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While this week’s NCAA Convention will culminate in a business session on Saturday when delegates consider 15 legislative proposals, a significant session on Friday will have a lot to do with the future of Division III.
Isaac Stein of Washington U. in St. Louis, right, works on position papers for various legislative proposals with fellow Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members Wesley Lambert of Maryville (Tennessee), center, and Justin Lee of Lebanon Valley.
An issues forum at 9 a.m. in the Grand Hyatt’s Texas Salon will begin gathering feedback from Division III members on how – or even if – the division should conduct an academic-year drug-testing program.
The question comes after a two-year study (2007-09) to examine the deterrent effect of a pilot drug-education and testing program.
Division III currently conducts drug testing only at its championships; however, individual schools may conduct testing throughout the year at their own expense. Divisions I and II conduct year-round testing for their student-athletes in several sports, but Division III has declined a year-round program of its own.
Now that question is up for broader membership debate. Participants at Friday’s issues forum will discuss:
As a baseline for discussion, the findings from the pilot do not appear to justify the establishment of a national testing program on the basis of either competitive equity or student-athlete well-being. The findings also do not reveal a consensus among student-athletes that drug testing should be conducted by schools or the NCAA, or that drug testing by individual colleges has had a deterrent effect on substance use.
The Division III SAAC and the Presidents Council at their summer meetings appeared to favor an educational approach over a punitive one. SAAC members thought that whatever dollars are allocated to deterrence should be directed at enhanced education, and that student-athletes should be treated no different than their campus peers (which aligns with the Division III philosophy).
The presidents (Council members and members of the Presidential Advisory Group) thought the findings from the pilot are not compelling enough to move toward year-round testing. Like the student-athletes, they also preferred an educational approach, with alcohol abuse included as a focal point in the educational campaign.
Forum participants will hear not only about the pilot results but also about how such an educational approach might work. The NCAA’s health and safety staff already provides ample resources along those lines, as does the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which conducts the NCAA drug-testing programs.
Among areas to probe are how to structure NCAA resources and funding to benefit Division III schools, how to collaborate with campus constituents (for example, student affairs) in raising awareness about drug and alcohol use, and whether educational efforts should be tailored to specific audiences (that is, student-athletes, coaches, parents).
The implementation of any educational programs and resources would begin during the 2012-14 biennium. If a year-round drug-testing program ends up being proposed, the membership would vote on it at the 2012 Convention in Indianapolis.