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By Gary Brown
The Division III Membership Committee at its meeting last week approved a pilot program for 2012 that allows eight conferences in the New England region to conduct a compliance seminar at one of their member institutions and count it toward the legislated once-in-three-year Regional Rules Seminar attendance requirement.
Institutional personnel from other schools could also attend and use it toward the legislative requirement.
The date of this new seminar will be determined by staff in conjunction with the eight conferences.
The action provides at least temporary relief to a region that would have faced travel issues with the currently scheduled Regional Rules Seminars in Anaheim and Atlanta for that year. The Membership Committee also sees this as a way to explore the concept of division-specific regional compliance programming.
While the eight conferences had appealed for a biennial seminar in their area, the Membership Committee was more comfortable with a one-year test drive so that NCAA staff can track whether this type of accommodation for a region not geographically proximate to the regularly scheduled seminars is practical and effective.
Committee members deliberated at length about whether this could set a risky precedent and encourage other “satellite” sessions that could detract from the effectiveness of the current Regional Rules Seminars. They also relied on feedback from Division III’s battery of “virtual focus groups,” which suggested considering education via technology to supplement the traditional in-person approach.
In that vein, the committee asked staff to present alternative models that incorporate technology (for example, web-based modules) in delivering educational resources in the future to accompany the in-person Regional Rules Seminars and allow all institutions to access materials more conveniently and efficiently.
The committee will evaluate these alternatives at its June meeting. For now, though, the New England seminar in 2012 is the only additional in-person session on the future schedule.
In addition to Regional Rules Seminar attendance, the Membership Committee also talked about NCAA Convention attendance in light of the extraordinary weather conditions that kept a few institutional voting delegates from attending this year’s Convention in San Antonio.
The committee recommended that NCAA staff be able to waive the attendance requirement under circumstances where relief previously has been granted, such as extreme weather, personal illness and family emergency.
Any other situation in which the committee has not previously granted relief would be forwarded to the committee for consideration. Institutions would still be required to submit a written explanation, and the institution would have to transfer voting rights to its conference.
That action also prompted the committee to recommend clarifying existing legislation on Convention attendance (Bylaw 184.108.40.206 – Convention and Regional Rules Seminar Attendance) by adding language ensuring that each institution is represented at the voting session:
“An active member institution must be represented by an institutional voting delegate at the NCAA Convention business session each year and by at least one institutional staff member at the NCAA Regional Rules Seminar at least every three years.”
The committee spent an afternoon with its Division II counterpart to discuss a broad-based educational approach to help prospective NCAA member schools and existing members seeking to reclassify to make informed decisions about which division suits them best, or if NCAA membership is right for them at all.
The meeting aligned with an Association-wide effort underway from an Executive Committee subcommittee that is preparing a report on divisional membership requirements for the Executive Committee’s April meeting.
The joint DII/DIII meeting helped each membership committee understand each other’s criteria and processes. In Division II, applicants must already meet several standards before having their applications considered. Once in the process, prospective schools go through two “candidacy” years and then at least one year as a provisional member. After that, the committee can either move the institution into active status or require additional provisional years.
In Division III, prospective members seek to enter an “exploratory” year, followed by four years in provisional status with mandatory rules compliance before being evaluated for active membership.
But most of the meeting was spent discussing how best to educate schools to make informed decisions about division affiliation. Because most of the documentation about what it takes to be a successful Division II or Division III member already exists, the committees agreed to determine which of these resources could be included in a broad-based package on NCAA.org to help guide schools’ decisions. Division I membership criteria also would be included.
Both the Division II and Division III Membership Committees will submit recommendations in time for staff to incorporate the resource lists into the Executive Committee subcommittee’s report.
In other highlights from the Division III Membership Committee’s Feb. 14-16 meeting, members reviewed an earlier action by the Division III Championships Committee, which asked the Division III Management Council to sponsor legislation specifying that a member institution may be a “core” institution in only one conference.
The legislation would address a spike in membership interest 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 has debated whether to allow what could be a proliferation of similar models.
That debate continued in the Division III Membership Committee meeting, with some members clearly uncomfortable with the motivation for the umbrella model being solely to gain AQ, while others were more sympathetic to the practical circumstances some schools face in gaining access to NCAA championships.
In the end, the Membership Committee endorsed the Championships Committee’s request to the Management Council to sponsor legislation; however, many also recognized the practical issues for why a group would pursue an umbrella conference. Members acknowledged that the matter of championships access (particularly through AQ) was clearly the Championships Committee’s purview, while the umbrella conference issue affects the Membership Committee more along the lines of voting rights and other conference benefits. In that vein, committee members agreed to continue its discussion on the matter in June.