While the Division III Championships Committee didn’t finalize any recommendations that would address the recent overages in Division III’s championships budget, it did make progress towards that goal during its May 28-29 meeting in Indianapolis.
The group collectively decided that finding significant new revenue doesn’t seem realistic and that cutting championships expenses would be one way the division could achieve a balanced budget in the short term. So committee members discussed potential changes to championships, using results from a recent championships-centric survey of Division III athletics directors, conference commissioners and sport committee members as a guide. The committee’s initial ideas for cuts, which call for cost sharing – shifting some financial responsibility for championships from the division to the schools – would result in more than $2.5 million in short-term savings that would be implemented over the next two academic years. The potential recommendations include:
- Eliminating honorariums for host schools at non-predetermined sites;
- Eliminating per-diem for host schools;
- Reducing the reimbursement for team travel parties;
- Reducing first and second round team reimbursement;
- Eliminating the new softball super-regional format;
- Creating a three-day window between selections and travel in order to provide enough time to purchase cheaper airfare.
The committee will further discuss and finalize those recommendations during a June 17 conference call. Later this month, the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee will review the merits of the recommendations and decide which ones to forward to the Division III Management Council.
Despite these potential short-term changes, more long-term cuts will need to be made to offset ever-increasing travel and game operation expenses. Expenses, in part, have grown because of increases in bracket sizes that are fueled by increases in Division III membership and sport sponsorship over time and the current target access ratio of 1 bracket position for every 6.5 teams competing in Division III.
Most committee members agreed that altering the Division’s access ratio might be the only viable long-term solution. Reducing the number of teams that have access to championship events would result in lower travel and game operation costs. But committee members know that striking a balance between fiscal responsibility and access to championships for student-athletes will prove to be a tremendous challenge. Any change to access ratios would require a vote from the membership.
“It is often difficult to change policies — and these are difficult decisions but we can’t continue to operate as we have because the finances just aren’t there,” said championships committee chair and Fitchburg State athletics director Sue Lauder. “Our first attempt at closing the gap will work for the short term. But there is a general feeling on the committee that we are going to have to make some more significant changes in the very near future to keep up with rising expenses.”
The committee also continued its running discussion of how to properly handle institutions that field ineligible players. Currently, institutions are forced to forfeit contests in which ineligible athletes compete, but forfeits have proven to be a recurring problem for sport committees when debating teams’ merits during championship selections.
The championships committee is proposing that Division III adopt a nullification system that mirrors the one currently in place in Division II. The system would assess a mathematical penalty that affects a team’s win-loss percentage and strength of schedule. A fine would also be imposed. The Division III Management Council will discuss implementing the nullification system at its July meeting.