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DIII Management Council recommends new preseason football legislation

First permissible practice would fall 23 days before an institution’s first contest

Rules related to the Division III football preseason are again the focus of discussion and legislative action.

At its meeting this week in Indianapolis, the Division III Management Council sponsored 2019 NCAA Convention legislation that, if adopted, would institute changes to the football preseason on a permanent basis. The proposal recommends that the first permissible practice date fall 23 days before the school’s first regular-season contest, and that a day off from physical activity should be provided during each week of the preseason after the five-day acclimatization period. (As a result, total permissible practice days would be capped at 21.)

A similar proposal that was defeated at the 2018 NCAA Convention would have mandated the first permissible practice date fall 25 days before the first permissible Saturday contest date. The preseason timeline in the new proposal is tied to each school’s first contest date, not the first permissible contest date. The previous proposal would have impacted schools with different first contest dates disproportionately, providing some colleges and universities with a longer practice window — and, potentially, the additional costs that entails. The new proposal, the Management Council felt, is more equitable. NCAA staff will survey the membership regarding the new proposal in the coming months to gauge whether further revisions need to be made.

The Management Council also sponsored noncontroversial legislation for 2019 that would permanently allow the use of footballs during walk-through sessions after the five-day acclimatization period and limiting on-field activity to a total combined four hours per day, with practices not exceeding three hours. All of the proposed changes are an effort to amend preseason rules in the wake of last year’s prohibition of two-a-day practices for health and safety reasons.

Because the legislative proposals would apply only to the 2019 season and beyond, the Management Council finalized waivers, recently enacted by the Division III Administrative Committee, related to the 2018 preseason (similar to the waivers adopted last year). The waivers would allow institutions to conduct athletically related activities in football during the administrative day and a half allotted before the first permissible practice date in 2018. They also would permit the use of footballs during walk-through sessions after the acclimatization period, and permit the flexibility to extend the walk-through session when the contact practice held on the same day is less than three hours.

“Right now, we have to take the waivers that we had last year and provide similar ones while really trying to put these rules in a space that we think will be equitable for all,” said Shantey Hill, Management Council chair and St. Joseph’s (Long Island) senior director of athletics.

Social media proposal

The Management Council sponsored legislation that would permit athletics department staff members, including coaches, to take public actions related to content posted by prospective student-athletes, such as favoriting or republishing a post. In addition, the proposal would allow coaches to friend or follow prospective student-athletes on social media platforms. The proposal was first recommended by the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee.

The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will review the proposal at its meeting next week. In advance of that review, SAAC leadership provided general support of the concept to the Management Council.

“We understand that social media is an ever-evolving landscape and we also recognize that our institutions — specifically our coaches and prospective student-athletes who the coaches are recruiting — live in that landscape,” Hill said. “Right now, perhaps our policies aren’t as permissive as they need to be so that they can effectively do their job. We also recognize that we don’t want to invade the space of prospective student-athletes, so we want to be careful about what is permissible.”

Mandatory graduation rate reporting

The Management Council has recommended the Presidents Council sponsor a 2019 NCAA Convention legislative proposal from the Division III Diversity and Inclusion Working Group that, if adopted, would require Division III institutions to report student-athlete graduation rates by June 1 every year.

The data — not for public release — would permit schools, via the NCAA Institutional Performance Program, to conduct thorough self-evaluations and benchmark against data from peer institutions.  It also would serve as the basis for evidence-based best practices designed to help cohorts of student-athletes whose graduation rates are found to be trailing those of their peers — the working group is seeking to better evaluate recent trends regarding African-American student-athletes and student-athletes in the sport of football.

Full-time enrollment proposal

Per a recommendation from the Interpretations and Legislation Committee, the Management Council sponsored 2019 Convention legislation related to the eligibility of student-athletes who engage in experiential learning requirements (for example, student-teaching, internships, capstone projects, etc.). Student-athletes now must be enrolled full time during their final term before their experiential learning assignment to be eligible to practice and compete.

That requirement can force student-athletes to take classes they wouldn’t otherwise need. This proposal would permit student-athletes to enroll less than full time during the final term before an experiential learning requirement, provided that experience takes place immediately after the term in question.

Membership dues increase

The Management Council also voted to recommend the full implementation of the membership dues increase, which was first adopted at the 2016 Convention and subsequently delayed. Last year, in the wake of a budget review, Division III members were given a credit to offset the adopted dues increase. If the Presidents Council chooses to move ahead with the dues increase when it discusses the topic this spring, annual dues for Division III schools would rise from $900 to $2,000 and conferences would be required to pay $1,000, up from $450. The change would be effective for the dues owed by Sept. 1 of this year.

Concussion management plan

The Management Council adopted noncontroversial legislation, effective immediately, that enhances the existing legislated concussion management plan by referencing the Sport Science Institute’s concussion protocol checklist. The plan also will need to be reviewed annually and kept on file with each school’s athletics health care administrator. The Council acted based on a Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommendation, which has been endorsed by the NCAA Board of Governors, that calls for a consistent Association-wide concussion management plan.