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DIII delegates review Convention legislation

Members also hear moving speech from Special Olympics athlete

Division III members have had a final opportunity to review the 2018 slate of legislative proposals.

At the Division III Issues Forum, held Friday at the 2018 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, members were briefed on each of this year's nine legislative proposals - and one amendment - that will be up for vote at Saturday's business session.

At the Division III Issues Forum, held Friday at the 2018 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, members were briefed on each of this year’s nine legislative proposals — and one amendment — that will be up for vote at Saturday’s business session. A handful of members probed for clarity on a few of the proposals, but they drew relatively little debate.

A proposal that would move the first permissible practice date in football 25 days before the first permissible contest date elicited some discussion. Donnie Brooks, athletics director at Millsaps, offered perspective on behalf of the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators. He highlighted potential benefits — more time for student-athletes to acclimate to campus and to their sport and engage with their coaches — and drawbacks, including the potential budget impact of housing student-athletes through a slightly longer preseason.

Current rules would still apply should the proposal not pass, though the Division III Management and Presidents councils would have to reconsider a pair of one-year waivers that were applied to the previous football season: one that permitted footballs to be used in walkthroughs after the acclimatization period and another that permitted schools to begin athletically related activity on the two administrative days that precede the first permissible practice date.

Kiki Jacobs, athletics director at Roger Williams, articulated NADIIIAA’s pros and cons regarding a proposal that would create an exemption for alumni contests. Jacobs noted the alumni contests are unique from other scrimmages and exhibitions, given that they’re typically not used for training purposes, and wouldn’t represent a competitive advantage for teams that opt to hold one. She also noted, though, that the alumni contest could provide an additional burden for already busy student-athletes and presents an additional opportunity for injury.

Division III delegates will vote on those proposals and the rest of the legislative slate at the Division III business session, which begins at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Mitch Bonner

An inspirational message

Those in attendance at the Issues Forum had an opportunity to hear a firsthand account of how the Special Olympics organization, a longtime Division III partner, affects young lives. Mitch Bonner, who has cerebral palsy and has participated in seven Special Olympics sports, shared how his involvement with the program has boosted his self-worth. Bonner, who recently graduated from an Indianapolis-area high school and is now attending junior college, relayed how he had difficulty fitting in with his peers through his youth, was often picked on and routinely felt isolated because of his disability. But participating in Special Olympics events and his high school’s unified track team brought him contentment and acceptance. He encouraged attendees to support similar programs on their campuses and to join the “inclusion revolution.”

“I finally found a place where I belonged,” he told the crowd, roughly 1,000 strong. “It’s the place where I learned to conquer my fears.”

In-depth discussions

Members also participated in lengthy conversations on a pair of vital topics. Alan Preti, director of Rosemont’s Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility, and Jeff Martinez, Redlands director of athletics, led a session on making ethical decisions in athletics. And Maria Buckel, director of athletics at Fontbonne, and Jeff Docking, president at Adrian and chair of the Division III Presidents Council, guided members through a discussion regarding current opportunities and challenges facing Division III institutions. The pair focused their discussion on athletics’ role in enrollment management and how to balance using athletics as an enrollment driver while ensuring a positive experience for student-athletes.