NCAA Division III Breakout Session
(Tuesday, June 15, 9:30 - 10:20 a.m.)
Good morning. I'm Tim Gleason with the Ohio Athletic Conference and the NACDA Executive Committee. The Division III members of NACDA felt that nontraditional seasons was a good topic for us to discuss at this time. This has been a national topic swirling around the country for the last year. There is a sub-committee in place, which we will get into, which has worked with this issue. We thought this was a good opportunity for us to take a hip-check of where we were with this issue.
We have divided this panel up to give as many different angles and approaches to this as possible. We're going to spend a little time on the history of the legislation of nontraditional seasons and how we got to where we are right now. We're going to spend some time on the work of the sub-committee and the surveys that were mailed to you. We'll spend a little bit of time on the different aspects of nontraditional seasons, advantages, disadvantages, pros and cons, etc., We have four speakers for you today and we feel we're going to give you a good mix of what is floating around.
Before, we get into the program, I would like to introduce a non-speaker today, Bridget Belgiovine, from the NCAA and the Division III assistant chief of staff. Bridget is here on a question and answer resource position. Bridget brought a lot of the handouts you have in front of you. We would like to thank her for her presence and the materials and all of the help she gives to those of us in Division III.
We will begin the panel with a lady who needs no introduction in Division III. It's sad for us to be seeing her leave the athletics ranks. I will introduce her very simply by saying that Division III is a much better place for all of us now because Judy Sweet has been one of our caretakers.
Thank you Tim. I appreciate those kind words. It's really a pleasure for me to be with you this morning. It's somewhat ironic when I was asked to be a part of this panel. First of all, I went back and checked my records because I knew I had been a part of the initial discussions on playing and practice seasons. I was amazed I was able to find the Convention Proceedings in which playing and practice seasons were discussed, and that was in 1987. It was one of the first assignments I had as Division III vice president, so I've gone full circle as I'm completing my tenure as athletics director, that we're again talking about playing and practice seasons. There are a couple of people in the room today that I know were a part of those discussions that were on the Division III Steering Committee at the time. They will also be a good resource.
My assignment this morning is to give you some background on how we got to where we are today. In 1986, there was the recognition of the fact that the number of contests and the length of playing seasons really had no boundaries. I believe that was most well illustrated by the number of contests that were being played in the sport of baseball. My recollection is that there were 120 contests or more, being played at Division I institutions and there really was no control.
I'd like to read to you from the Division III Business Session in 1987, the thesis behind establishing playing and practice seasons and this is a sign of the times also. This was from Mary Barrett, many of you know, who proposed the adoption of Proposal 7. The special sub-committee to review playing seasons had three objectives in proposing this legislation. One, is to control costs in intercollegiate athletics; two, to afford student-athletes the opportunity to explore other aspects of college life; and three, to permit member-institutions a means by which to support broad-based athletics programs. This proposal is based on extensive study of prior patterns between varsity practice and competition in 33 men and women's sports.
Information was gathered from more than 1,000 written surveys, in-depth telephone interviews with selected coaches, as well as comments and suggestions from NCAA sports committees and collegiate coaching associations.
The Special Committee consisted of Division I, Division II and Division III representatives. It was very clear to those of us representing Division III that the issues were different for Division III than they were for Divisions I and II. That resulted in us going in a different direction. Everyone agreed that there needed to be some control placed on the length of playing seasons and ultimately, the number of contests. But, what exactly made sense was different for Division III than it was for I and II. Divisions I and II went in the direction of having a 26-week playing and practice season. Division III felt that was too long of a time period and it wouldn't allow for those students interested in playing more than one sport. It wouldn't allow for students to be engaged in other university activities.
There was some concern among the Division III committee members that there be consistency among all sports. That resulted from the discussions we had with coaches, with sports committees, with student-athletes. We did extensive research in trying to determine what would really make sense. As we looked at the differences between fall sports, winter sports and spring sports, the noticeable difference sports had one continuous season. The fall sports started in many instances before the academic year began and immediately went into competition and had a short season in comparison to the winter sports or the spring sports. The spring sports, depending on geographic locations, could start in January for the outdoor sports and go all the way through May. In some instances, there was a fall season where it made more sense to have competition in tennis or golf in those areas that didn't have the benefit of good climate.
