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By Gary Brown
The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is supporting a proposal to allow text messaging in recruiting, but the SAAC is against one that would include social media.
Meeting Nov. 18-20 in Indianapolis, the SAAC moved Division III one step closer to ending a year-long debate on whether to deregulate electronic communication in the recruiting process.
SAAC members reviewed two proposals, one from the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Little East Conference (Proposal No. 2012-7) advocating that all electronically transmitted correspondence between prospects and coaches (including social media) be regulated according to the same standard as telephone, email and fax correspondence. The other is from the Division III Management Council (Proposal No. 2012-8), which opens the texting gates but continues to restrict social media.
Presidents Council Grouping
The SAAC supports the Council-sponsored measure (No. 2012-8), though the vote was not unanimous (10 in favor, four opposed and three abstentions). Members were almost unanimous, though, in opposing the “all-in” proposal from the two conferences (16 opposed, one abstention).
The committee’s opposition to 2012-7 was consistent with how SAAC members reacted in July when the proposal was initially submitted. Those opinions, in fact, helped drive the Management Council’s decision to subsequently suggest an alternative pertaining solely to text messaging.
In its review of all 2012 Convention proposals in October, the Management Council decided to take no position on 2012-7, given the complexity of the issues and knowing that the SAAC had yet to take a final stance.
That stance now seems clear. SAAC members at their November meeting continued to maintain that while text messaging has evolved into an acceptable and common form of communication that was appropriate in recruiting, social media was a personal line coaches and administrators shouldn’t be allowed to cross. As for texting, SAAC members see it as a practical and helpful mode of communicating that probably wouldn’t “replace” phone calls and face-to-face meetings as what sways prospects’ college choices.
“We think texting is likely to facilitate communication between coaches and prospects and keeps up with the times, but it wouldn’t be the communication on which relationships are built,” said SAAC chair Brittany Petrella from Rowan University. “In that way, we don’t think text messaging compromises the recruiting process.”
Petrella also said the committee realizes that text messaging is perhaps a primary communication vehicle now for current prospects, much more than it was for SAAC members when they were being recruited.
“I know that the Divisions I, II and III SAACs thought text messaging was perceived as being too ‘unprofessional’ when they advocated the current restrictions several years ago, but since then, technology has moved to a point where it’s commonly accepted,” she said.
Now that the SAAC has spoken, the Management Council will revisit Proposal No. 2012-7 and could take a position during its pre-Convention meeting on Jan. 11, three days before the Division III business session.
In other legislative action, SAAC members unanimously opposed a proposal from the Midwest Conference and the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (No. 2012-9) to prohibit student-athletes who have sustained a season-ending injury from engaging with the team in any physical practice activities during the traditional season. That aligns with opposition from the Management Council and other committees that maintain the proposal represents a rule for only a few individuals who abuse the hardship rule to work around the “redshirt” prohibition.
The SAAC was split on a proposal from the New England Collegiate Conference and the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (No. 2012-6) to prohibit voluntary activities conducted by certified strength and conditioning personnel during the mandatory day off. Members did indicate, though, that they would support the proposal if it pertained only to the playing season.
In addition to Convention proposals, the SAAC also reviewed a request from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association to increase the number of male practice players and the frequency with which they can be used.
The issue pertains to legislation adopted at the 2008 Convention (for which the Division III SAAC strongly advocated) that pertains uniquely to Division III and limits the use of male practice players to one practice per week and only in the traditional segment. The number of male players used in a given practice also can’t exceed half of a typical starting unit in a sport (for example, no more than three in basketball and six in soccer). Divisions I and II do not impose those restrictions on the use of male practice players, but Division III believed they were necessary, given the division’s participation-based philosophy.
The WBCA, though, after surveying its Division III members, wants to increase the number of male practice players in basketball to five and to allow them to participate in two practices per week instead of one. The WBCA says the increase to five male practice players would preclude two female players from having to serve with the current three male “scout” players and instead allow them to concentrate on learning and running their own plays. The WBCA also says that it would “eliminate the stigma of participating on the scout squad.”
SAAC members understand the concern but are advising the WBCA to explore whether the limited use of male practice players is an issue in other sports. They also worry about whether the increases negatively affect women’s participation opportunities. For example, under the WBCA proposal, teams in a typical week with two or three game days may have only two practices, both of which would then include a fuller complement of male practice players, which would limit opportunities for females.
SAAC members also wonder whether the increases would tax support staffs at member schools (athletic training, for example) and whether the “stigma” the WBCA cites about being on the scout team is accurate.
The SAAC realizes that the WBCA sought the SAAC’s counsel first, since the SAAC was the primary governance group to shape the current restrictions. Members pointed out, though, that the WBCA could pursue other bodies (conferences or other governance groups) to sponsor an amendment if it feels strongly enough.