NCAA News Archive - 2008

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Council supports play in nontraditional-season contest

Oct 22, 2008 10:38:27 AM

By Jack Copeland
The NCAA News

The Division III Management Council endorsed a 2009 Convention proposal during its fall meeting to permit student-athletes in six team sports to participate in one date of competition during the nontraditional season without being charged with a season of participation.

In addition to recommending that the Division III Presidents Council support that proposal, which is sponsored by two member conferences, the Management Council asked the presidents to oppose proposals that would exempt conference championships and postseason tournaments from the requirement to give student-athletes one day a week off from athletically related events, and permit institutions to view NCAA computer data throughout a season related to criteria for ranking and selecting teams for a championship.

Altogether, the Council supported four of six proposals sponsored by member conferences for the 2009 Convention. The Presidents Council decided earlier this year to co-sponsor a seventh membership proposal requiring certification and training for coaches in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and use of an automated external defibrillator.

The Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference and Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference are sponsors of the nontraditional-season proposal. Its adoption would represent a step beyond Division III’s action in 2007 to permit student-athletes to practice during the nontraditional season without being charged with a season of participation.

The Presidents Council opposed the 2007 proposal, seeing it as a rollback of limits on the nontraditional season that were adopted by the membership as part of the “Future of Division III” agenda in 2003, but sponsors argued that it would fix an “unintended inequity” that gave student-athletes in spring sports more opportunity to practice than fall-sport student-athletes. Delegates approved the proposal, 319-100.

Sponsors of this year’s proposal believe permitting participation in the date of competition gives all student-athletes in the sports of baseball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball and women’s volleyball the same experience during the practice- and instruction-oriented nontraditional season - without forcing a student-athlete to miss an opportunity to play in order to preserve a season of participation.

In reviewing the proposal, the Management Council’s Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee suggested that the date of competition is comparable to a preseason scrimmage in the traditional season, and recommended that the Council support the proposal.

Council members agreed to do so, noting that permitting student-athletes to participate in the date of competition gives no team a competitive advantage. Now, the Presidents Council must decide at its October 30 meeting in Indianapolis whether it accepts the Management Council’s position, or continues to regard changes of the 2003 legislation as a rollback on playing- and practice-season limits.

‘No’ to three proposals

The Management Council urged the presidents to oppose the proposal by the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic and Capital Athletic Conferences to exempt postseason conference competition from the day-off requirement, as well as the proposal by the Capital Athletic and Colonial States Athletic Conferences to provide access through the season to championships-related data.

It also recommended opposition to a proposal by the New Jersey Athletic and City University of New York Athletic Conferences to establish an August 15 date for starting practice in fall sports.

Sponsors of the day-off exemption for conference competition say it will eliminate the difficulty during conference postseason play of scheduling a day off between travel and practice requirements – a situation they equate to NCAA championships, where institutions are not required to give student-athletes a day off.

The Council, however, believes that travel and practice schedules are more predictable during conference play than during NCAA competition, and also heard from Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members serving on the Council that student-athletes need that day to physically recover from competition and to take care of academic and personal responsibilities.

The championships-data proposal asks that all data used in selecting or seeding teams be made available in hopes of helping coaches better understand how the data are used by sport committees and to guard against errors.

Council members expressed sympathy for making the selection process as transparent as possible, but noted it will cost an estimated $110,000 to provide broader access to the computer database than is currently possible – funds that cannot be allocated until the budget cycle beginning in 2010-11.

Members also noted that the database contains only raw data, which sports committees then compare and analyze in making selection and seeding decisions. In deciding to oppose the proposals, the Council said it is more appropriate for institutions and conferences to seek and share championships information through the existing structure of regional advisory committees, which include representation from all conferences competing in a championship sport.

The proposal to establish August 15 as the start date in the sports of cross country, field hockey, golf, rugby, soccer, tennis and women’s volleyball seeks to replace a formula that institutions currently use to set a date that permits a maximum of 16 practice opportunities before the first contest or date of competition. The sponsors argue that the start date is difficult to calculate, often resulting in misapplication of the rule.

The Council, however, recommended that the Presidents Council oppose the proposal, citing a variety of reasons including costs to institutions that might feel forced to bring student-athletes to campus earlier than they currently do.

Two other conference-sponsored proposals – both involving exceptions to Division III “tryout” rules – won endorsements from the Management Council. They would:

• Provide an exception to the “tryout” prohibition that would permit an institution to host an event involving prospective student-athletes, as long as it does not involve a varsity sport sponsored by that institution.

• Replace an existing exception to the “tryout” prohibition with a new one permitting staff members to be involved in an event sponsored by an institution, provided that the event meets specified conditions.

Other highlights

In other actions during its October 20-21 meeting in Indianapolis, the Management Council:

• Received a report from the Division III Championships Committee about the current review of championships travel policies that is being conducted in all three membership divisions. The report noted that Division III already has adopted recommendations being considered in the other divisions, including higher mileage thresholds for flights, limiting the scheduling of championships in remote locations and (with this year’s action to schedule soccer finals a week later than in the past) moving championships other than football away from Thanksgiving-weekend competition. The Council also noted that a possible NCAA moratorium on championships bracket expansions likely will not impact adjustments in the size of Division III championship fields to accommodate membership growth within the division’s current championships access ratio.

• Approved an administrative regulation requiring men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams to schedule 25 percent of competition against in-region opponents to be selected for the individual/team championships in those sports. The requirement will be in effect beginning in 2010-11.

• Approved as noncontroversial legislation a proposal by the Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee to permit a coach to observe certain types of athletically related activities (for example, a pick-up game) while performing usual duties of monitoring facilities that are open to all students. The legislation would not permit a coach to provide instruction, but would permit the coach to stop an activity that is dangerous to a student-athlete or to others.

• Approved official interpretations that coaches and managers are limited to performing coaching and managerial roles for a team and therefore cannot serve primarily as a practice player, and that student coaches and managers who participate as a team member in practice or other physical activities must be charged with a season of participation.

• Received a status report on Division III’s current drug education and testing pilot program, noting that a full report on the first year of the two-year program will be shared with the division’s membership in early November. The program is seeking to learn the impact of education – in combination with or without drug testing – on student-athletes’ use of substances. More than 11,000 Division III student-athletes completed surveys during 2008-09 as part of the pilot program, and nearly 2,000 drug tests were conducted during the year.

• Asked the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to consider either leading or recommending ways to proceed with an initiative to promote nutrition education and assess Division III student-athletes’ nutritional needs. The request resulted from discussion in July during the annual meeting between Management Council and SAAC members. The Council directed that the SAAC be provided various resources – including results of a survey of conference and institutional student-athlete advisory committee members as well as currently available educational materials – for use in forming its recommendations.

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