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Division III members approve sport safety package

By Brian Burnsed

The sport safety package, first introduced by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports in 2012, was adopted by Division III on Saturday during its business session at the 2014 NCAA Convention.

All three parts of the package – catastrophic injury reporting, designation of a team physician and AED, CPR and first aid certification requirement for coaches – were broken out for separate votes. Each passed by a wide margin. Injury reporting, the team physician designation and safety certification requirement received 95, 88 and 98 percent of the vote, respectively. 

Another important piece of health- and safety-centric legislation was adopted by the division. More than 68 percent of voters supported a reduced drug-testing penalty for non-performance enhancing drugs, which will cut the penalty for a positive “street” drug (e.g. marijuana) test from a full calendar year of ineligibility to a half-season.

The American Southwest Conference and the Southern Athletic Association withdrew their proposal that asked for football helmets to be permitted during the spring season limited skill instructional period. Both the Division III Presidents Council and Division III Management Council voted to oppose the legislation in prior meetings, citing concerns about data that suggested that helmets would encourage student-athletes to take more risks and suffer more head impacts than they would without helmets. Given the opposition, the proposal was withdrawn without debate on the floor or a vote.  

While legislation calling for a ban on scouting of exhibitions and scrimmages drew several dissenting opinions on the Convention floor, two-thirds of delegates voted in favor of the ban. Those who supported the rule change noted the scouting ban would keep coaches on campus rather than on the road, theoretically helping to improve their work-life balance. Opponents of the rule change noted it would have unintended consequences, namely keeping Division III coaches from watching their peers in popular exhibitions against Division I institutions.

A proposal that would impose sports sponsorship waiver limits on institutions that are transitioning from single-gender to coeducational enrollment was moved for referral back to the membership committee level for future discussion. However, the motion to refer was defeated by a 56 percent vote. The legislation passed after the referral was denied, garnering 85 percent support.

Three pieces of legislation pertaining to a trio of women’s sports were also adopted. In women's rugby, in an attempt to increase sponsorship, the new legislation now allows 7v7 contests as well as two contests against club programs.  Women’s triathlon was also adopted as an emerging sport; more than 93 percent voted in support. Also, legislation was adopted that would allow up to three scrimmages or exhibition games prior to the first contest or date of competition in field hockey, garnering more than 98 percent of the vote.

Finally, a resolution was passed, with more than 98 percent of the vote, to encourage the Playing Rules Oversight Panel to institute a policy that any playing rules changes with a financial and/or facility impact should allow for a one-year grace period before implementation. Earlier at the Convention, PROP suggested that those decisions should be made by sport committees. But Division III, with its vote at the business session, made clear that it wants PROP to formally implement the one-year grace period.