NCAA News Archive - 2008

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Division III ‘white papers’ offer basis for membership dialogue


Sep 23, 2008 1:26:52 PM

By Jack Copeland
The NCAA News

Presidents and chancellors of Division III institutions have received a set of “white papers” written to assist them in leading discussions this fall on how to address future divisional growth and diversity.

Those documents now also are available online for review by the entire membership.

The papers address nine significant issues the Division III Presidents Council believes the division must address in planning for the future – especially now that restructuring into smaller divisions or subdivisions no longer is being considered as an option.

According to an introduction to the papers, the Council hopes the documents will equip presidents and chancellors to lead an effort “to clearly articulate the characteristics that make Division III distinctive while simultaneously deciding how to best accommodate the future growth and diversity within the existing structural framework of the division.”

The papers provide extensive background on each issue, link the issues to the current Division III philosophy statement, and summarize feedback obtained from the membership in a survey last winter and during a series of town hall meetings last spring and summer.

They conclude by offering recommendations related to each of the nine issues.

Among more substantive recommendations are the adoption of “super majority” voting requirements to preserve current financial aid “philosophical tenets, legislative standards and programs,” as well as recently adopted limits redshirting and on playing and practice seasons.

One paper, addressing the importance of presidential leadership in Division III, also proposes granting greater legislative authority to presidents and chancellors, including possibly permitting the Presidents Council to designate legislative topics for a “super majority” vote or to impose a moratorium on reconsideration of adopted legislation for a period of time.

Another paper acknowledges institutional and conference autonomy in establishing academic standards for determining initial and continuing athletics eligibility, but encourages conferences to monitor how student-athletes are faring academically compared to the general student body.

In addition, the papers envision a greater role for the Division III philosophy statement in reinforcing core tenets. They also recommend amending the statement to include an expectation of presidential leadership and to support recent legislative actions to limit playing seasons and seasons of participation.

Some of the papers address such practical matters as preparing for expansion of championships to accommodate growth; exploring “revenue streams” for ensuring sufficient funding for programs and services; and ensuring that institutions considering joining Division III fully analyze whether it or Division II may better serve their needs.

There also is a recommendation to “create an identity for Division III as a conscious alternative to the sport-specialization culture, and as an accessible and fulfilling educational and athletics destination,” as well as a recommendation to initiate a marketing effort highlighting the division’s approach to intercollegiate athletics.

In addition to equipping presidents and chancellors to lead future-directed discussions, the goal of the papers “is to better inform the membership regarding these issues, and to provide a basis for further discussion during fall campus and conference meetings.”

The papers were written under the direction of a Presidents Council subcommittee chaired by Widener President James Harris.

Drafts of the papers were shared with the Division III Presidents and Chancellors Advisory Group, which offered feedback about proposed recommendations during an August 6 meeting in Indianapolis, and then reviewed by the full Presidents Council during its August 7 meeting.

The Council will collect feedback from the papers during the months leading up to the 2009 Convention in Washington, D.C., and plans to discuss during its October 30 meeting in Indianapolis any feedback received by Council members or Presidents and Chancellor Advisory Group members by October 22.

The Council also plans to devote the annual presidents and chancellors luncheon January 16 in Washington, D.C., to discussion of the papers, and is planning a full membership discussion of the papers during the Division III business session January 17.

None of the recommendations included in the papers will be proposed as legislation for consideration at the 2009 Convention.

Following are the recommendations included in each of the white papers, organized by the nine issues addressed by those papers:

Presidential leadership

• Specifically address in the philosophy statement expectations for presidential leadership and involvement at the campus, conference and national levels. Acknowledge institutional and conference autonomy and the existence of various athletics reporting lines related to this issue.

• Ensure the Institutional Self Study Guide and the Conference Self Study Guide directly address expectations regarding presidential leadership, including reporting lines and communication with key campus and conference constituents.

• Develop a best practices guide for chancellors and presidents related to presidential involvement on the campus, conference and national levels.

• Consider establishing greater legislative authority within the Division III governance structure for presidents, as well as for the Presidents Council in consultation with Presidents Advisory Group. This could include, for example, permitting the Council to designate legislative topics as dominant provisions, subject to a supermajority voting requirement. It also could include the ability to establish a legislative moratorium on specific legislative topics for specific periods of time.

• Consider establishing a separate process through which presidents can consider and decide fundamental legislative issues. This could include the targeting of issues as “presidential topics” at specific conventions, the establishment of separate voting sessions, and permitting presidents to decide priority issues via mail or electronic ballot.

• Require at least three presidents from each athletics conference, and group of independents, to attend the annual NCAA Convention. The lack of direct involvement at the Convention can contribute to legislative outcomes that are inconsistent with the recommendations of the Presidents Council and the academic mission of the division’s athletics programs.

• More actively encourage greater participation in the Association’s orientation session for new chancellors and presidents.

• Partner with higher education associations to present programming related to intercollegiate athletics at existing meetings, especially in conjunction with existing leadership development programs.

Philosophy and identity

• Consistent with the rationale described in the white paper addressing presidential leadership, include in the philosophy statement a specific expectation for active presidential leadership related to the Division III athletics programs at the institutional, conference and national levels.

• Consider specific steps to educate governing boards regarding the division’s philosophy, related institutional commitments, and presidential expectations.

