INDIANAPOLIS---A recent survey strongly confirms Division III members’ support for treating student-athletes like other students -- academically and otherwise -- and for such philosophies as sport equity and institutional autonomy.
But members responding to the survey indicate they continue to grapple with the practicalities of managing growth and providing access to championships and a broad range of sports, setting the stage for discussions in coming months to uncover the best ways to deal with those issues.
An interim report of results from the “Future of Division III—Phase II” survey was mailed this week to chief executive officers and other individuals (including student-athlete advisory committee liaisons) at member institutions, as well as to members of “virtual focus groups” -- e-mail discussion groups moderated by members of the Division III Management Council and including CEOs, athletics administrators, senior woman administrators, faculty athletics representatives, student-athletes and coaches.
The focus groups have been asked to review the results, discuss them with colleagues, offer opinions about which issues seem most important, which might be “taken off the table,” and suggest which should receive the highest priority. In January, that discussion will be expanded to include the entire membership during a forum at the NCAA Convention.
As of November 9, when the interim report was compiled, 75 percent of Division III institutions had responded to the survey, which solicited an institutional response (involving CEOs and other campus constituencies) to 31 detailed questions. The questions focused on seven subject areas: management of growth; access to championships and other postseason opportunities; sport and program equity; academic success of student-athletes; cultural and campus integration; and conference affiliation.
More responses have been received from institutions since November 9, and NCAA staff researchers believe the final response rate will be about 80 percent. All responses will be included in a final report of the survey, which will be available prior to the Convention forum.
“I think that’s a really good response,” said Phillip Stone, president of Bridgewater College (Virginia) and chair of the Division III Presidents Council, who also chairs the Future of Division III—Phase II Oversight Group. “Because it was a very detailed survey, and almost necessarily had to have the involvement of at least the CEO and the athletics director to be an institutional response, I think it’s an outstanding response, and I’m very gratified by it. I feel like we can really use the information, and rely on it.”
The survey clearly indicates continuing support for the basic philosophies that institutions agree to abide by as Division III members.
“The majority strongly endorsed and affirmed an emphasis on academics in our institutions; we see the value of that and we all agree on that,” Stone said. “Some of the responses were really pretty overwhelming in terms of support for the values we’ve thought were crucial to the Division III way of business. That’s gratifying that we are not too split or so fragmented that we don’t have a sense of common purpose.
“As we look at the details, we’ll try to see if there is anything that invites us to go back to the membership and ask, do you want us to go in this direction or that direction?”
The virtual focus groups will take the first swing at interpreting what the responses mean, but those discussions mostly are intended to be a preliminary step toward discussion of the survey by the full membership during the Convention forum, said Suzanne Coffey, director of athletics at Bates College and chair of the Division III Management Council.
“I’m particularly interested in hearing from the VFGs how they think we ought to ask the questions at the forum. Those practical applications where the membership is widely dispersed from strongly support to strongly oppose are areas we have to flesh out, and I hope we’ll flesh those out at Convention forum. Meanwhile, the focus groups can assist us in framing the way we ask the questions at the forum.