The outcome of trying to have some consistency, looking at the winter sports and, quite honestly, basketball was the model that was used because no one wanted to dramatically change the basketball season. Twenty-one weeks was the decision that was made by the committee and brought to the membership. This allowed for what seemed to be a reasonable amount of time for practice and a reasonable competitive season. I will share with you that this was not without a lot of controversy. There was extensive debate on whether there even should be controls and if there were going to be controls, what they should be. There were those that felt that there should be no boundaries and then there were those that felt it should be an 18-week season or those that felt it should be a 15-week season, but ultimately, the consensus was that 21 weeks made the most sense. That was passed in 1987.
In 1988, things were refined a little more. Over the years, there has been some tweaking of the legislation, but there hasn't been any major changes. My understanding is that there is now some interest in revisiting this topic, which is always a healthy thing to do. Look at what made sense in 1987. Does it still make sense in 1999? I hope that background is helpful to you. After the other speakers complete their comments, if you have any questions, I would be happy to answer those for you. Thank you very much.
Thank you Judy. We have Al Bean with us here today. We have invited Al to give you an update of what the Division III Management Council sub-committee's work has been so far. There has been a one-year timetable for that committee. We are halfway through at this point. Al is the athletics director at Southern Maine. We're happy to have him with us here today.
Thank you. This is a very important discussion for Division III. It's my job to give you a timeline on where we are. If you remember back to the convention in January, there was a discussion on nontraditional seasons and there was a straw vote taken. At that time, the straw vote was pretty conclusive that the majority of people in the room wanted some sort of change to take place with nontraditional seasons. Although we didn't really talk specifics at that time, it was clearly evident that people wanted some change.
From that point, the Management Council put a sub-committee together and we developed a pilot survey that was sent to commissioners and selected independent institutions. We put together the results of that pilot survey. From that, we looked at the quality of the survey to see what questions seemed to be valid and what were the real issues. We then worked on putting together a final survey that we sent in March to all of the athletics directors and conference commissioners. We asked for a deadline of April for the results. We received about 42 percent of the surveys back. In the world of surveys, I understand that's not a bad return. You never know what that other 58 percent of the people are thinking. You're not sure if they're just not interested and just didn't do it.
In looking at the results of that survey, in the later part of May, we found the survey was somewhat inconclusive. If you look at all of the questions, there's very little you can discern from the results of the survey that would give you consensus on issues. Where there are differences, either pro or con, out of that 42 percent, the numbers are very slim. At this point, we are very interested in hearing more comments, more discussion, looking for input. The issue is important enough to the membership that we feel in order to move forward with legislation; there should be some sort of consensus on the issue. We're also very aware of the fact that there are some institutions and conferences that feel very strongly about this issue on both sides. Some are in favor of eliminating it completely. Some institutions and conferences want it to stay exactly as it is. If you had a chance to look at the comments, there were some extensive comments that came back in the survey. You could see that when we talk about the diversity of Division III, it's clearly laid out in front of you in the comments.
We would like consensus before we do propose legislation. We know there will be some suggestions coming forward from the membership. We also may still put something together and propose it from the Management Council and this committee. In order to do that, we know we might have to break this issue into pieces because there are a number of weeks, seasons, competition issues and it may be easier to reach consensus if we break it down rather than take it as the whole.
Our timetable at this point was to gather all of the information we could in July and look for more input from this conference and in fall meetings. We're going to discuss what we get for feedback from this meeting and from individual conferences. In October, we were going to look at legislation. The gist of what I'm saying today is there is still need for discussion, we're looking for input from you as member institutions and conferences. We still have a lot of discussion to do as a Management Council. As of now, the work that's been done and the survey results are relatively inconclusive. We still would like to move forward, so we welcome any comments or suggestions you have. Thank you very much.
Thank you Al. Next, we'd like to move into a discussion on the particulars of the nontraditonal season issue. What are the issues, what are the pros and cons, what do the students want, what's good for our institutions? Probably not coincidental, this morning on the front page of the sports section of USA Today was a wonderful Division III article. I'm sure many of you read that. In that article there were quotes about nontraditional seasons and the way Division III is set up. It's rather appropriate that it appeared today. Now, to get into the particulars is Bob Bunnell. I'm not sure if Bob is with Kenyon or Franklin & Marshall, but somewhere he is in between as athletics directors. I do know that he was athletics director at Kenyon for nine years. Shortly after this Convention, he'll be moving east to be athletics director at Franklin & Marshall. Bob would like to point out some opinions of his on nontraditional seasons. Bob.
