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DII launches new workshop to support compliance administrators and help them grow

Division II compliance administrators gathered at a May professional development event at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis. Jessica McGee / NCAA

Within an athletics department, the role of a compliance administrator can be thankless, expansive and, at times, isolating. One Division II compliance coordinator admitted she sometimes feels like she’s “sitting in a silo.” Another likened it to feeling alone on an island.

But for these administrators and more than 50 others working in compliance on Division II campuses, the feelings of isolation dissipated May 13, when Division II held an inaugural professional development workshop for compliance administrators. The event at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis brought together participants nominated by their conferences for an opportunity to share best practices, brainstorm about challenges and learn practical techniques to take back to their campuses. The workshop took place the day before the NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in Indianapolis began.

“I thought this was a good opportunity to network and get some ideas of how other people are doing it,” says Michelle Gober, the associate director of athletics, senior woman administrator and compliance coordinator at Kutztown. “It’s nice to see that other people are having the same kinds of struggles that I’m having, or that we’re not alone.  … It’s a feeling of camaraderie.”

Division II created the workshop in response to findings from the Division II Culture of Compliance review in 2017-18, which explored issues facing compliance offices. Outreach to compliance personnel revealed many administrators are spread too thin, serving as the only person in charge of all compliance duties for their department while also filling other key roles. Leaders of the review considered how the division could provide more support to these administrators and identified professional development as one void they could work to fill.

While the NCAA offers a variety of professional development trainings and seminars, the new workshop was developed specifically with Division II compliance administrators in mind. The day included sessions on leadership, organizational techniques to help administrators save time and best practices for handling difficult conversations.

“In compliance, you’re viewed as the policeman, so you get put in this category where you’re always the ‘no’ person,” says Scott Williams, the assistant athletics director of compliance at Hawaii Pacific. That perception can deter people from talking to compliance personnel at all, he adds.

“That was good in this workshop to learn how can we foster those relationships to get out of that mindset,” Williams continues. “How we can go back to our athletics departments and say, ‘OK, guys, we’re going to approach this conversation differently.’”

The participants also engaged in roundtable discussions led by Virginia State Athletics Director Peggy Davis, Bellarmine Deputy Athletics Director Pam Stackhouse, Missouri Western Athletics Director Josh Looney and UIndy Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sue Willey.

Davis touts the steady back-and-forth engagement of the workshop as “one of the things about this opportunity that made it very unique.”

“It allowed the compliance directors to engage with the presenters; therefore, it made it more real life,” she says. “And when it’s real life, you can actually go out and apply it.”

Division II will offer the workshop every other year, with the next one slated for spring 2021.

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.