Members of the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee are asking for a greater voice in the division’s governance process, and their request was heard loud and clear at the most recent Presidents Council meeting.
Division II’s highest governing body, meeting at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis last week, sponsored legislation that would give SAAC two seats and one joint vote on the Management Council. Then the Presidents Council went one step further: it agreed to sponsor a proposal providing SAAC one vote on the floor at the NCAA Convention. Both proposals will be considered by the Division II membership at the business session during the 2015 NCAA Convention.
Efforts to increase the student-athlete voice have increased Association-wide. The Division III SAAC already has a seat and two votes on the Division III Management Council, and the new governance model approved on Thursday in Division I includes a student-athlete on the Board of Directors and two student-athletes on a new body known as the Council.
Division II SAAC members acknowledge their voice as student-athletes is already heard, especially due to the “tremendous relationship” they have with the Management Council, SAAC Vice-Chair Spencer Dodd explained in the spring. “But we wanted to look at what avenues there were to enhance that,” he added.
In July, the Management Council and SAAC held their annual summit, where the topic of student-athlete voice dominated the discussion. After considering numerous options for increasing student-athlete involvement in the division’s decision-making process, SAAC brought forward three concepts to discuss at the Summit: voting representation for student-athletes on the Management Council, a student-athlete seat on Presidents Council, and a vote for SAAC on the Convention floor.
Exiting the Summit, SAAC chose to move forward on two of the three concepts discussed. The committee would seek two seats on the Management Council – one for a female SAAC member and one for a male – and one vote, equivalent to each conference’s vote on the council. It also sought the ability to cast a vote on the Convention floor.
Currently, SAAC works through conference and campus SAAC representatives to establish a national student-athlete position on proposed legislation. SAAC is permitted to speak on the Convention floor, but does not currently possess voting privileges. And while the Division II SAAC meets with Management Council members at their summit every year, it does not currently have in-person representation at council meetings.
During its meeting, Management Council voted to recommend sponsorship of the first proposal for SAAC representation on Management Council. But a proposal to support a SAAC vote at Convention did not receive the two-thirds majority necessary to recommend sponsorship. Council members cited the division’s “one institution, one vote” model, as well as the potential for other nonvoting groups within the division to feel excluded.
The SAAC Executive Board followed up with a letter to Presidents Council members, asking the presidents to review the issue. “We believe this is a groundbreaking opportunity for a forward-thinking division,” the board wrote.
On Thursday, the Presidents Council agreed. The presidents voted in favor of sponsoring a proposal to give SAAC a Convention vote.
“At the end of the day, we are a student-focused organization, and Division II has that at its roots,” said Grand Valley State University President and Presidents Council Chair Tom Haas.
Armstrong State University President Linda Bleicken, Presidents Council liaison to SAAC, said she has been impressed with the student athletes' thoughtfulness and passion for their role in the division as she has met with them over the last two years.
“When they arrive at a consensus, it has been thoroughly discussed and carefully considered. For SAAC, consensus does not happen overnight,” Bleicken said. “While I respect the position of Management Council, I do not believe a SAAC vote would be inconsistent with the ‘one institution, one vote’ perspective. I believe our students, as a recognized group, deserve a collective voice.”