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Text messaging adopted in Division III

By Gary Brown

Division III loosened the communication reins in recruiting when delegates approved a proposal to deregulate text messaging at the 2012 NCAA Convention business session on Saturday.

Effective immediately, text messaging will be regulated according to the same standard as telephone, email and fax correspondence in the recruiting process.

Moravian College President and Management Council member Chris Thomforde used popular text messaging lingo like “OMG” and ‘LOL” in presenting the proposal to the floor, and it was adopted by an overwhelming majority (418-44-5).

What won’t be deregulated also is newsworthy. The proposal adopted (No. 8, sponsored by the Division III Management Council) does not include social media. A proposal that would have allowed social media to be included in the deregulations (Proposal No. 7) was withdrawn on the Convention floor.

The St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the original sponsor of Proposal No. 7 (later joined by the Little East Conference), announced its intention to withdraw the proposal earlier in the week after it became clear that the momentum was behind the Management Council’s Proposal No. 8. However, that doesn’t mean Division III won’t be paying attention to how social media develops with regard to recruiting in the future.

The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which also supported Proposal No. 8, noted it was comfortable with opening the text-messaging gates since that form of communication has become more of the norm over the last several years. But neither the SAAC nor the rest of the governance structure was ready to let go of the social media restrictions. At the same time, the Management Council at its Jan. 11 meeting asked the SAAC to keep an eye on the social media world in case that needed to be revisited later.

Other withdrawals also made news. The 2012 Division III legislative slate entered the Convention as a 10-proposal package, but in addition to Proposal No. 7’s disappearance, sponsors also withdrew Nos. 6, 9 and 10.

Proposal No. 6 from the New England Collegiate Conference and the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference would have scaled back activities that schools’ certified strength and conditioning personnel conduct during off days during the regular season. The proposal would have prohibited these voluntary workouts one day per week in the nontraditional segment and throughout the academic year.

The Division III SAAC at its November meeting supported the in-season restrictions, but concerns have been raised about the membership’s ability to monitor the out-of-season activities. Other governance groups, including the Management Council, opposed the measure in its entirety. 

The sponsoring conferences had indicated their likely withdrawal earlier in the week, saying they wanted to retool the proposal to focus more on the in-season restrictions.

The other two withdrawals were not quite as anticipated.

One – Proposal No. 9 – sought to keep student-athletes who have sustained a medically documented, season-ending injury from engaging with the team in any physical practice activities during the traditional season. If they do so, they would use a season of participation. Sponsors from the Midwest Conference and Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference submitted the proposal with student-athlete well-being in mind, arguing that student-athletes in such circumstances should be focused on their health and conditioning, not on improving skills or assisting their teams in practice.

But the proposal never gained much support from the governance structure.

Also withdrawn was Proposal No. 10 from The Commonwealth Coast Conference and the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, which would have excluded one postseason championship from the 18- or 19-week declared playing and practice season in all sports.

That left six proposals for delegates to deliberate during their business session. In addition to the text-messaging proposal being approved, delegates referred a measure (Proposal No. 3) to require sickle cell testing to the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports for further review.

Four other proposals were adopted:

  • Proposal No. 1, clarifying the Division III philosophy.
  • Proposal No. 2, aligning the membership requirements for a conference with the automatic-qualification requirements for a conference.
  • Proposal No. 4, specifying that a professional sports organization may serve as a financial sponsor of an intercollegiate competition event, under certain conditions.
  • Proposal No. 5, requiring certified strength and conditioning coaches to maintain current certification in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automatic external defibrillator use.

The closest vote of the day was the very first one, in which one of the delegates asked to defeat one of the noncontroversial legislative proposals previously adopted by the Management Council. The legislation (No. NC 2012-15 in the Official Notice) is permissive legislation that increases limits on the value of participation awards by $100 for seniors and by $50 for other awards as specified.

While those awards haven’t been adjusted since 2006, opponents from the Convention floor thought it was inappropriate to take such fiscal action during a national economic slump. The roll-call vote was 231-210-19 to support.

Given the amount of dissent, the Management Council at its post-Convention meeting later that afternoon revisited the legislation and agreed to send it to the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee to review whether the new limits are appropriate (and to solicit more feedback from the Presidents' Athletic Conference, which asked to rescind the legislation, and others). The Council stopped short of suspending the proposal, though.

Other highlights at Saturday’s business session included an update on Division III’s partnership with Special Olympics that was announced at last year’s Convention. Delegates heard an inspirational speech from Jason Plante, a student at Purdue who also is a golfer with Special Olympics Indiana.

Plante advocated on behalf of Special Olympics and urged Division III members to volunteer their services.

“Imagine the thrill you will have in participating alongside Special Olympics athletes, the joy you have when you hear their results and the sensation you will have when you feel like you’ve made a difference in the lives of both the athletes and their families,” Plante said. “These and much more are the feelings you will have when you volunteer for Special Olympics.”

Plante shared his personal story of the positive effect Special Olympics has had on his life and explained how others can get involved in the program.

Hope College President Jim Bultman, who presided over the business session as chair of the Division III Presidents Council, joked after Plante’s presentation that while Division III has a “3-D platform” of Discover, Develop and Dedicate, Bultman’s golf game has a “3-D problem” of Distance, Direction and Demeanor. He asked Plante if he’d be his coach, and Plante said he’d be happy to do so.

Division III schools already have raised more than $80,000 for Special Olympics this year and have held hundreds of interactive activities with local chapters. Events also are being conducted at every Division III championship this year.

In addition to keeping the agenda moving during the business session, Bultman also paused to deliver some stirring remarks about not only his service as Presidents Council chair over the past year but also his connection with the division over time.

“I honestly believe that Division III is the crown jewel of intercollegiate sport,” he said. “It is sport where sportsmanship is integral to competition, where disciplined effort is recognized, where skillful play is applauded, where victory is graced with humility and where defeat is buoyed by hope.

“I’m so proud of each one of our student-athletes, and indeed each one of you who are investing daily in our philosophy and in our identity. May it ever be so.”