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By David Pickle
Division II found itself in an unusual position at the conclusion of the 2013 Convention with attention focusing more on what delegates did not approve more than on what they did.
Delegates on Saturday considered a 13-proposal package and approved 10 legislative items. But the three proposals that were defeated all were sponsored by the NCAA Presidents Council, and two of them had generated significant pre-Convention discussion.
Specifically, the delegates voted down Proposal Nos. 2013-7 (deregulation of campus recruiting visits), 2013-9 (expansion of an international member pilot program to Mexico) and 2013-11 (submission of a transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center before signing a National Letter of Intent).
The defeat of No. 2013-7 appeared to hinge entirely on a provision that would have eliminated a 48-hour restriction on campus visits. Proponents for the proposal argued that removing the restriction would ease burden for rules compliance staffs without significant adverse effects.
Initial debate on the proposal was brief, with only Lincoln (Pa.) Senior Woman Administrator Natashia Wilson speaking in opposition. “Amending the length of the 48-hour restriction would provide a recruiting advantage to those institutions with more financial resources,” she said.
The vote originally passed by a count of 141-139-1, but it was brought back during the window of reconsideration about an hour later.
This time, the debate opened up, with opposition becoming more vocal.
Dan Mara, commissioner of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, said the proposal “would tilt the level playing field.”
Bob Boerigter, commissioner of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and incoming chair of the Management Council, countered that the proposal was consistent with recent shifts in recruiting philosophy. “Many expressed similar concerns with the recruiting proposals that were approved in 2012 (deregulating modes of recruiting communication), but the feedback on those changes has been positive.”
However, others expressed concern about how the rule could be exploited.
Alaska Anchorage Associate Athletics Director Dede Allen endorsed the proposal, claiming that recruits to her institution could benefit from rest after the lengthy travel. Pacific West Conference Commissioner Bob Hogue said his institutions were just as geographically challenged and they opposed removal of the restriction.
SAAC chair Hilary Cox of North Georgia noted her committee’s support for the proposal, but West Chester AD Ed Matejkovic said his campus SAAC opposed the provision.
The question was finally called and the proposal failed, 102-160-2.
Boerigter said the resistance to the proposal almost certainly had to do with elimination of the 48-hour restriction.
“Based on the comments and the way the vote shifted, the membership wanted to divide that issue,” he said. “And so I think we’re going to see the thing come back next year under a divided issue and they’ll vote on it under that premise.”
The vote on No. 2013-9 to extend the international member pilot program to Mexico was equally close, failing 133-137 with 14 abstentions. There was no debate on the matter, with the only discussion being movement of the proposal and a subsequent Presidents Council endorsement.
“There’s been a lot of stuff about Mexico in the news and I think some people were uneasy about that,” said Boerigter. “But we have so many schools in the continental United States that want to become members of Division II, and maybe that was part of it right there.”
He added that the vote “was disappointing for the Lone Star Conference,” which was exploring options with institutions in northern Mexico.
Lone Star Conference officials were in fact disappointed.
“There really wasn’t that much discussion on the floor so it’s kind of hard to understand what the logic was in voting no,” said Pat O’Brien, Presidents Council chair and president of West Texas A&M. “My guess is a lot of individuals don’t necessarily see the benefits that it would derive for, say, the Lone Star Conference or with schools that are located in the Southwest. And if they don’t see the value for them, they just vote no.”
O’Brien said safety apprehensions still exist, although he believes they are ill-founded. Also, there’s the matter of visa problems for international athletes playing on existing NCAA teams.
“I think all that can be worked out,” he said. “Maybe we need to figure out a way in which the NCAA can help facilitate with the government getting visas for international students so that we can have international travel.”
Although disappointed, Lone Star Conference Commissioner Stan Wagnon was more upbeat several hours later after a conversation with Mexican officials.
“I shared the results with administrators from Monterrey Tech via email and received an immediate phone call in return,” he said. “I was encouraged by that conversation, and it appears to me that the leadership at Monterrey Tech, at least regarding their institution’s interests, is willing to accept the result of today’s vote as a challenge to prove over the next year all the reasons why the Division II membership should reconsider this proposal in the future.”
Wagnon – who acknowledged that two LSC schools voted against the proposal − suggested that a next step might be for the Division II Presidents Council, or perhaps the Lone Star Conference, to work with Monterrey Tech over the next year to develop a plan that would address concerns, answer questions and ultimately provide the basis for a decision about whether it is viable for Monterrey Tech to pursue to Division II membership.
“If those efforts result in a plan that Monterrey Tech finds viable, that same plan might result in the necessary information for our conference and the Division II membership in general to consider going forward,” Wagnon said.
In the meantime, Wagnon reiterated to Monterrey Tech officials the conference’s hope they will accept an offer for the school to play in the LSC’s Football Festival event at Cowboys Stadium in September. “That could be a significant opportunity for our conference and perhaps all of Division II to get an up-close look and become more familiar with the institution, its operating procedures and its competitive abilities,” he said.
The failure of the other Convention proposal, No. 2013-11, was more straightforward. The proposal, which would have specified that institutions could not permit most student-athletes to sign a National Letter of Intent or athletically related financial aid until the NCAA Eligibility Center has received all relevant official high school transcripts through his or her sixth semester of enrollment, was defeated 121-155.
Again, there was no debate on the proposal. However, Boerigter heard afterward that delegates may have felt the proposal did not meet the Ease of Burden test.
“I was told that some compliance people were concerned about tracking all that – that it was going to add burden rather than ease burden,” Boerigter said. “I was quite surprised by that, quite frankly.”