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DII Legislation Committee proposes changes to unattached competition

Proposal would require athletes to be academically eligible, compete separately

The opportunities Division II student-athletes have to compete as individuals apart from their teams would change if proposals from the Division II Legislation Committee are adopted.

During its June 23-25 meeting in Indianapolis, the Legislation Committee recommended two proposals to address how student-athletes are allowed to compete as “unattached” athletes at competitions during the intercollegiate playing season. Athletes who are competing unattached in sports such as wrestling, tennis, track and field or swimming can compete as individuals and are not considered to be a member of their collegiate team at those events.

Such opportunities are limited to individual sports and give student-athletes an option to find additional chances to compete and develop their skills. But concerns have grown in recent years that those opportunities could be abused, or that other NCAA rules – such as academic eligibility – could be circumvented.

The committee’s first proposal would allow student-athletes who are competing unattached to do so only at a site that is separate from their team. The proposal addresses concerns about unattached athletes’ current abilities to ride to events on the team’s bus, provided they pay a portion of the transportation cost by calculating the student-athlete’s portion of the overall bus cost. Those situations have raised compliance questions regarding whether those student-athletes could then share in team snacks or receive coaching or other support that would mimic their participation as part of the team. The proposal intends to eliminate most of those questions.

The second proposal would require student-athletes to be eligible for competition before allowing them to compete unattached. The proposal would prevent those who are academically ineligible (e.g., partial or nonqualifiers, not meeting progress-toward-degree requirements) from participating in events during the intercollegiate season. The committee felt that students in those situations were withheld from intercollegiate competition for reasons that should not be undermined by unattached competition.

The Division II Management Council will review the proposals during its July 27-28 meeting.

Strength and conditioning concept supported

The Legislation Committee also voted to support a legislative concept regarding the certification of individuals involved in strength and conditioning workouts on Division II campuses.

The concept would require certification for anyone a Division II school designates as a strength and conditioning coach. If the institution does not designate a strength and conditioning coach, anyone who conducts strength and conditioning workouts outside of practice would be required to receive certification.

Another strength and conditioning certification proposal, recommended by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, was previously discussed by Division II’s governance bodies two years ago. But it was referred back to CSMAS to clarify who was defined as a strength and conditioning coach. A Division II working group was formed to craft potential recommendations, including the concept supported by the Legislation Committee. CSMAS supported the same concept during its meeting in Indianapolis earlier in June.

The working group will review feedback from CSMAS and the Legislation Committee and is expected to forward a recommendation to the Division II Management Council for consideration at its July meeting.

Financial aid concepts narrowed

In a continuation of the committee’s exploration of ways to refine financial aid regulations, the committee reviewed an analysis of financial aid data developed by the national office’s research department and eliminated two of the nine concepts for which it had solicited feedback from the membership.

The committee will no longer consider:

  • Reducing the team equivalency limit in all sports in a model where only athletics aid is countable; or
  • Permitting multiyear financial aid agreements.

The compiled data and remaining concepts will be presented to the Division II membership during a financial aid session at the 2016 NCAA Convention.

Oakes named new chair

Natasha Oakes, the associate athletics director for compliance and senior woman administrator at Missouri Western State University, was named the new chair of the Legislation Committee. Before coming to Missouri Western in 2014, Oakes worked as a member of the Division II team at the NCAA national office, where she was responsible for providing legislation interpretations, conducting rules education for the Division II membership, overseeing the legislative relief waiver process and working with the Division II membership process.

Oakes will assume her chair position on Sept. 1.