NCAA News Archive - 2008

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‘Town Hall’ format seeks responses to growth


May 15, 2008 1:58:05 AM

By Jack Copeland
The NCAA News

More than 200 NCAA Regional Rules Seminar registrants have an opportunity during a “Town Hall Meeting” in Boston Monday to help chart Division III’s future maneuvers through a path of challenges posed by membership growth.

Like a similar but smaller session last week in Indianapolis, the Boston meeting will first focus on findings from a recent survey that ruled out creation of a new division or subdivision as options, then solicit attendees’ views on matters ranging from the division’s core beliefs to such details as how to ensure compliance with membership standards and maintain programs and services.

The NCAA Division III staff will collect feedback during the session and forward comments and ideas to a variety of committees that recently have been assigned by the Division III Presidents and Management Councils to study specific issues identified in the recent survey.

“Ultimately, our responsibility from a staff and governance structure perspective is to solicit feedback from the membership to help us chart our future course,” said Dan Dutcher, NCAA Division III vice president.

Dutcher anticipates a lively and constructive discussion -- much like last week’s session in Indianapolis that involved approximately 25 administrators from member institutions and conferences in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Although that discussion touched on a wide variety of topics -- including 11 specific issues recently listed by the Division III Councils for study by committees -- attendees also commented on what they see as broad support in the membership for such core beliefs as ensuring that student-athletes are treated like all students and that no financial aid should be awarded for athletics participation.

But participants also pointed to what one athletics director described as the “periphery of the philosophy” -- debates over questions ranging from permitting leadership-based financial aid for a team captain to appropriate sport-sponsorship levels to limiting athletics-related time commitments -- as areas of continuing friction in an expanding membership.

A conference commissioner likened Division III to Christianity, with its many denominations. “There are so many interpretations of what may be little stuff,” he said.

“At the basic core, there is pretty universal agreement within Division III, but when you step a couple of steps away from core center, then you’re getting onto ice that’s less solid.”

Beyond philosophical issues, participants also acknowledged practical challenges as the division continues to grow.

Another commissioner, noting conferences’ role in administering Division III grants, believes not only the number of member schools but the number of conferences will grow significantly -- perhaps to 50 from the current number of 41.

“You have only so much money (from grants), and you get concerned about what you’re going to get when you have more members -- are you still going to get that $40,000 a year -- not to mention that you’ll have 50 automatic qualifiers (in championships),” he said. “I don’t think people have thought about that enough.”

Another participant pointed to a possibly unanticipated result of reduced access to championships as Division III continues to grow, suggesting that fewer opportunities for postseason play might impact institutions’ recruitment of students. Fewer championships opportunities could have an impact not only on teams, but on schools that rely heavily on the attractiveness of athletics programs to help maintain enrollment.

A few ideas emerged from the discussion -- ranging from the possibility of raising the division’s comparatively low membership dues to help maintain funding of programs and services, to easing friction over limits on competition in the nontraditional season by giving coaches flexibility to schedule more contests and less practice time within existing permissible days. Another suggestion was to compile and report student-athlete graduation and persistence rates. 

Generating those kinds of ideas is a primary purpose of Monday’s Town Hall Meeting in Boston and an identical June 2 meeting during the Regional Rules Seminar in San Antonio.

Monday’s meeting is scheduled from 12:30 to 4:15 p.m. in Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel.


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