• Undertake a comprehensive educational effort related to the philosophy statement. There is lack of understanding for the tenets of the philosophy statement, beyond the prohibition on the awarding of athletics aid. Membership growth and diversity make it increasingly important for the membership to understand and commit to all tenets of the statement.

• Give the Division III philosophy statement more prominent emphasis in the Division III Manual.

• Initiate a comprehensive Division III marketing effort, using appropriate expertise, which will emphasize the division’s holistic educational approach and the integration of athletics into the educational experience of the division’s student-athletes. The study and its recommendations should be research based.

• Create an identity for Division III as a conscious alternative to the sport-specialization culture, and as an accessible and fulfilling educational and athletics destination. Emphasize a fuller, more integrated academic experience as the primary goal and consideration in all divisional endeavors.

Financial aid

• Having concluded that current philosophical tenets, legislative standards and programs related to Division III financial aid should be retained, the Presidents Council recommends that a “supermajority” be required for future revisions of applicable financial aid legislation.

Division II as a possible membership destination

• Require the use of the Division II financial aid simulation tool or other similar exercise as part of the Division III provisional membership program.

• Enhance the NCAA Web site to permit existing and potential members to more clearly and directly compare and contrast the philosophies and legislative requirements of Divisions II and III, as well as related membership profiles (e.g., average and ranges for enrollment, sport sponsorship, budgets, geographic location, etc.).

• Include educational programming related to membership at the annual rules seminars and/or Convention.

• Conduct periodic joint meetings of the Divisions II and III Membership Committees.

Sports sponsorship and membership requirements

•  Implement the increased sport sponsorship requirements slated for 2010-11, consistent with the “broad-based program” philosophy.

• Amend the membership penalty structure and timetable to better distinguish requirements and related penalties, giving top priority to the fulfillment of sports-sponsorship requirements.

• Pursue technology through which institutions and conferences may fulfill educational obligations of membership.

• Review the current conditions and obligations of membership to determine what requirements are most appropriate for the division, and whether specific activities or commitments should be added to or removed from the current list.

Preference for current season standards

• Engage in a more thorough review of the appropriate amount of competition permitted in the nontraditional segment.

• Solidify the division’s position on playing season length by amending the philosophy statement. This could include an amendment to section (d) of the philosophy statement to change the word “opportunities” to “offerings” to prevent future misinterpretation of this statement. Further, a commitment to student-athlete well-being issues could be better highlighted by having the philosophy statement enumerate a student-athletes’ right to meaningful participation in nonathletic pursuits as a method of enriching the overall educational experience.

• Require a “supermajority” vote to amend key playing season legislation, such as extensions of the playing season.

Academic considerations

• Modify legislative procedure to require a division-dominant (two-thirds majority) vote to amend the redshirting prohibition.

• Amend the philosophy statement to emphasize that Division III athletics are primarily focused on the undergraduate educational experience in a four-year time frame.

• National initial and continuing eligibility standards do not appear to be necessary or supported. Clarify that this topic is not under active consideration and amend the philosophy statement to clarify that such standards are best left to institutional and conference autonomy.

• Encourage conferences to actively monitor and review the initial eligibility and continuing academic progress of student-athletes vs. the general student body.

• Explore the establishment of aggregate “dashboard” indicators (e.g., grade-point averages, class rank, persistence and graduation rates), which would permit a school to compare institutional data with aggregate data from selected institutions of interest.

• Actively monitor the progress of the College Sports Project’s pilot reporting program and consider the experience and results of program participants in the consideration of further, division-wide policy initiative.

• Consider the limited reporting of student-athlete academic performance, in conjunction with student data currently provided annually to the Department of Education. Such a program has great potential to enhance the division's identity in a positive way, and deserves greater investigation. The program would emphasize the comparison of student-athlete and nonstudent-athlete data within institutions, not between institutions, similar to the current financial aid reporting process. Remaining details (e.g., reporting standards, timing, disclosure) must be considered carefully.

• Assign the reporting process a prominent role related to any Division III marketing effort, consistent with the division’s academic identity and its philosophical tenet that the academic performance of student-athletes is consistent with that of the general student body.

Championships

• Change the access ratio policies, as necessary, to limit the championships field in team sports to 64. This appears to be the most viable option for the division to explore.

• Establish related sports sponsorship projections, and corresponding bracket and “Pool” timetables, as appropriate, in both team and individual sports, through 2020.

• Identify necessary bracket enhancements and related costs for planning purposes.

• Emphasize the quality of the student-athlete experience as a priority in future championships discussions.

Budget priorities and dues

• The Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, in conjunction with the Presidents and Management Councils and the national office staff, should continue efforts to identify the needs of the membership and develop strategies to meet those needs.

• Given the uncertainty regarding the Association’s future broadcasting agreements and revenue streams, the division should establish greater control over its own financial future and direction. A component of that ongoing effort should be the development of enhanced revenue streams. Possibilities include an increase in Division III membership dues and introduction of conference certification fees.

• Additional engagement of national office staff with newer members to complete the transition from provisional member to full member status may be identified as a priority, and a declining scale of dues for newer members, from the provisional status assessment toward the eventual regular dues, may help to support such programming.

• Division III should maintain its current reserve (approximately $11 million) to ensure the maintenance of key programs and services.


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