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Exploring New Avenues for Grad Students

Debate continues after proposal’s defeat

By Jeffrey Docking

Jeffrey Docking, Adrian College

At the 2017 NCAA Convention, many of us engaged in spirited and robust debate over a proposal that would have permitted graduate student-athletes to continue to participate in college athletics at a Division III college or university other than the one where they received their undergraduate degree.

The Division III Presidents Council opposed liberalizing graduate transfers because of concerns about congruence with the Division III philosophy, which stresses the four-year undergraduate experience, as well as the competitive disadvantage this change could create for schools without graduate programs. We also worried recruiting would begin to entail coaches scouring the Division I landscape for student-athletes who may be eager for more playing time. Just one or two such transfers could tip the competitive balance, particularly in sports such as basketball. I don’t think that’s in our DNA. I don’t think that’s who we are as a division.

Even though the proposal was defeated at Convention, proponents should know the Presidents Council remains open to continued discussion and compromise, so student-athletes with remaining eligibility can play their full four years. Philosophically, many of us support the idea of student-athletes using all their eligibility.

Strong sentiment exists in the Presidents Council to permit every eligible student-athlete to compete for four years. This may be done through amending waiver rules to make it easier for students with medical hardships or extenuating circumstances to play for another school — currently, student-athletes can receive a waiver if they completed their degree in less than four years and graduated with a 3.0 GPA or higher — or introducing legislation that allows students to transfer at the graduate level between two Division III institutions.

We, along with other committees, believe we can find a solution that creates opportunities for more graduate students. We simply need to reach this compromise while simultaneously protecting the core philosophy of Division III.

Jeffrey Docking is president of Adrian College. He is also a member of the Division III Presidents Council.

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