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DIII Presidents Council changes course on key legislation

The council will move to refer legislation related to reducing contests and dates of competition back to the legislative cycle for more review

Sharon Herzberger, chair of the Division III Presidents Council and president of Whittier College, discusses the councils' withdrawing of support of a proposal and asking the Management Council to give a fuller examination before moving forward.

During Saturday’s Division III business session, the Division III Presidents Council will make a motion to refer a legislative proposal that would reduce the maximum number of contests and dates of competition in most sports by up to 10 percent back through the division’s legislative process in lieu of a membership vote.

The Presidents Council made the decision during its Thursday meeting at the 2015 NCAA Convention and will make the formal motion to refer on the business session floor. If the membership votes to refer, the proposal will be sent to the Division III Management Council Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee. That would mark the beginning of a deliberate review that would extend beyond contest limits and would include all rules related to playing and practice seasons – including the nontraditional segment, contest exemptions and length of playing season.

However, if the Presidents Council’s motion to refer is defeated, Division III membership will vote on the proposal – as well as an amendment related to the ice hockey season – on Saturday as originally planned.

“Today, we are asking the Management Council to give a fuller examination of this whole issue,” said Sharon Herzberger, chair of the Division III Presidents Council and president of Whittier College. “We need to understand more about what the possible solutions to the bigger issues are. We need to understand what the financial impact of any given solution would be and we need to hear more from the student-athletes involved.”

The decision marked a change of direction: The Presidents Council endorsed the proposal, which was brought forward by a trio of Division III conferences, earlier this year. The proposal calls for contest limits and dates of competition to be reduced by 10 percent in all sports except cross country and football. The council endorsed the proposal initially because it felt the reduction would provide financial relief to institutions and decrease the time burden on athletes.

But the Presidents Council – in consultation with the co-sponsors – reevaluated its approach because of a growing sentiment among members that the scope of the proposed rule change was too narrow and didn’t address the overarching issues related to the current playing and practice season rules.

The caveat that football’s contest limit remain unaffected raised gender equity concerns that the Presidents Council weighed in its decision to refer, though a review by NCAA legal staff was not conclusive. The council’s primary reason for the referral was to allow the membership and governance structure an opportunity to engage in a comprehensive and broad-based review of all rules pertinent to playing and practice seasons. That is why the council decided to refer the proposal rather than simply pull it from the floor. Referral would spark further review and potential action; removal might not.

“We’re not saying that we’re against the original proposal,” Herzberger said. “We’re not saying that if it is one of the solutions ultimately put forward that the Presidents Council wouldn’t support it again. But we do believe that there’s much more information that we need to gather and additional options to consider before we can come up with a decision.”

Other meeting notes:

  • Members of the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Division III Management Council and Presidents Council gathered for a two-hour meeting on Thursday morning. SAAC members shared information on their “You Can Play” lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-questioning awareness initiative, which is highlighted by a video featuring student-athletes touting inclusion and acceptance. The video will be shown at Saturday’s Division III business session. Additionally, the group discussed SAAC’s positions on 2015 NCAA Convention legislation, how to address sexual assault on college campuses and the value of nontraditional seasons for all Division III sports.
  • The following presidents served in their final meeting Thursday: Bob Antonucci of Fitchburg State University; Charles Edmondson of Alfred University; Barney Forsythe of Westminster College; Pamela Reid of the University of Saint Joseph; and departing chair, Sharon Herzberger of Whittier College. Current council vice chair and University of Northwestern-St. Paul President Alan Cureton will assume Herzberger’s position through the 2016 Convention.