Thank you Tim. I think officially this morning, I'm the athletics director of Interstate 70 somewhere between Ohio and Pennsylvania. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you some of my viewpoints of nontraditional seasons. Before I make some of these bold and brass statements, I'd like to make a few disclaimers. I am representing my own personal viewpoint and not necessarily the viewpoint of my current employer, Kenyon College or my future employer, Franklin & Marshall College. Additionally, my comments are not necessarily the viewpoint of either the North Coast Athletic Conference or the Centennial Conference. Today's presentation is a copyright presentation and any use of the pictures used in today's session, such as charging admission for their replay, is prohibited and cannot be repeated without the expressed written consent of the commissioner of baseball. This is a joke folks. Finally, please all sign your waivers of liability and drop them at the door on your way out. Now that these preliminaries have been attended to and the lawyer's fees have been paid, I'd like to get to the issue at hand.
I'd like to state my position very succinctly. I do not believe there should be any major restrictions on Division III nontraditional seasons beyond those which are already in place. Rather than debate myself, as there are certainly two sides to every issue, I'd like to offer a number of positions that support my contention. It's likely the counterpoint to my positions will be stated by one of our future speakers or certainly uttered in anguished tongues in the discussion portion that follows these presentations. You can call these statements of mine opinions, assertions, arguments, assumptions or presumptions, but please note these are heartfelt and seriously considered viewpoints which I've cultivated in more than 22 years in this business.
There's really no quantitative data from coaches or student-athletes and no clear mandate can be gleaned from the Management Council straw pole and survey. Throughout this presentation I will site various comments our colleagues have submitted to the Management Council Sub-Committee. I'm sure you are aware those comments were plentiful.
Position number one. Division III athletes have the same athletics desires as athletes in other divisions. They are not less competitive. They are not less determined to improve their skills or performance and, in fact, probably have a deeper commitment to the sport in that they're motivated intrinsically for the love of the game and playing and not via some scholarship or potential professional career. They have not expressed a desire to cut back. A number of years ago, when we were debating the 18-week season, the North Coast Athletic Conference did a survey at each of our institutions and we found the student-athletes did not want cutbacks. In fact, they wanted more contact and more activity. The major difference in athletes at Division III is their skill level, their size, their strength and power, not their heart or desire. Before we think about cutting back, let's do a market survey. Our market is our student-athletes. Let's ask them what they think.
One of the quotes from the survey said, "Just because we are a Division III institution doesn't mean that our athletes are less competitive. Maybe we should focus on carrying out the rules as opposed to modifying them."
Position number two. A big part of our business enterprise of higher education is finding and keeping students. Athletics are very important to recruitment and retention of students. Recruitment of those students is already extremely difficult. Why risk making it more difficult to yield these people by mandating a less significant athletics experience? These people are our customers. Since when do customers want less? Many student-athletes are leaders on our campuses and leadership is developed through athletics. Particularly in the fall for spring season teams, nontraditional seasons allow for initial student affiliations. They give students a peer group. They give students a way to identify with their institution and to make friends and, in many cases, keeps people in school.
Most student-athletes at Division III consider themselves serious athletes. Cutting back purposely on their experiences would send them the message that we're less serious than they are. There are plenty of arguments regarding this drain on staff and facilities. If we truly believe what we are doing and the programs we are providing are important and meaningful to these student-athletes, we have to continue to make arguments for additional resources on the basis that this is an investment in recruitment and retention of students and is money well spent.
A couple of quotes regarding this particular position are as follows. "We are not in favor of eliminating or modifying nontraditional seasons and believe this is an enrollment issue. The nontraditional season is as important at the Division III level as it is at the Division I and II levels. Any further modifications would create a greater gap." "The beauty of Division III is that it is able to legislate itself. We cannot abuse our athletes because they would stop participating. Administrators are able to make decisions that are good for the enrollment and educational imperatives of their institutions. We are only fooling ourselves if we seek to modify guidelines that were well thought out when they were put in place during the last decade. Let us not further diminish a now sometimes hard to sell athletics product."
Position number three. Assertions that nontraditional seasons have eliminated multi-sport athletes are false. The evaporation of multi-sports athletes is primarily a function of our culture and, secondly, an inability of athletics administrators to effectively direct their coaching staff. Many student-athletes have become specialized in high school. They self-select the sport or sports they want to pursue before they reach our campuses. Our American culture, with hyper-organized youth leagues, instruction, camps, team campus and stressful high school programs, have served to model and imprint a design at a young age. It's not our fault.
