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DII Management Council supports 2 proposals

Membership for schools in Mexico, women’s volleyball start date are at issue

The Division II Management Council this week took official positions in support of the two Division II membership-sponsored proposals that will be voted on at the 2018 NCAA Convention. The first legislative proposal the council endorsed would permit Division II membership applications from schools in Mexico, while the second proposal would move up the start date for women’s volleyball in years in which the Division II National Championships Festival occurs in the fall.

Division II voting delegates will determine the fate of both membership proposals, along with three Presidents Council-sponsored proposals, at the Division II business session in January.

Membership for Mexican schools

The proposal to allow schools in Mexico to seek Division II membership was submitted by three conferences in the West — the California Collegiate Athletic Association, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the Pacific West Conference — after a decadelong NCAA pilot program on international membership ended last spring. At that time, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a formal policy codifying the pilot program, allowing each division to determine whether it would grant membership to schools in Canada and Mexico.

Division II is the only division to add an international member during the 10-year pilot program. The division passed legislation in 2008 to permit schools in Canada to join its ranks and, that same year, the Division II Membership Committee approved an application from British Columbia’s Simon Fraser to begin the membership process. The school became an active Division II member in 2012.

The 2018 Convention will be the second time Division II has considered adding schools in Mexico to the mix: A proposal to grant membership to schools in Mexico was defeated at the 2013 NCAA Convention, as members cited concerns about travel costs and safety. However, proponents of the proposal hope the membership is ready to reconsider, with talks largely focusing on one Mexican school, CETYS Universidad, that has expressed serious interest in joining Division II.

The Management Council discussed apprehensions some members share about adding Mexican schools, including potential challenges related to border crossing logistics, undocumented student-athletes and levels of competition among teams. On the other side of the issue, council members pointed out benefits schools from Mexico could provide to the West region, where Division II athletics teams — particularly in football — are fewer and farther between.

Ultimately, the council voted to support the proposal, noting that it simply allows schools to apply and that all schools still would have to go through the multiyear membership process.

“The Simon Fraser situation is an example of an international institution joining the NCAA and not only meeting requirements, but excelling in Division II,” said Gary Gray, athletics director at Alaska Fairbanks and chair of the Management Council. “This just opens up the possibility for additional members to apply, and then we’ll see what the Membership Committee determines. It’s a great opportunity for more institutions.”

Volleyball start date

The Management Council also backed the volleyball proposal, which was submitted by the East Coast Conference and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The proposal is intended to address the lost week of competition that occurs in years when the Division II National Championships Festival occurs in the fall, which supporters of the proposal say leads to less recovery time between matches for student-athletes and more missed class time due to the need to schedule more midweek games. Currently, schools must not engage in outside competition before the Thursday preceding Sept. 6; under the proposed legislation, the date would move to the Thursday before Aug. 30.

In addition to the proposal from the membership, this concept came forward through the governance structure but was not sponsored by the Presidents Council in August. The presidents expressed concern that the change — and future similar requests — could chip away at the division’s “life in the balance” philosophy. The Presidents Council will take an official position on the proposal at the October meeting.

The Management Council agreed to support the change due to its permissive nature — schools would not be required to start earlier — and the potential for it to reduce midweek matches. “And the fact that it’s only once every four years is a positive,” Gray added.

Alcohol sales at championships

Another key focus of this week’s meeting hinged on the question of whether alcohol should be sold at Division II championships. The question stems from an NCAA Board of Governors pilot program that began in spring 2016 with the sale of beer and wine at the Division I baseball and softball championships and has expanded since, with the goal of gathering more data and feedback from participants, fans and hosts.

Thus far, the pilot program has existed primarily in Division I, with the exception of the Divisions II and III Men’s Lacrosse Championships, which are held concurrently with the Division I championship and which were added to the program last year. But discussions have picked up across all three divisions as the Board of Governors continues to explore the issue and analyze pilot program results.

On Tuesday, the Division II Management Council considered but ultimately did not recommend a Division II-specific pilot program that would have allowed the division to gather more data by selling beer and wine at select Division II championships. The Division II Presidents Council will consider the topic at its meeting next week.