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DIII chair: Adding independent members to board would help NCAA and DIII

Division III Presidents Council chair supports forthcoming Board of Governors composition vote

By Jeff Docking

Jeff Docking, president at Adrian and chair of the Division III Presidents Council. NCAA Photos archive.

Adding five independent members to the NCAA Board of Governors, a change first recommended by the Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on College Basketball, would be a win for all of us: It’s a win for the NCAA writ large; it’s a win for the student-athletes at each institution; and it’s a big win for Division III.

An affirmative vote on the recommendation at the NCAA Convention in January would be beneficial for the NCAA, in my opinion, because these independent members would give us outside perspectives on the Board of Governors, a diversity of opinions and expertise from other professions that we are not getting now. It would allow us to turn to people in business, the sciences, the church, and people in education beyond higher education, who could bring their viewpoints to the Association. Wisdom is gained by inviting new people to the table. Voting for these new independent members will allow us to show the public that the NCAA can change in important and progressive ways.

Secondly, adding new members is a win for individual student-athletes in all divisions because it allows the Board of Governors to make decisions to enhance the broad athletic experience with new voices not yet heard. These new independent members will come from all corners of America. Some may have attended Division III schools or played at one of our institutions. Others may have children who are Division III athletes. And still others may come from the athletics industry, people who could offer distinct insights that help all our divisions get better.

And I think it’s a big win for Division III because it gives us a stronger voice at the table — something we’ve all wanted for many years. The independent members would be nominated as a slate of candidates by the Executive Committee, which is not composed predominantly of Division I presidents. In fact, Division I doesn’t even hold a majority on that committee. It gives leaders in our division an opportunity to nominate people to serve as these independent voices. We will consider experienced, reputable candidates from a swath of other fields who have a genuine interest in ensuring the Association holds itself to the highest standards. It will be vital to have those voices in the room.

It also offers us the opportunity to say to Division I that we support what you’ve done and appreciate what you’ve done. We know we benefit greatly from your work, especially as it relates to shared revenues from the basketball tournament. That would be a positive statement for Division III to make.

I’ve had in-depth discussions with my peers in Division III about additional representation on the Board of Governors. I think timing is everything, and this is not the time to try to use leverage, or even exploit the situation, to add additional Division III-specific seats. I think trying to use a relative crisis like this to our advantage would be frowned upon, justifiably so, by other members of the Association.

Division III representation is not off the table in the years ahead, and leaders on the Board of Governors have assured us we still can continue to work toward more seats. January’s vote does not obviate that from happening, but it does signal a big step in the right direction — one we should support. In a world where compromise is key to forward movement, a positive vote would indicate that we’re willing to compromise not only for the good of Division III, but also the entire Association.

Jeff Docking is president at Adrian and chair of the Division III Presidents Council. He also serves on the NCAA Board of Governors and was a member of the working group tasked with evaluating Association-wide issues in the wake of the Commission on College Basketball report.

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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.