NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland – Representatives from a variety of Division II member institutions and conferences appeared to agree Friday that changes to Division II’s organized-competition rule are needed.
At an educational session conducted as part of the 2009 Convention, national office staffs and representatives of the Division II Legislation Committee presented the history of Bylaw 126.96.36.199 and the difficulty that the membership and staff have had applying the regulation, especially since the NCAA Eligibility Center assumed responsibility for certification. Stephanie Quigg, NCAA director of membership services, said that the membership submitted about 12 waiver requests related to the bylaw over six years before the establishment of the Eligibility Center but that the number has gone up 400 percent since 2007.
In response to the apparent confusion about the rule, Division II created a task force to provide better direction and to determine if changes were necessary.
NCAA membership services staff members Jennifer Fraser and Martiza Jones noted that the task force examination has developed change concepts in three segments:
• The general rule. Possibilities include expansion of the grace period to one academic year and summer, establishing different rules based on recruited status and addressing a loophole involving discontinued collegiate enrollment.
• Administration. Questions involve whether to eliminate the definition of organized competition or to improve the current definition; whether to create exceptions for transfers; and whether to eliminate the academic year in residence requirement for those affected by the rule.
• Exceptions. Expanding exceptions to parallel those provided by the Division II Committee on Legislative Relief has been suggested. Criteria would include medical hardship, extreme financial difficulties, misinformation by institutional staff and accommodation of low-level activities, such as youth or church-league basketball.
Membership representatives seemed generally comfortable with the general direction of the task force, advising staff and division leadership that care should be taken not to adversely affect older, nontraditional students.
Fort Lewis Athletics Director Kelly Higgins noted that likes the idea of tightening the rule but that Division II “is supposed to be an open format. We don’t want to make high school graduation the trigger.”
Others, however, said that the organized-competition rule should be structured so that it applies to a student-athlete’s 19th or 20th birthday, or one year after high school graduation, whichever comes first. Waivers could be provided for special cases, such as older individuals who are returning to school.
Other reaction included:
• Support for the expansion of the grace period.
• A request to include an exception for competition in international military to match the exception for the U.S. military.
• Sentiment to eliminate staff misinformation as a waiver criterion (because of growing abuse).
• Belief that December graduates are not treated equitably in the current rule because of the limited time between December graduation and January enrollment.
• Acknowledgement that recruiting services in other countries are increasingly manipulating the rules, such as registering prospects under phony names.
• Advice that the new rule should not separate recruited and nonrecruited student-athletes because of difficulties involved in making the distinction.
• Belief that the discontinued-enrollment loophole should be closed.
The Legislation Committee will consider the topic again at its March and June meetings. In the meantime, it will continue to solicit responses from the membership. Legislation may be developed in time for consideration at the 2010 Convention.
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