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Division III budget cuts reconsidered

The Division III Championships Committee discussed budget changes, sportsmanship and regional rankings policies

Division III budget cuts implemented last year are already being reexamined and, eventually, some may be reversed.

The Division III Championships Committee convened May 27-28 in Indianapolis and recommended reconsidering a pair of those cutbacks – reduced per diem for athletes and team personnel traveling for championship events and the elimination of per diem at host schools –in the coming years. The recommendations will be passed on to the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee.

Last year, the championships per diem allotted to athletes and personnel was rolled back from $95 to $90. The $45 per diem for athletes at host schools was eliminated entirely, and together, the cuts saved the division nearly $1 million annually. But sport committees and other Division III members have voiced concerns – eliminating the host per diem has put them in a bind when they host events, especially when their schools aren’t in session. In those cases, athletes don’t have access to their typical on-campus food services and have no per diem for meals.

Given that feedback, the championships committee decided to recommend reinstituting the host per diem – this time at $30 – as early as 2017-18. The committee also recommended bumping the per diem for athletes traveling for championships back to $95 as early as 2016-17. That decision was driven by the inevitable forthcoming rise in lodging and meal costs, which NCAA travel staff has highlighted at recent Championships Committee meetings.

“Paying for hotels and paying for meals can be a real issue for teams at the championship,” said Monica Severson, Championships Committee chair and associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Wartburg College. “We really have heard quite a bit of conversation from our sport committees and institutions, which really is a concern. The per diem increases are a priority.”

But how will these increases be funded? Wouldn’t the policy change almost immediately undo the progress towards balancing the budget made by last year’s cuts?

Not necessarily: The committee also heard highlights of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee’s ongoing discussion regarding potential legislation to raise membership dues. The Championships Committee suggested increasing annual dues for member schools to $2,000 (a $1,100 increase) and dues paid by conferences to $1,000 (a $550 increase).

That additional revenue – estimated to be more than $500,000 annually – could help offset the needed bumps in championships per diem rates as well as other potential championships initiatives. The Championships Committee, for instance, also recommended giving female swimmers and divers better access to the NCAA championship so their rate of participation is comparable with their male counterparts. That change alone would carry a $95,000 annual price tag.

The Strategic Planning and Finance Committee will review the recommendations June 22, and budget discussions will continue through the summer and beyond.

Other actions:

  • The newly formed Division III Sportsmanship and Game Environment Working Group joined the Championships Committee for a discussion about the working group’s priorities moving forward. Together, the committee and working group members reached a consensus, backed by data and anecdotal evidence, that in recent years sportsmanship among Division III athletes has not been as significant an issue as problems in the stands.

    The working group’s efforts, they said, should be focused on improving the game environment – namely addressing unruly parents and fans. That is no simple task, however, because perceptions of positive behavior in the stands vary by school, by region and by sport. Behavior generally accepted at a men’s basketball game may not be accepted at a women’s soccer match or vice versa, committee members noted.

    The working group will take the Championships Committee’s feedback into consideration as it continues to work to find solutions.

    “We want to have positive game environments for our student-athletes so that they have a good experience,” Severson noted. “The working group has just started that process. It’s going to continue to be an uphill battle because of all of the different institutions, and what is OK at one institution is not OK at another one. I applaud them for taking on the task — and think it’s something we need to move forward with — but I also think it’s something that is going to take time for us to see some success.”

  • At the behest of several Division III sport committees, the Championships Committee reviewed the current policy for ranking teams, which was implemented in 2013-14. In an effort to provide some flexibility in the regional rankings process, the Championships Committee voted to institute new rules that will take effect immediately for those sports electing to make a change.

    The committee decided that between 15 and 21 percent of teams in a given region in a given sport should be ranked. Currently, 15 percent of teams — or at least six teams per sport per region, whichever is greater — are ranked.

    The flexibility will give sport committees freedom to rank the appropriate number of teams by region, thus the 15-21 percent range instead of a fixed percent. The new system will be given a two-year evaluation period before it can be evaluated again.