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DIII proposal would restrict championships access for reclassifying members

By Gary Brown

In addition to discussing concepts that shape a 2013 Convention proposal related to sickle cell trait confirmation, the Division III Management Council at its meeting on Monday and Tuesday reviewed other legislation on track for a vote in January.

Among proposals from the governance structure headed for the Convention floor is one that wouldn’t allow a Division III school that is reclassifying to Division II to be eligible for Division III championship competition or Division III grant funding.

Current legislation in Division III, which pertains only to schools reclassifying to Division II, allows those reclassifying schools to be eligible for Division III championships competition until they reach Candidacy Year No. 2 in the three-year Division II membership process (unless the school chooses to immediately begin awarding financial aid, at which point they become ineligible for Division III championships).

The new policy would make reclassifying schools ineligible for both Division III championships and grant funding upon their acceptance into and commencement of the reclassifying process. (However, the Management Council raised whether some grants, such as those for diversity and inclusion purposes, should continue to be provided.)

The proposal, which comes with preliminary endorsement from the Division III Membership Committee, essentially increases the length of time a reclassifying school is precluded from any NCAA championship competition from two to three years.

The Membership Committee took up the matter in June when a Division III conference asked whether allowing championships access to a school in Candidacy Year No. 1 put opponents at a competitive disadvantage (the thought being that the reclassifying school could attract athletes with the promise of financial aid in subsequent years). The committee felt it was an important enough matter for the division to decide on the Convention floor.

The Management Council agreed, but because of the strategic nature of the proposal, the Presidents Council will review it for potential sponsorship at its Aug. 9 meeting.

The Management Council will sponsor another proposal for the 2013 Convention specifying that if a Division III student-athlete participates in athletics in conjunction with a study abroad or foreign exchange program that is recognized by his or her institution, then the student-athlete shall not trigger the outside-competition legislation or trigger the use of a season of participation (as is the case under current legislation).

The proposal from the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee is intended to ease concern for the many student-athletes who participate in a foreign exchange or study abroad program as a part of their collegiate experience. The ILC believes that modifying the legislation is consistent with the practice of permitting incoming exchange students to participate in athletics on Division III campuses.

Among other proposals the Management Council agreed to sponsor include:

  • One from the Council’s playing and practice seasons subcommittee recommending Nov. 1 as the first permissible contest date for men’s and women’s ice hockey. The Division III Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Committees have supported the change. Currently, the dates for the first practice and first contest are the same (Oct. 15), which has raised health and safety concerns. This proposal puts the first contest date about two weeks later.
  • A proposal recommended by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports  would establish that on any day during the five-day acclimatization period in football, student-athletes must be provided with at least three continuous hours of recovery time between all sessions.
  • One from the Interpretations and Legislation Committee specifying that a student-athlete’s practice for or participation in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Small College Championship is not considered part of the institution’s declared playing season. Under current rules, if coaches work with the one or two student-athletes who qualify for the national championships, then that interaction has to count against the 19-week playing season. This proposal allows the few student-athletes who qualify for the ITA championship (and those necessary for practice) to continue to receive coaching and not have the entire team disadvantaged by losing weeks of the playing season.
  • Another proposal from the Interpretations and Legislation Committee specifying that if a transfer student-athlete practiced or competed at a Division III institution, then the student-athlete shall be athletically and academically eligible at the original institution to be immediately eligible upon transfer.

The Council also reviewed a draft of legislation it agreed to sponsor in April that would permit the use of hand shields during the spring football strength and conditioning period. However, members wanted several points clarified and will review these points at their October meeting.

Membership-sponsored proposals

The Management Council also took a preliminary look at four legislative proposals from Division III member conferences submitted for the 2013 Convention. The Council did not take a stance on any of them but referred them to the appropriate committee for further review.

So far, only one of the proposals submitted by the July 15 legislation deadline is sponsored by at least two voting conferences, as required for consideration at the Convention. The other three will require another conference to join as co-sponsors by Sept. 1 to be considered.

The fully sponsored proposal from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference concerns electronic communication in recruiting. It seeks to add “private communication through a social networking site” to the allowable electronic communication that can be sent to a prospective student-athlete. The correspondence must be sent directly to the prospect (or his or her parents or legal guardians) and must be private between only the sender and recipient (for example, no use of public chat rooms, message boards, or public communication through a social networking site).

