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Sickle cell testing proposal referred in Division III

By GaryBrown

Division III delegates at Saturday’s 2012 Convention business session referred a proposal to require sickle cell testing back to the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports for further review.

The action was part of a 10-proposal package delegates considered. It was the only proposal that wasn’t either approved or withdrawn.

Proposal No. 3 would require a sickle cell solubility test be offered as part of the mandatory medical examination, unless documented results of a prior test are provided to the institution or the student-athlete declines the test and signs a written release. The proposal applies to all incoming and continuing student-athletes.

Division I adopted the policy last year and Division II approved the same proposal at its business session on Saturday.

The Division III Presidents Council consistently supported the measure through the legislative cycle, but concerns about various ramifications, including costs, the effects of timing on fall-sports student-athletes and whether other medical conditions should be included in such testing emerged from the Convention floor.

Vassar Athletics Director Sharon Beverly made the motion to refer on behalf of the Liberty League.

“Although our league supports the principal intent of the proposed legislation in regards to sickle cell testing, we recommend it be referred back to the committee for further study and review on logistics and implementation,” she said. “Our concerns are the immediate consequences it would have on our fall-sport student-athletes and not allowing enough time for testing and acquiring the results, and the possible effects on their eligibility.”

Beverly said that might add pressure on student-athletes in those cases to simply sign the waiver, which counters the well-being intent of the proposal. She also said the additional time would allow the NCAA to research laboratory services that could make testing available to institutions at a set rate, though information from the dais a few minutes later made it known that such a negotiation already had been arranged.

Those who supported the proposal did so with passion. Hiram College President Tom Chema said, “How often have we heard the phrase ‘Oh, if only I had known’ in connection with some tragedy or unfortunate incident? This proposal gives us the opportunity not to hear that phrase in college athletics.”

Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member Kelli Hamilton, a softball student-athlete from Minnesota-Morris, said, “No administrative concern, no expense and no logistic warrants defeating a proposal that prevents even one student-athlete death or a serious health risk.”

But the motion to refer quieted the debate on the merits of the proposal. It passed, 272-181-8, but during the window of reconsideration, a motion was made to revisit the matter.

At that point, David Klossner, NCAA director of health and safety, reiterated to delegates that some of the administrative and logistical concerns, including costs, may be more perception than reality.

That did not persuade the delegation, though, as the motion to reconsider was defeated, 153-252-10.

Livingston Alexander, president at Pittsburgh-Bradford and member of the Presidents Council, reminded delegates that member institutions that already require testing don’t have to stop doing so just because Proposal No. 3 is in flux.

“We don’t want the point lost that if you do require it, you should continue to do so,” he said.

Former competitive-safeguards committee member Jeff Martinez, the AD at Redlands and the incoming chair of the Management Council, said in fact that the committee could use feedback from those schools that do continue testing to address logistical and cost concerns.