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Keeping Their Balance

Division II keeps time demands at top of its mind when making key decisions

At a Division II meeting during the summer attended by conference commissioners, university presidents and student-athletes, a volleyball player shared a concern that reverberated through the room.

Bailey Koch, a member of the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a senior at Augustana (South Dakota), expressed her unease with the number of “voluntold” activities she and her peers participate in — athletics activities that, while not technically required, seem to carry unspoken consequences if skipped. As managing time demands on college athletes remains a focus throughout the NCAA, her message stuck.

Presidents Council members, in particular, took note. In their meeting the next day, Koch’s comments became a springboard from which the presidents and chancellors discussed the division’s “life in the balance” philosophy. That phrase — first adopted as a positioning statement by the division in 2006 and later used to name a landmark legislative package in 2010 — serves as a guiding principle for shaping legislation and policy. It is a reminder of the division’s commitment to providing student-athletes a well-rounded college experience.

The competitive nature of college sports continuously breeds pressures for more: competitions, practices, interactions with recruits. The Presidents Council often serves as the gatekeeper in the division’s quest to maintain a healthy equilibrium for student-athletes and coaches alike.

That sense of responsibility was on full display during the summer when the council reviewed proposed legislation for the 2018 Convention. Two proposals pertain to playing and practice season schedules: One would allow football teams to begin preseason practice three days earlier, while the other would move up the start date for women’s volleyball by one week in years in which the Division II National Championships Festival occurs in the fall.

Some council members questioned whether the changes, although minimal, would chip away at the legislation adopted more than seven years ago in the “life in the balance” package, which reduced playing and practice seasons in most Division II sports.

“A lot of these small things are impacting the free time of student-athletes, particularly in the summer if they want to study abroad,” Wayne State (Michigan) President Roy Wilson says. “I do think that if we’re serious about ‘life in the balance,’ this type of legislation, as innocuous as it may seem, can be a slippery slope.”

Ultimately, the council voted to sponsor the football proposal, viewing it as a necessary adjustment after the NCAA in the spring eliminated two-a-day preseason contact practices. Ensuring student-athletes have sufficient time to prepare for the season was essential, council members have noted. 

The council voted not to sponsor the volleyball proposal. However, since it also was submitted as a membership-sponsored proposal from the East Coast Conference and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, the proposal will proceed to a membership vote at Convention.

Thanks in part to one student speaking up, the council will continue the broader conversation about student-athlete demands during the coming months, with a goal of collecting more feedback from SAAC regarding “voluntold” activities. The topic also will be the center of a joint breakfast with the two groups and the Management Council at the Convention in January.

Glen Jones, Presidents Council chair and Henderson State president, understands the groups’ collective charge will require a nuanced approach: “The issues,” he says, “are not so black and white.”


About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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