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Division III committee recommends financial aid violation rule change

Committee also suggests modifying a rule pertaining to lodging for athletes at away games

Legislation that was referred back for review at the 2015 Convention is poised to return for another vote.

During its Feb. 12-13 meeting in Indianapolis, the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee recommended legislation to remove the requirement that athletes seek reinstatement if they’ve received impermissible financial aid – provided the athlete was unaware that the aid violated rules and the school’s athletics department staff was not involved in the violation.

A similar proposal was presented as noncontroversial legislation at the 2015 NCAA Convention, but members opted to refer the potential rule change back to the committee. Members felt the legislation was significant enough to warrant a full vote on the Convention floor.

The committee revised the original legislation slightly, adding the caveat that athletics department staff, too, must be unaware of any financial aid improprieties for the student-athlete to avoid punishment. The original proposal stated that only the athletes themselves needed to be unaware of impermissible benefits in order to avoid being subject to the reinstatement process. In all cases where impermissible aid is found to have been awarded to athletes, colleges and universities still would be penalized.

The Division III Management Council will review the recommendation in the spring, ultimately deciding whether it should reach the floor for a vote at the 2016 NCAA Convention in January.

“It took some people by surprise given that it was deemed noncontroversial,” said Jason Fein, committee chair and director of athletics at Drew University. “Putting it back through the normal channels gives us time – if there are problems with it, I think people will bring that to our attention.”

Other actions:

  • The committee recommended permitting athletes’ relatives to provide occasional lodging at away contests. Currently, Division III rules require that all lodging for away contests must be provided by the students’ school. The committee recommends loosening that restriction so relatives are permitted to provide housing for athletes when they travel. NCAA staff has shown flexibility when those requests for lodging accommodations have been made in the past. But current rules mandate that, in those cases, the lodging must be donated to the school, which can then provide that lodging to its athletes. The committee’s recommendation would eliminate that need. The Management Council will consider the change in the spring.

    “It’s an unnecessary burden on the staff to have to process each one of those,” Fein said. “It’s an occasional thing that can help institutions financially and also provide families a chance to help out.”

  • The committee clarified a rule pertaining to athletes who graduate early. Student-athletes who graduate in less than four years and are actively participating in a traditional segment (typically, the regular season) can remain eligible and finish that season after they’ve graduated.

    The interpretation applies in particular to students who graduate after the fall semester and are already competing in a sport, such as basketball, that will continue after they graduate. In that instance, they would be permitted to compete through the remainder of the basketball season. Students in spring sports, such as baseball, who graduate after the fall semester would not be eligible to compete in the spring.

  • The committee reviewed a draft of the new nonbinding celebratory signing form for recruits. During January’s Convention, Division III members voted to permit the use of such a document. The committee’s suggestions will be taken into account, and the Management Council will review a revised version of the form.