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By Gary Brown
The Division III Championships Committee is recommending an alternative approach to a membership-sponsored legislative proposal for the 2011 Convention that would allow for an unlimited number of non-participants to be in the bench area during NCAA championship contests.
Rather than open up such access and pose what the committee believes are a number of logistical, equity and budget concerns, members are asking the Management Council to recommend to the Presidents Council a resolution to study current squad-size among all member institutions and institutions selected for championships, travel-party and bench limits to determine which sports, if any, merit an increase in the number of people allowed in the bench area.
Two proposals from the Empire 8 and the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association call for institutional discretion in determining and funding the number of additional people in the bench area. One would allow institutions in sports other than football to determine how many student-athletes from their current active rosters they desire to dress, participate in warm-ups and be in the bench area. That proposal also garnered co-sponsorship from the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.
The other proposal from the Empire 8 and MIAA includes football but limits the number of student-athletes in the bench area in that sport to 100.
While the Championships Committee understands the point of additional access to the championship experience, members believe at least some regulations are necessary. They would prefer that delegates at the January Convention in San Antonio support researching squad sizes and travel parties of the participating teams in previous championships to get a better idea of workable limits.
Members noted that current rules already provide institutions a range of flexibility to bring additional student-athletes. In men’s and women’s basketball, for example, 23 individuals are allowed in the bench area – eight more than the squad size (game participants) and three more than the travel party (for which the NCAA reimburses expenses). In men’s and women’s lacrosse, 38 individuals are allowed in the bench area, 10 over the 28 on the squad and five over the 33 in the travel party.
The men’s lacrosse committee, though, already has let the Championship Committee know that it would like to increase the number allowed in the bench area to 48, similar to Division II (48) and Division I (52). That group argues that many men’s lacrosse rosters exceed 33, and those student-athletes not allowed in the bench area but who go to the event have to purchase tickets (often at the institution’s expense).
Sponsors of the legislative proposal, though, want institutions to be able to decide, rather than having limits imposed upon them (except in football).
Reaction to the measure at a meeting of Division III sport committee chairs and Championships Committee members that preceded the Championships Committee session was mixed. Many chairs who also serve as athletics directors noted that while the proposal might alleviate pressure from parents and student-athletes to send more participants – and it would properly reward more student-athletes who contributed to the team’s success over the course of the season – it would further squeeze already strapped budgets at most schools if they were expected to foot the bill.
Teams that have to fly to a championships site, for instance, are not likely to have the same bench size as the home team or those institutions on a drive. Additional areas of budget impact include hotel nights, banquet attendance, and the purchase of additional awards and participant mementos.
Championships Committee members pointed out other concerns, as well, not the least of which were simple logistics. Most baseball and softball dugouts can’t accommodate much more than the current limits, and an unlimited approach may introduce some gender inequities since some men’s teams carry larger rosters than their women’s counterparts.
That’s why the Championships Committee favored more study to determine whether some of the current restrictions were inappropriate instead of lifting limits altogether. Members noted that any increases in the travel party after the review would come at the division’s expense (since the NCAA reimburses expenses for the travel party), which might be a better outcome for the membership. Other ancillary benefits are that these student-athletes would be included in other championship experiences such as the pre-event banquet, awards and being included in the game program (the Empire 8 and MIAA proposal provides only for students to dress and be in the bench area).
Mostly, though, they think a data-based review is a more manageable and reasonable approach. As such, members voted to oppose Proposal Nos. 6 and 7 regarding bench-area limits. If the membership agrees with the “resolution” alternative, and subsequent study finds that increases are warranted in some sports, then those changes would be proposed at the 2012 Convention.
Current squad-size, travel-party and bench-area limits
|Sport||Squad Size||Travel Party||Bench Size|
|M&W Ice Hockey||21||26||29|
The Division III Championships Committee also reviewed two other membership-sponsored proposals that had been referred, including one from the Empire 8, Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and North Eastern Athletic Conference that would permit student-athletes to compete in triathlons without affecting their sport eligibility (in cross country, track and field, or swimming and diving) while still adhering to amateurism standards.
Championships Committee members support the idea as long as the student-athlete participates in all three disciplines and not simply in his or her own sport as part of a relay.
The committee also agreed to support a legislative proposal from the City University of New York Athletic Conference and Great Northeast Athletic Conference that establishes an NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball Championship.
Committee members noted that steps would be taken to establish proposals for a four-person sport committee, automatic qualification eligibility for conferences, and playing-and-practice season parameters before the 2011 Convention so that delegates would understand the nature of the sport at the Division III level before casting their votes. Such proposals could be adopted at the Management Council’s post-Convention meeting, assuming the membership adopts the proposal to establish the championship.
The committee also continued to explore regional realignment to create standardization wherever possible in region nomenclature and the number of sport regions (based on sport sponsorship). The committee wants to emphasize conference affiliation, geographic proximity and congruity between like sports (for example, men’s and women’s lacrosse). Initial plans for the project were received favorably by sport committee chairs. Additional discussion with sport committees and the Division III Commissioners Association will take place in the coming year.