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DIII Management Council approves flexibility to define playing season by days

The Division III Management Council approved a proposal to allow schools and conferences to have flexibility in conducting and/or continuing fall sports practices and competition into the spring. The action is effective immediately, pending a request for expedited ratification by the Presidents Council. The Management Council met by videoconference Sunday through Tuesday.

The Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee recommended the proposal, which waives current bylaw parameters and allows schools to define the playing season by a certain number of days instead of weeks, and those days do not have to occur in consecutive weeks. The measure applies to all sports and eliminates the distinction between traditional and nontraditional segments. Basketball, ice hockey and wrestling will be able to start practice Oct. 1 but maintain the existing competition start dates.

“As Division III institutions and conferences continue to contemplate what it will take to safely resume intercollegiate athletics, one consistency amidst a lot of uncertainty is that flexibility will be imperative,” said Heather Benning, chair of the Management Council and executive director of the Midwest Conference. “These are unprecedented times, and they are challenging us to think ‘out of the box’ and encouraging us to think about how our business can be conducted in ways we haven’t historically done.”

With several Division III member schools and conferences announcing they will not compete during the fall semester, this action allows them to keep student-athletes engaged throughout the academic year and be flexible if they need to suspend activities because of health and safety concerns.

“The recommendation to allow for more leniency in the application of the traditional playing weeks model should go a long way toward meeting member schools where they are it in terms of ability to safely allow for the start, pause and potential resumption of seasons,” Benning said.

 The Management Council also recommended the NCAA Board of Governors cancel this year’s Division III fall championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council members committed to continue monitoring and assessing the evolving conditions and making recommendations in the best interest of Division III student-athletes, coaches and staff.

The recommendation will go to the Board of Governors and Presidents Council. The Board has the authority to suspend NCAA championships. Its next scheduled meetings are July 24 and Aug. 4.

Name, image and likeness

The Management Council advanced the two legislative concepts on name, image and likeness that the Division III Name, Image and Likeness Oversight Working Group recommended last week. The first concept would allow students to use their status as athletes to promote their own work product or service. The second would allow students to use their status as athletes to endorse third-party products or services, provided there is no institutional involvement in procuring promotional opportunities for student-athletes (except to the extent the school is involved with assisting students generally).

In April, the Board of Governors supported rule changes in each division to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics. It also supported compensation for other student-athlete opportunities, such as social media, businesses they have started and personal appearances within the guiding principles originally outlined by the board in October. The goal is to have new name, image and likeness legislation adopted by each division at the 2021 NCAA Convention and implemented for the 2021-22 academic year.

Interpretation and Legislation Committee

The Council approved several other pieces of legislation, including:

  • Permitting a local civic organization (e.g. Rotary Club, Touchdown Club) to provide an award to individual student-athletes.
  • Eliminating the current 100-mile-radius restriction on a school’s athletics booster club recognition banquet.
  • Allowing a student-athlete to retain used equipment at the end of the individual’s college participation.

The group also approved an official interpretation related to hardship waivers and competition in the second half of the season. Academic and membership affairs confirmed that a student-athlete does not qualify for a hardship waiver if the individual engages in any outside competition during the second half of the school’s traditional season, including competing while not representing the school.

Joint meeting with SAAC

The Council met with the Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee on Sunday. The joint meeting included a SAAC report on the committee’s priorities for the 2020-21 academic year, a recap of its mental health campaign and an update on its discussions around name, image and likeness. The groups also held a roundtable discussion on racial injustice in athletics. The meeting ended with a Special Olympics virtual workout event featuring more than two dozen Special Olympics athletes and 80 participants from three countries.

Chair, vice chair elected

Management Council members elected Jason Fein, director of athletics at Bates, as the next chair of the council. Michelle Morgan, senior director of varsity athletics and recreation at John Carroll, was selected as the next vice chair. They will begin their tenures after this January’s Division III Convention business session.