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DIII Presidents Council rejects snack proposal

Legislation sent back to Management Council for further refinement

A proposal that would have permitted schools to provide snacks incidental to athletics participation to Division III student-athletes will not move forward to a vote at the 2019 NCAA Convention.

The Division III Presidents Council this week voted to refer the proposal back to the Management Council for further review and refinement. The proposal would have allowed schools to provide snacks — not including nutritional supplements — to student-athletes at any point during the academic year. Last month, the Management Council recommended the Presidents Council endorse the proposal for a Convention vote.

However, Presidents Council members expressed concerns about potential inequities the rule could create between campuses — and on them. With no specific restrictions on the types of snacks that could be offered or the amount schools would be allowed to spend to furnish them, council members noted that schools with more financial resources might be able to provide a more robust selection than schools with tighter budgets. Such an imbalance could be leveraged for recruiting advantages, council members said. They also worried the rule change could create issues between student-athletes, who could receive these snacks at any point during the academic year, and their fellow students, who might be barred from partaking.

Given that the proposal allowed snacks, but not nutritional supplements, council members also asked for clearer definitions on the differences between the two because the nuances can be difficult to discern. Ensuring compliance with that caveat could prove onerous for administrators, council members noted.

The Management Council will take this feedback into account before deciding whether to reshape the proposal and recommend a revised version during the legislative cycle leading to the 2020 NCAA Convention.

“On one hand, there are many presidents who see the schedules of athletes are difficult and can make it hard for them to always get the food they want and need. Obviously, we believe in good nutrition,” said Presidents Council chair Jeff Docking, president at Adrian. “The issue really becomes, where does it stop? What constitutes a snack? How expensive will it be? Will this create a ‘haves versus have-nots’ situation on campuses if wonderful snacks are displayed for everybody to see but only a few people can eat those snacks? This is one of those issues that doesn’t go to a quick unanimous vote and needs more discussion.”

Board of Governors decisions

The Presidents Council endorsed a noncontroversial proposal from the NCAA Board of Governors that will require each school’s president or chancellor to join all athletics staff members in personally affirming the athletics program meets the NCAA’s membership obligations for institutional control and rules compliance — a compliance practice already in place on Division III campuses. Schools also will have to confirm that, when they do not follow NCAA rules, they will cooperate fully with the NCAA and take appropriate corrective actions.

Individuals from any schools that fail to fulfill that obligation would lose their eligibility to serve on an NCAA board, council or committee. The proposal will need to be ratified along with other noncontroversial legislation at the Division III Business Session at the 2019 Convention. If it is ratified, schools would need to comply with the new rule starting with the 2019-20 academic year.

The Presidents Council and Presidents Advisory Group, which includes a president representing each of Division III’s conferences, also discussed at length a Board of Governors proposal that would add five independent voting members to the board, increasing its size from 20 to 25. Independent members would not have direct ties to NCAA schools. Because the legislation requires a change to the NCAA constitution, the proposal will be subject to an Association-wide vote at the NCAA Convention’s plenary session, which will include delegates from all three divisions and will be held Jan. 24 in Orlando, Florida. The proposal would go into effect Aug. 1, 2019, if the membership votes to adopt it with a two-thirds majority.

Both proposals were consistent with recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball. (See here for more information on changes relevant to the commission’s work.)

“I think the general sentiment, at least so far, is that people understand the need to add five independent members,” Docking said. “We certainly have a lot of work to do to get the word out on why this is a positive. We’re hoping by the time Convention rolls around, institutions see why it’s important for us to affirm those five members.”

Alcohol sales at joint championships

The Presidents Council approved a new policy recommended by the Management Council that will permit alcohol sales at joint championships that include Division I. The rule applies only when each division’s event takes place in the same venue, not merely in the same city.

Division III does not permit alcohol sales at its standalone championships, but Division I recently passed a policy that allows beer and wine sales at its championships if the host facility meets certain requirements. Alcohol sales at future joint championships will still be subject to governance structure review and approval.