimination of the current coaches test. 

“I think a lot of people dread that test every year,” Van Drie-Andrzjewski said. “This is a refreshing way of looking at it.”