By Brian Hendrickson
The results of a newly released Division II census left members of the Management Council encouraged by the overall direction of the division and the success of its strategic platform.
But some responses from coaches left the council questioning whether more effort needs to be made to engage the leaders of its sports.
On a number of the survey questions, revealed for the first time at the Management Council’s October meeting in Indianapolis, responses from head and assistant coaches varied significantly compared to other responding groups. In some cases, they diverged entirely.
“I think it’s obvious we have a gap when it comes to engaging our coaches,” said Bob Boerigter, commissioner of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and chair of the Division II Management Council. “We haven’t connected with the coaches as well as we have with the other groups.”
The other responding groups – presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, athletics staff, compliance officers, Faculty Athletics Representatives and conference staff, replied similarly to many questions relating to the division’s identity and core philosophy. Those findings were encouraging to council members, who felt the responses were a vote of support for the division’s overall strategic direction.
DII Census Highlights
The Division II census drew more than 2,000 responses from its 24 conferences. Here are some of the highlights:
But the council also questioned why its coaches would be outliers. Several of the answers that drew the most discussion related to their understanding of the governance system and fundamental elements of Division II’s identity include:
Those responses drew the most discussion during a workgroup session, which largely focused on the possible reasons for the coaches’ divergent answers and potential solutions.
One explanation floated could lie in the relative inexperience of Division II coaches reported in the survey: 74 percent have worked at Division II schools for 10 years or fewer, and 50 percent for five or fewer years. A majority of coaches also reported that they’d previously worked in other NCAA divisions, and more than a third coached in the NAIA and at two-year colleges. That led council members to question whether the lack of experience in Division II was a contributing factor.
But other members cautioned the council against reading too much into the data. Clint Bryant, athletics director at Georgia Regents University and a former long-time basketball coach, pointed out that the questioned topics didn’t focus on coaches’ primary responsibilities, which could explain their responses.
“Coaches are not exactly administrators, and they’re not involved with the things on our campus that we assign to FAR’s, SWA’s (Senior Woman Administrator),” Bryant said. “That’s their world: Recruiting, playing and practice seasons…Don’t think for a minute that our coaches are sitting around worrying about the nuances of governance in Division II.”
But Boerigter said the results likely will drive additional discussion about finding ways to draw coaches into the division’s bigger-picture discussions. That could be achieved through increased involvement from the conference offices, or an expansion of Division II’s Coaches Connection pilot program, which was formed to utilize prominent former coaches as a bridge between current coaches and the governance structure to create more effective conversation between those groups.
The Division II Presidents Council will be the next group to examine the census data during its Oct. 29-30 meeting, and Boerigter said he anticipates the coaches’ responses will be discussed when both groups convene at January’s convention.
“I think we have to wait for a few other people to look at this survey and articulate what the real issue is,” Boerigter said. “Then we’ll figure out if there need to be some action items.”