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DIII presidents urge support of sickle cell proposal

By Gary Brown

In its review of legislative proposals for Saturday’s business session, the Division III Presidents Council reiterated its support for sickle cell testing.

Proposal No. 3 would require a sickle cell solubility test be offered as part of the mandatory medical examination, unless documented results of a prior test are provided to the institution or the student-athlete declines the test and signs a written release. The proposal applies to all incoming and continuing student-athletes. Division I adopted the policy last year and Division II is voting on the same proposal on Saturday.

The Division III presidents have consistently supported the measure, but during their meeting on Thursday they heard of dissent from various membership pockets. The Council wasn’t certain whether the concerns were based on the merits of the proposal or rather reflected a lack of education about how it affects student-athlete well-being. Regardless, the presidents said they weren’t backing away from thinking the proposal was good for Division III.

In that vein, they urged their colleagues to spread the educational word at remaining conference meetings before Saturday and to clarify any confusion members may have about the intent of the proposal and its implementation.

Some of the concerns surround cost. As noted in the Convention legislation Q&A document, though, if a student-athlete has a record of their newborn screening or previous test, there is no associated cost. Additionally, the NCAA has an agreement with Quest Diagnostics’ national laboratories that will give NCAA member institutions and their student-athletes access to screening exams for sickle cell trait at nationally negotiated costs.

NCAA Division III Vice President Dan Dutcher also indicated that funding from the conference grant program also could be used to support the testing initiative if necessary.

While the Presidents Council acknowledged the financial issue, members didn’t think it outweighed the student-athlete well-being component of the proposal.

In other items from Thursday’s meetings, the presidents met with the Division III Management Council and Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to discuss issues SAAC identified as priorities for the coming year.

Among them was a request about how to get campus SAACs more involved in the athletics budgeting process at their institutions. The topic came up after the Division III SAAC reviewed the Division III Financial Dashboard Pilot and its institutional utility.

Most of the suggestions called for more interaction between campus SAACs and athletics decision-makers, either by sending SAAC representatives to budget meetings or – perhaps more efficiently – inviting budget reps to the SAAC meetings.

Regardless of how that’s accomplished, most thought the more sunlight, the better.

“Every team thinks they’re the ones being disadvantaged,” one AD said. “It’s often, ‘How come so and so gets this and this and we don’t?’ More face-to-face interaction can easily address those misperceptions.”

Other items discussed were enhanced relationships between SAACs and faculty athletics representatives, and best practices for accommodating under-represented groups on campus.