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By Gary Brown
The Division III Championships Committee is seeking input from sport committees on the appropriate number of student-athletes allowed in the bench area during NCAA championships competition.
The request from the committee’s Feb. 9-10 meeting is the first step in a study promised when Division III delegates adopted a resolution from the Presidents Council at last month’s NCAA Convention. The resolution was prompted by membership interest in adjusting the current limits, including proposals in last year’s legislative cycle to allow for institutional discretion in determining how many student-athletes could be in the bench area during championships contests.
Rather than establish a potentially inequitable environment at the championship venues, the Presidents Council recommended a comprehensive study.
That is now underway with the Championships Committee’s request for sport committees to provide counsel from the trenches not only on the appropriate bench limits but also on travel and squad sizes.
They’ll have some guidance along those lines, as the Championships Committee asked staff to provide not only the current limits but also (1) the average squad sizes for all schools sponsoring a given sport, (2) the average squad size of teams selected to the championships and (3) the average squad size of teams that advance to the finals.
Those parameters should help sport committees assess just how many players teams vying for championships need to compete. That assessment is complicated by having to balance a desire to have as many student-athletes as possible share the championships experience with logistical limits and competitive concerns.
The squad size is the number of student-athletes eligible to compete in the championship contest, participate in pregame warm-ups and remain in uniform in the bench area. The bench size is the number of individuals permitted in the bench area during the actual contest. Under the current rule, the student-athletes in uniform in the bench area must not exceed the squad limit.
The study examines the appropriateness of those limits. The Championships Committee is asking for input by April in order for members to consider recommendations before the committee’s next in-person meeting May 31-June 2.
Because squad limits and bench-area restrictions are matters of policy, those adjustments could be made by next fall’s championships. However, if the membership were to disagree with the Championship Committee’s recommendations, conferences could sponsor alternative proposals for the 2012 Convention. Increasing the bench size to allow uniformed student-athletes in excess of the squad size would require a legislative change that could be addressed directly by the Management Council, or that might require a membership vote at the 2012 Convention.
In addition to the squad size/bench size review, the Championships Committee also formally asked the Division III Management Council to sponsor legislation specifying that a member institution may be a “core” institution in only one conference.
That action was a logical next step in a discussion that began last year when the Championships Committee, Management Council and other governance groups noted increased interest from the membership about forming so-called “umbrella” conferences in which two smaller “sub-conferences” band together to form an overarching, or umbrella, conference, primarily to increase automatic qualification to NCAA championships.
While there is but one existing umbrella conference (the Middle Atlantic Conferences), the Division III governance structure debated whether to allow what could be a proliferation of similar models. It became clear during those discussions that the Division III governance structure preferred a landscape in which institutions could be “core” members of just one league for the following reasons:
Currently, the assignment of requirements and benefits is not precisely legislated for alternative conference models, specifically one that is structured under an “umbrella.”
The bylaw amendment would eliminate the possibility of the umbrella model since it would not be possible for an institution to be considered core in one of the sub-conferences, as well as in the large umbrella.
The Championships Committee’s action formalizes that preference. If the Division III Management and Presidents Councils make good on the recommendation, the proposal will enter the 2012 Convention cycle, possibly as part of a more comprehensive legislative package that better aligns conference obligations and benefits, and includes the definition of a “core” institution. (If the amendment is adopted, the existing umbrella conference would be grandfathered to minimize any negative impact.)
The Championships Committee approved the following to host future championships in cross country and track and field:
The committee referred a recommendation on the 2013 outdoor track and field championships back to the Division III track and field committee for additional review.