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By Gary Brown
In its review of legislation for the NCAA Convention, the Division III Management Council at its Oct. 18-19 meeting became most energized over a proposal on which it ended up taking no position. The action – or non-action, as it turned out – was not because of indifference, however.
Rather, the Council wants the Division III membership to vote at the 2011 Convention without a recommendation from the governance structure on the issue of whether student-athletes should be able to earmark their own fundraising efforts up to the actual and necessary expenses for the item in question (for example, a spring trip, uniforms or an international tour).
If the Presidents Council agrees with the “no-position” approach at its meeting next week, it will position Division III delegates to decide an issue that has generated strong feelings throughout the year.
It began at the 2010 Convention when the Management Council considered a recommendation in Atlanta to allow institutions to “earmark” or designate specific funds “earned” by an individual student-athlete toward his or her fundraising obligation. Current legislation prohibits crediting fundraising proceeds to individual student-athletes, except for donations from family members. The Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee recommended changing the legislation, in recognition that some student-athletes may devote more time to team fundraising activities and should be credited for their effort.
However, the Management Council struggled with questions of whether it is appropriate to credit an individual student-athlete for raising funds for a team’s benefit. It also was unclear about what types of fundraising might be permitted under such a scenario.
The Interpretations and Legislation Committee supported crediting student-athletes for funds raised by “volunteering or working a fund-raising activity,” listing examples such as working concessions or ticket booths or serving as an usher. It also specified activities for which it believed designation of specific funds should be prohibited, including selling goods, writing letters to solicit donations or participating in events featuring athletics ability.
The Division III Presidents Council suggested that, without a consensus within the governance structure, it was better to defer to the membership to create alternative proposals.
With that alternative now in the cycle (Proposal No. 2011-2-4, which is similar to the concept the Interpretations and Legislation Committee offered 10 months ago), various governance groups have had the same difficulty reaching a consensus, resulting in split votes in almost every case.
Supporters say it provides increased institutional autonomy to manage fundraising activities within reasonable parameters to prevent abuse. Opponents, though, worry that it detracts from the team concept and that it may force student-athletes into fundraising when they may have another greater commitment (for example, a heavy class load in the nontraditional semester).
Even at Monday’s Management Council meeting, an initial vote on the measure passed, 9-7, only to be reconsidered by a member on the prevailing side. That was followed by the Council’s decision to take no position.
“The closeness of the vote in just about every situation in which the matter has been discussed is a signal that the membership needs to be the decision-maker on this one,” said Management Council chair Lynn Oberbillig, the athletics director at Smith College. “Of course, the membership is the deciding factor on all Convention legislation, but for this particular proposal, the Management Council believes it is appropriate for there to be no support or opposition from the governance structure to influence the discussion on the Convention floor.”
Another proposal that stirred Council debate concerns whether to permit certified strength and conditioning personnel to conduct voluntary workouts for student-athletes. While sponsors of Proposal No. 2011-2-9 (the Great Northeast Athletic, Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic, Little East, Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic and Upper Midwest Athletic Conferences) believe student-athletes should be able to take advantage of the benefits such workouts would afford, some people are concerned that the measure could compromise the nature of “voluntary” workouts, particularly if the strength and conditioning personnel also have coaching duties with specific teams.
The Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee earlier this fall took no position on the base proposal but did offer two amendments that it believes may address the concerns. One would have allowed the workouts only if the service is available to all students, while the other would restrict them to the academic year.
The Management Council thought the first amendment was not practical, since few non-student-athletes could be expected to know that the service was available to them. In addition, if availability of the service was communicated effectively, few Division III athletics staffs could provide the personnel to handle it.
Management Council members did approve the second amendment, however, though some members still liked the idea of the year-round availability, since many student-athletes stay on campus during the summer. That group carried the day on the Council’s vote to support the base proposal, which means that the Management Council will forward its support for both year-round workout availability and a truncated version to the Presidents Council next week.
The proposal is not a significant expansion beyond what is currently permitted, since student-athletes can have strength and conditioning staff write and supervise workouts now. The amendment does not represent significant expansion if the activities are truly voluntary, as required by the proposal.
The Management Council also supported a proposal (No. 2011-2-8) that would allow student-athletes to compete in triathlons without affecting their sport eligibility (for example, in cross country, track and field, or swimming) while still adhering to amateurism standards. Council members noted that triathlon is a separate sport and should be treated as such for outside competition purposes. Also, the proposal requires the participant to compete in all three legs of the triathlon (rather than as part of a relay approach).
Management Council members also took positions on proposals affecting bench sizes at the championship site in various sports, as well as on measures regulating promotional activities. Click here for that story.