Division III adopted legislation at the 2012 Convention that regulates text messaging according to the same standard as telephone, email and fax correspondence in the recruiting process. That proposal did not include social media, however. A proposal that would have allowed social media to be included in the deregulations was withdrawn on the Convention floor.

But the MIAC and SLIAC cite growing concerns that “current prohibitions on electronic transmissions are outdated and lagging behind prospective student-athletes’ use of technology.”

The sponsors say in their rationale that institutions have been permitted to send an unlimited number of emails to student-athletes for several years without ramifications regarding frequency or intrusion. They say this proposal “seeks to deregulate the current restrictions on private electronic communication through social networking sites as well as define private electronic correspondence in a broad manner in order to account for future advancement in technology.”

The Management Council referred the proposal to the Interpretations and Legislation Committee and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for further review. During its July 20-22 meeting, the SAAC supported the concept but wanted clarity on what constitutes private communication in the social network realm.

The St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference also is behind another proposal that still needs co-sponsorship. The SLIAC wants to permit conferences to provide a postgraduate scholarship to one male and one female student-athlete, who have exhausted eligibility, similar to the NCAA’s Postgraduate Scholarship program. The award, which would be permissive legislation and not exceed the $7,500 awarded through the NCAA program, would recognize the student-athlete’s academic and athletics achievement as well as his or her community involvement.

To start the review process, the Management Council referred it to the Interpretations and Legislation Committee for additional study.

The other two proposals still needing co-sponsorship:

  • The American Southwest Conference seeks to permit an institution to use field equipment and helmets during football athletically related activities during the 16-day strength, conditioning and limited skill instruction period in the spring. The ASC believes the proposal enhances student-athletes’ ability to learn skills and provides a safe environment for them to do so. On-field physical contact would remain impermissible. (Referred to the Council’s playing and practice seasons subcommittee, the Interpretations and Legislation Committee, and the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports)
  • The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference wants to allow prospective student-athletes to participate in institutional fundraisers before their initial collegiate enrollment as long as the prospect has graduated and has forwarded the paid acceptance of the institution’s written offer of admission or financial aid. The WIAC says the current prohibition on such participation precludes prospects who have already made their college choice from participating in fundraisers that may be intended to pay or supplement the costs associated with preseason practice or other participation-related expenses. (Referred to the Interpretations and Legislation Committee and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee)

Other highlights

In other items at the Division III Management Council’s July 23-24 meeting in Indianapolis, members:

  • Agreed with a Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee recommendation to establish a working group composed of Division III representatives to review potential better business practices associated with the Division III Strategic Initiatives Conference Grant Program. The Management Council noted that the program has grown to more than $2 million in annual allocations, yet only limited business practices and accountability standards have been established regarding the administration of the program. In that vein, the Council approved forming a working group to review and establish better business practices, including potential standards for a formal review.
  • Referred to the Financial Aid Committee a recommendation from the Membership Committee that the annual financial aid reports from all provisional and reclassifying institutions be automatically reviewed each year of their provisional/reclassifying status, until they reach active status. Current policy treats provisional members the same as active members when it comes to the financial aid audit. That is, schools are audited only when something in their data submission triggers it. The new policy requires provisional schools to be audited whether they trigger a review or not. The rationale for recommending this more rigorous level of review early in the membership process is for prospective members to better understand one of the primary tenets of Division III membership and actively practice financial aid compliance review.
  • Approved a Division III Championships Committee recommendation that beginning with the 2013-14 academic year, the selection criteria for men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis be revised such that contests against Division III opponents are included in the primary criteria, and contests against opponents from other classifications (that is, NCAA Divisions I and II and NAIA) are included in the secondary criteria. For tennis, institutions must play at least 50 percent (up from 25 percent) of their scheduled competition against in-region, Division III opponents to be considered for selection to NCAA championships. For golf, the requirement will remain at 25 percent.
  • Reviewed the success of the inaugural Division III Week celebration last spring and discussed possible dates for the second celebration in 2013. The Council also reviewed this matter with the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee during a joint meeting on Sunday. While there is not yet a consensus on whether the celebration is better suited for the fall or spring, the Management Council supported keeping the celebration in the spring for the 2012-13 academic year (likely the second week of April, as was the case last year), and then considering a possible fall placement for the 2013-14 academic year to correspond with 2013 being the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Division III (the NCAA implemented its divisional structure in August 1973, resulting in the first Division III championship being conducted in the fall of 1973).