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Division III Management Council chair Jeff Martinez, the athletics director at Redlands, talks to the group about a new review process for the conference grant program.
By Gary Brown
The Division III Management Council at its Jan. 16 meeting endorsed a conference grant “best business practices policy” and third-party review process designed to help conferences both account for – and be more accountable for – dollars they spend through the Division III conference grant program.
The policy recommendations came from a six-member working group, including three commissioners, that was formed this summer after the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee and the Management and Presidents Councils advocated for a more formal annual review of one of the division’s most beneficial programs.
A grant-assessment reporting tool was deemed necessary because of the significant dollar amount allocated to conference offices through the grants (about $2 million annually), and the desire for conferences to be accountable for the use of those funds. The working group stopped short of recommending an annual comprehensive audit, believing instead that a best-practices review policy was the better approach.
Pending Division III Presidents Council approval, the review process will become effective in the 2013-14 academic year, with initial review forms from conferences due at the national office by July 15, 2014.
“We’ve talked about this kind of review before, and we’ve worked with the Division III Conference Commissioners Association all along the way, so this policy document should not be a surprise to most folks,” said University of Redlands Athletics Director Jeff Martinez, who chaired his final Management Council meeting before his term on the Council expires at the end of the Convention. “This isn’t so much an ‘audit’ as it is a way for conferences to more efficiently manage funds that benefit their operations. The grant program is such a big part of the division’s success. Most programs of that importance in any business or organization likely have some sort of formal review component. Ours should be no different.”
Conferences already are required to submit an “impact form” every July 15 that explains how their grant dollars were used in the previous year. The additions in the recommended process are a self-certification form and retention of a third party to review fund usage (examples of a third party could be a school’s business office, the chair of the conference’s presidential oversight body, the conference’s bank or an outside accounting firm). Such third-party entities likely already have dealings or oversight with conference accounting. The resulting accounting burden is expected to be a minimal portion of a conference’s overall fiscal operation.
A secondary or more in-depth review would be triggered only if information submitted in the first review in July reveals accounting inconsistencies or a lack of detail. Those “Level 2” reviews would be conducted by the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, which oversees the grant program.
If that assessment shows that funds have been used inconsistently with the grant program policy, the committee is authorized to take action that could involve deducting the misused funds from the conference’s next annual grant allocation or requiring the conference to reimburse the NCAA in an amount equal to the misused funds.
Gustavus Adolphus President Jack Ohle, incoming chair of the Presidents Council and current chair of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, said the process is simply intended to reassure the committee that Division III funds are being accurately reported and are being spent in accordance with the grant program and the Division III strategic plan.
“Many, if not most, Division III conferences are following several of these guidelines already,” Ohle said. “But beyond being more efficient and more prudent, the assessment approach also has a development component to it, as it provides an opportunity for conferences to ask specific questions and allows the committee to give constructive feedback.”
Management Council members also used their Convention meeting to prep for the Division III business session on Jan. 19 during which 13 legislative proposals will be considered.
One proposal in particular prompted discussion – and it wasn’t the controversial one regarding sickle cell trait confirmation status, either. Rather, it was Proposal No. 9, which would expand the realm of contact to prospects to include private communication through social networking sites (similar to email).
Sponsored by the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Proposal No. 9 would allow contact as long as it is strictly between only the sender and recipient (for example, no use of public chat rooms, message boards, or public communication through a social networking site).
The proposal comes a year after Division III adopted legislation that regulates text messaging according to the same standard as telephone, email and fax correspondence in the recruiting process. That proposal did not include social media, however. A proposal that would have was withdrawn on the 2012 Convention floor. But sponsors of this year’s proposal cite growing concerns that “current prohibitions on electronic transmissions are outdated and lagging behind prospective student-athletes’ use of technology.”
Because of the nature of the topic, the Management Council and other governance groups have looked to the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for advice.
The SAAC had preliminarily supported the idea when the proposal first entered the legislative cycle in July but changed its stance during an in-person meeting in November. Meeting again this week at the Convention, SAAC members reaffirmed their opposition, with the sticking point continuing to be the nature of the contact and whether it could intrude into a prospect’s personal life.
SAAC member Dalaine Whitlock of Concordia Texas, who also serves on the Management Council, said the proposal removes all boundaries and thus makes many SAAC members uneasy.
“We understand that social media is becoming more integrated in our society, but we aren’t comfortable with completely removing the boundaries,” she said. “We feel texting and email have been consistent as far as the format is concerned over time, so we continue to be comfortable with those forms of contact, but we are uncertain about the future of social media.
“We also believe that the proposal favors coaches more than it benefits prospective student-athletes.”
That was somewhat persuasive for the Management Council, which had supported the proposal initially in July, but not enough to convince the Council to oppose the proposal.
Rather, the Council voted to take no position on Proposal No. 9 and let the debate play out on the Convention floor. Council members respected SAAC’s concern about privacy but also understood the sponsors’ desire to make recruiting more efficient. Council members also do not believe that coaches would use social media as the sole, or even the primary, method to recruit prospects.
Divisions I and II permit the use of the private communication function in social networking sites. Further, Divisions I and II also permit an athletics department staff member or coach to “friend” a prospective student- athlete, it is noted that the identification of the prospective student-athlete as a “friend” or “follower” on an athletics staff members profile page confirms only the institution’s potential recruitment of that individual. Formal “friending” would not be permitted by Proposal No. 9.
Division III SAAC members said the Divisions I and II policies did not affect their decision.
The Division III SAAC decided to support Proposal No. 2, which states that a Division III member institution would be ineligible for Division III championships and Division III grant funding once it begins the Division II reclassification process.
Proposal No. 2 replaces current legislation that allows reclassifying schools to be eligible for Division III championships and grant funds until they reach Candidacy Year No. 2 in the three-year Division II membership process (unless the school chooses to immediately begin awarding financial aid, at which point they become ineligible for Division III championships and grants).
SAAC members opposed the measure in November, initially believing that the restrictions were too severe on student-athletes at the reclassifying school. They agreed with the limits surrounding the grant piece of the legislation, but not the limits surrounding championships competition for student-athletes, especially seniors.
Upon reconsideration at their meeting this week, though, members thought more about the philosophical ramifications of allowing championship access to reclassifying schools and decided to support Proposal No. 2.
The SAAC continued to support Proposal No. 4, which would require schools to confirm sickle cell trait status for all student-athletes no later than the 2014-15 academic year, including mandatory confirmation of status for all incoming student-athletes (first-year and transfers) in 2013-14. SAAC members in fact took it upon themselves to find out their own sickle cell trait status in recent months. Many reported how easy it was to find out through their family physician or parents.
Seven Management Council members whose terms expire at the end of the Convention hammed it up at their final meeting on Wednesday. The outgoing members are College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Commissioner Chris Martin (on sofa back), Moravian President Chris Thomforde (on floor) and (from left to right on sofa) outgoing chair and Redlands AD Jeff Martinez, Nichols AD Charlie Robert, Gallaudet FAR Kitty Baldridge, Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham AD Bill Klika and Penn State Altoona AD Fredina Ingold.
In other action at the Division III Management Council’s Jan. 16 meeting, members: