Hardship waivers top docket as DII begins legislative review
The Division II Management Council reviewed four legislative proposals from the membership at its July 21-22 meeting in Minneapolis, including one that is intended to provide more flexibility for student-athletes applying for a hardship waiver.
Though it would appear to be a light legislative load for the 2009 Convention so far, the four membership proposals generated plenty of discussion both at the Council meeting and the Council/Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Summit that preceded it.
The hardship waiver proposal from the Lone Star Conference and co-sponsored by the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association would replace the 20-percent-of-scheduled-contests option with 20 percent of the limits provided by sport in Bylaw 17. Sponsors cite the latter as a more consistent and student-athlete-friendly method by which a student-athlete whose participation is interrupted by serious injury or illness could qualify for an additional season of eligibility. Current rules base waiver eligibility on participating in not more than two contests or 20 percent of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests. The two contests or 20 percent of completed contests remain as methods in determining the denominator as a part of the proposal.
The proposal’s sponsors say using the Bylaw 17 provisions establishes consistency for all student-athletes, since the denominator would be the same for everyone in the applicable sport. It also provides an alternative to the scheduled-contests option, which the sponsors say is a factor over which student-athletes have no control.
Management Council and SAAC members agreed with the proposal’s student-athlete-friendly intent, but they wondered whether it created equity concerns. One member posed an example in baseball, which provides for 56 games per Bylaw 17 (20 percent of which is rounded up to 12 games). He said if a team in a region affected by weather was able to complete only 40 games, student-athletes from that team would be able to play a higher percentage of the team’s games than a student-athlete from a squad that completed all of its contests.
Others were concerned that the proposal might advantage the more successful teams that advance far into postseason play.
Though those were just slight distinctions, Council and SAAC members think the measure needs more vetting to make sure that whatever competitive concerns the proposal presents don’t trump the student-athlete flexibility the legislation is after. That vetting will start at the Division II Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, since that’s the body to which the Council referred the proposal for further review.
Also in the legislative hopper for the 2009 Convention is a proposal – again from the Lone Star and MIAA – specifying that during the summer, strength and conditioning personnel may design and conduct specific workout programs for student-athletes, provided student-athletes request them.
Management Council members and student-athletes alike supported the proposal’s intent to bolster student-athlete well-being, and were concerned only about some of the proposal’s specifics. For example, they wondered just who would conduct or oversee the workouts, since different sports require different training regimens. Student-athletes in particular also worried about the ever-present “voluntary/mandatory” bugaboo, since the legislation might prompt coaches to “expect” student-athletes to request the additional training.
The Council referred the proposal to the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and to the Division II Legislation Committee.
The two other membership proposals are basketball-related. The MIAA, along with the Peach Belt Conference, submitted one that would create a once-in-three-years exemption for basketball teams to participate in “conference challenge events” that are played on the first weekend of the season. Under this proposal, teams could exempt up to two contests from their maximum contest limit as long as the games are played as part of a multi-team conference challenge event (similar to Big Ten-ACC challenge in Division I) and are considered in-region contests. Also, the games could only be exempted once every three years, even though the challenge could be an annual event.
Management Council members seemed to think this proposal would facilitate Division II’s growing emphasis on teams playing more in-region, nonconference games against quality opponents. “Anything that will provide additional in-region nonconference games is a good thing,” said Valdosta State AD Herb Reinhard.
The Council asked the Legislation Committee to mull this one over, too.
The other basketball-related proposal is essentially a repeat from last year. The MIAA and the Peach Belt are asking that the season start no earlier than the second Friday in November (as opposed to the current November 15 start date).
Sponsors continue to like the idea of starting the season on a weekend, as well as encouraging more schools to use the opportunity so that Division II has an “official” season-opening period.
The measure did not garner significant support from Management Council members who remain comfortable with the November 15 benchmark and are reluctant to start the season earlier (as early as November 8 under the proposed legislation). Council members sent the proposal to the Legislation Committee for further study.
The Management Council will see all four proposals again in October when it reviews all legislation slated for the 2009 Convention.
In addition to discussing membership proposals, the Management Council took other legislative actions, including a sign-off on emergency legislation that precludes schools from reducing or canceling a student-athlete’s athletics aid because of an injury, illness or mental medical condition that does not necessarily prevent athletics participation. The proposal includes protection for student-athletes who are pregnant.
While the Management Council approved the measure as a student-athlete well-being provision, members also were aware that the legislation could be subject to manipulation. In that regard, Council members noted an FAQ document available on the NCAA’s Legislative Services Database (LSDBi) that clarifies potential gray areas to ensure that the legislation is designed to help those student-athletes who need help, and not to be used as an excuse for student-athletes not to fulfill their athletics obligations.
As with current rules, institutions would be permitted under the new legislation to reduce or cancel aid in cases where the student-athlete is fraudulent about a medical condition or in which a drug dependency or alcohol abuse violates institutional misconduct policies for all students.
The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics brought the proposal to the governing structure’s attention in order to provide the necessary protection for student-athletes who have been awarded athletics-related aid but experience circumstances outside the scope of a typical injury. The CWA was concerned primarily with pregnant student-athletes, but the proposal was expanded to reflect language in the Family Medical Leave Act. Division I adopted similar legislation in January 2008.
Division II Management Council
• Approved a recommendation from the Championships Committee for a legislative amendment specifying that the period in which penalties for misconduct in an NCAA championship extends from the time the championship participants are announced through the end of the championship.
• Also approved a Championships Committee recommendation to establish a recruiting calendar in Division II men’s lacrosse that establishes the following dead periods: (1) The Thursday before the Division II championship game through noon on the Tuesday after the game; (2) The Wednesday before the coaches association clinic through noon on the subsequent Monday; and (3) The period 48 hours before 7 a.m. on the date for signing National Letters of Intent. The lacrosse committee believes these dead periods will facilitate coaches’ attendance at these important events.
• Asked the Championships Committee to review the criteria all sports committees use to select postseason fields in an effort to make them more consistent across sports.
• Did not support a recommendation from the Legislation Committee to sponsor a 2009 Convention proposal specifying that schools could not provide an official visit or a written offer of athletics aid to a prospect until he or she completes the amateurism certification questionnaire with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Council members prefer this matter be addressed through the application and registration process rather than through legislation.
• Agreed to refer to the Council’s Project Team to Review Issues Related to Diversity a recommendation from the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee to sponsor a legislative proposal that would require institutions to annually submit data to the MOIC demonstrating that their athletics employment practices comply with those of the institution. The Management Council members want the diversity project team to explore combining the report with other data submission already required of institutions. Members also question how these data will be monitored and whether there are ramifications for noncompliance.
• Agreed to sponsor legislation recommended by the Committee on Women’s Athletics to add sand volleyball as an emerging sport, and to remove archery, team handball, synchronized swimming and badminton from the list of emerging sports. Those four sports have not met the criteria for emerging sports for more than 10 years.
• Heard a report on the SCORE study (student-athletes who matriculated in 1994) showing that more than 85 percent of Division II respondents eventually received their four-year degree, and more than 23 percent had earned a postgraduate degree. In addition, 80 percent reported having a full-time job (about 8 percent higher than former college students in a study conducted by the University of Michigan). Finally, about 84 percent of Division II respondents believe that the skills and values they learned from college athletics helped them in getting their current job.
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