By Gary Brown
In addition to the close vote on the sickle cell trait confirmation proposal, Division III delegates produced another narrow margin on their way to expanding the realm of contact to prospects to include private communication through social networking sites.
By just a 246-227-4 count, delegates approved Proposal No. 9 sponsored by the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. It allows contact between coaches and prospects as long as it is strictly between only the sender and recipient (for example, no use of public chat rooms, message boards or public communication through a social networking site).
A number of administrators spoke in favor of the proposal on the Convention floor, including St. Mary’s (Minnesota) President William Mann, who is vice chair of the MIAC presidents council.
“We believe this will make recruiting more effective and efficient,” he said. “Today’s student-athletes communicate almost exclusively through electronic means. This will allow coaches to interact with recruits with their preferred methods, which already are being used by admissions personnel and coaches in Divisions I and II. The addition of text messaging last year has been overwhelmingly positive. That success suggests this proposal is a logical and necessary next step.”
The opposition was spearheaded by the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which spoke against the measure at governance meetings before the business session and then again from the floor. Dalaine Whitlock of Concordia Texas, who also serves on the Division III Management Council, said the SAAC is concerned that the proposal “removes all boundaries” between prospects and coaches.
Others, though, said social media was not only an evolving communication method but one of most schools’ primary promotional vehicles. Others also thought social media was commonly considered a more professional means of communication, which was a primary criticism in previous debates.
The proposal comes a year after Division III adopted legislation that regulates text messaging according to the same standard as telephone, email and fax correspondence in the recruiting process. That proposal did not include social media, however. A proposal that would have was withdrawn on the 2012 Convention floor.
Divisions I and II permit the use of the private communication function in social networking sites. Those divisions also permit an athletics department staff member or coach to “friend” a prospective student- athlete. Formal “friending” is not permitted under Proposal No. 9 in Division III.
In other action at the business session, delegates adopted a proposal sponsored by the City University of New York Athletic Conference and the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that allows conferences to provide a $7,500 postgraduate scholarship to a student-athlete (or two scholarships to one male and one female student-athlete) for excellence in the classroom, athletics and the community.
The new legislation, which is effective immediately, is permissive (not required for all conferences). The award amount is the same as that attached to the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, which recipients of the conference postgraduate scholarships are still eligible to receive. Conferences are not allowed to use NCAA Strategic Initiatives Grants to fund the award.
The proposal came to the Convention floor with support from the Presidents Council and other governance groups that said the legislation does not threaten the integrity of the Division III collegiate model or compromise Division III’s financial aid tenets.
In the original version of the proposal, sponsors wrote that a conference would be permitted to provide either this postgraduate award or a conference scholar-athlete award, but not both. The two conferences subsequently confirmed, though, that they did not intend for a restrictive application. Consequently, the Management Council approved a modification of working that allows conferences to provide both awards.
Two of the 13 proposals Division III considered during its business session related to football.
The adoption of Proposal No. 5 requires student-athletes beginning in August to be provided with at least three continuous hours of recovery time between all sessions on any day during the five-day acclimatization period.
The new requirement comes from a review the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports conducted on permissible walk-through legislation. Current rules allow schools in Divisions I and III to follow a walk-through session immediately with either an on-field practice or testing session. The new legislation mirrors what’s currently in place in Division II, which requires student-athletes to be provided with at least three hours of continuous recovery time between any session, whether it’s an on-field practice, walk-through or testing session.
Approval of the other football-related proposal (No. 8) allows the use of hand shields during the spring football strength and conditioning period.
Division III delegates also adopted Proposal No. 2, which means that a Division III member institution is ineligible for Division III championships and Division III grant funding once it begins the Division II reclassification process. The new legislation is effective for any institution beginning Division II candidacy year one in the 2013-14 academic year or thereafter.
Proposal No. 2 replaces current legislation that allows reclassifying schools to be eligible for Division III championships until they reach candidacy year two in the three-year Division II membership process (unless the school chooses to immediately begin awarding financial aid, at which point they become ineligible for Division III championships).
The Division III SAAC opposed the measure in November, initially believing that the restrictions were too severe on student-athletes at the reclassifying school. Upon reconsideration at their Convention meeting, though, members thought more about the philosophical ramifications of allowing championship access to reclassifying schools and decided to support the proposal.
One delegate opposed the proposal from the floor, noting a potential negative impact on existing Division III members that would no longer be able to count the reclassifying school to satisfy in-region requirements when it comes to the championship selection process. That argument did not carry the day, though, given the 428-40-3 vote to support the measure.
Division III delegates also adopted Proposal No. 11, which precludes Division III student-athletes from triggering the outside-competition or transfer legislation if they participate in athletics while in a study abroad or foreign exchange program (either on an outside team or the school’s team) and return to their home institution. Such student-athletes also won’t be counted as having used of a season of participation.
The proposal from the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee is intended to ease concern for the many student-athletes who participate in a foreign exchange or study abroad program as a part of their collegiate experience. The ILC believes that modifying the legislation is consistent with the practice of permitting incoming exchange students to participate in athletics on Division III campuses.
Also adopted was Proposal No. 6, which establishes Nov. 1 as the first date of competition in ice hockey. With its adoption, the Management Council approved noncontroversial legislation to allow teams to compete on the preceding Friday if Nov. 1 falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
The next NCAA Convention is Jan. 15-18 in San Diego. By the way, the test vote during the Division III business session to see if the electronic voting units were working, delegates were asked if they were excited about having the 2014 Convention in San Diego. From the 391-42-30 outcome, it appears that they are.