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Top DIII council sponsors new SAAC proposal

Presidents also encourage action on graduation rate reporting

Division III members will have an opportunity to vote on a pair of proposals regarding the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s composition at January’s Convention.

At a meeting this week at UCLA, the Division III Presidents Council sponsored a recommendation from the Division III Management Council designed to spur more interaction with SAAC representatives from all Division III conferences without increasing the committee’s size. The proposal would provide funding for SAAC representatives from all conferences (and the group of independents) to attend a summer meeting and play a more active role throughout the year. (Read more specifics on the Management Council’s proposal, which is an amendment to a membership-sponsored proposal.)

The Presidents Council approved a Management Council recommendation to oppose a proposal from three conferences that calls for each Division III conference and the group of independents to have a representative on the national SAAC. If that proposal were to be adopted at the 2018 NCAA Convention, SAAC would expand from 23 members to 44. The Presidents Council felt a committee of that size would be too unwieldy to be effective.

The membership-sponsored proposal would carry an estimated $115,000 annual cost to accommodate the committee doubling in size. The amended proposal sponsored by the Presidents Council, if adopted, would cost roughly $20,000 annually. Conferences and member schools also could pay for their SAAC liaison, if not a member of the full committee, to attend the NCAA Convention.

“We love the student voice, and SAAC is one of the most positive things that we have at the NCAA, but a committee of 44 is so big that that voice would get drowned out and it would be counterproductive,” said Jeff Docking, Presidents Council chair and president of Adrian. “This amended proposal doesn’t allow any conference to be invisible, but it does allow us to manage the group effectively.”

Graduation rate reporting

The Presidents Council encouraged the Division III Diversity and Inclusion Working Group to explore crafting a proposal for the 2019 Convention regarding mandatory student-athlete graduation rate reporting. The working group has been evaluating the viability and value of mandatory student-athlete graduation data collection, including weighing the potential administrative burden, because the graduation rates of African-Americans and football players has been considerably lower than other groups and sports for eight consecutive years.

The working group suggests, and the Presidents Council has now echoed, that mandatory data collection could provide valid and reliable data to support evidenced-based policies; enhance the NCAA Institutional Performance Program; and enable the division to more clearly articulate its overall success and commitment to academics. Presidents Council members noted that much of the data is similar to what institutions are currently required to submit to the federal government and to the Association, so any mandate may not prove to be overly burdensome.

“We want to be more data-driven,” Docking said. “With information now easy to find and submit compared to the years before we had all of these tools, it’s not as onerous. We feel like this is worth it because it gives us good, solid data that we can use to evaluate the most important thing that happens either in the NCAA or in the institutions, which is to get kids to graduate.”

Presidents Advisory Group

The Presidents Council discussed the role and makeup of the Division III Presidents/Chancellors Advisory Group, noting that it allows presidents from conferences not represented on the Presidents Council or Management Council to have their voices heard regarding key Division III issues. Currently, presidents can be appointed to the Presidents Advisory Group if their conference already has a member on the Presidents Council or Management Council, but Presidents Council members noted that, in those instances, the second president should represent a minority group (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) to ensure a diversity of viewpoints.

The Presidents Council will continue its evaluation of how to better ensure Presidents Advisory Group members have a chance to make meaningful contributions and to better prepare them for potential roles on the Presidents Council.

“We always want to make it better,” Docking said. “The idea was, how do we take something that’s good and make it great? Those institutions, those presidents, those conferences that feel like they really want to have a voice if they don’t have someone on Presidents Council should use the Presidents Advisory Group.”

New Presidents Council members

The Presidents Council appointed several new members. Kathleen Murray, president of Whitman, will fill a vacant spot on the Presidents Council, effective immediately. Tiffany Franks, president of Averett; Fayneese Miller, president of Hamline; and Kent Trachte, president of Lycoming, will begin serving four-year terms in January 2018, pending approval by the division’s presidents.