Many high school coaches don't allow kids to multi-sport already. They restrict off-season activity. The football coaches don't allow their football players to play baseball in the summer. Rather, they have to lift weights for their football preseason, which begins in about 15 minutes.
Why can't athletics directors just demand that their coaches support and encourage multi-sport athletes? Don't blame nontraditional seasons, just don't allow coaches to require that a student-athlete participate in nontraditional seasons in order to be on your team. Here are a few quotes in this regard. "It is our belief that nontraditional seasons should serve the purpose of team selection and team building. These seasons should not, however, penalize a multi-sport student-athlete who is participating or wants to participate in another sport. It is also imperative to have institutional control over these seasons as each institution has different circumstances. Secondly, I strongly feel that we deny a multi-sport athlete the opportunity to play multi-sports by all of the emphasis on lengthening seasons, adding nontraditional practices and contests." It isn't the athletes who want these long seasons and nontraditional athletes according to this person. It is the coaches.
Seasons are simply too long and inappropriate for Division III. If you can imagine this in capital letters and underlined, let's moderate natural professional enthusiasm of coaches. Now, there's a goal. Let's cut back on enthusiasm. The nontraditional is contrary to the spirit of Division III. It makes students full-time athletes. That is not what Division III should foster. It eliminates opportunities to be involved with other activities or even second sports.
Position four. Doing less or cutting back is counter intuitive to the thoughts of our culture and our institutions. Cutting back in un-American. We Americans are an aggressive, obsessive people. Our student-athletes are products of a generation that is constantly challenging itself to do more, do it faster and do it better. Why should we choose athletics participation as the medium to try to reverse this Cultural Revolution? What does it say about how we value our profession, the experiences we provide and the lessens that are learned through athletics participation? We provide unique educational opportunities for student-athletes. Some of our colleagues are proposing that we sacrifice some of these opportunities that are irreplaceable. I can't comprehend how we can devalue these experiences which define our profession.
Think about how many times you've heard someone say, "I learned more from my athletics experience than I did in all of my classes." Yesterday, Dr. Covey said that he felt his children's athletics experiences were at least as important, if not more important to their education and personal development as their formal educations. It seems that people outside our own profession better understand and appreciate the value of what we offer than some folks inside our profession. It boggles the mind.
Position five. Why don't we each just tend to our own garden, or can't we all just get along, or I've got enough of my own problems, I don't need yours and you don't need mine? If nontraditional seasons are a problem at your school, you have the power to fix that problem. We don't need national legislation to help what I think is a minority who have problems. Our resources and situations are different. We have to respond as each of us is able.
Ask your student-athletes if they want cutbacks. Then respond. We asked ours and they don't want cutbacks. Do we really have to protect student-athletes from over-aggressive coaches via national legislation? Consider the impact of cutbacks on recruitment and retention. Ask your administration how it feels.
Where does the Division III philosophy indicate that nontraditional seasons are contrary? It seems to me that nontraditional seasons support the concept of participation. Is that wrong? Just exactly how do nontraditional seasons negatively impact student-athletes as some of our colleagues would indicate? Can you think, as an athletics director, ever so briefly, about your coaches' goals and aspirations and how cut backs would impact them? Remember, they are professionals as well. Honestly examine why your coaches want nontraditional seasons. Could they possibly be interested in the welfare of student-athletes? Finally, who decreed that each school must have nontraditional seasons? It's not a rule.
To conclude, I would like to say that I appreciate the Management Council's willingness and desire to tackle these issues and to take the initiative to try to solicit input from institutions. The survey and the report of the survey was an impressive and, I'm certain, a very difficult undertaking. I also appreciate the opportunity to participate in this forum myself today as, obviously, I still have strong feelings about it.
I've been intentionally directional in my comments and purposely stated some positions that I know will be controversial. Don't take them personally. They are not intended to be, but rather an attempt to evoke some real meaningful, emotional discussion about this topic. I look forward to continued discussions on this issue and would welcome your questions or comments at the conclusion. It's clear we have much debate yet on this topic and many other issues in Division III. We have to take advantages of opportunities, such as this, to discuss this.
Thanks Bob. Our next speaker will also be intentionally directional. Dan Bridges is the athletics director at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges. He has just finished his first year in that capacity. Dan was the AD at Cal Tech for many years prior to that. We are happy to have him on this panel, as well.
Thank you Tim. I am responsible for the handout you received called Discussion, Alternative Playing and Practice Seasons Model. We have extra copies if you need them. I've been asked to speak in favor of modifying the current practice and playing seasons for Division III. In preparing this presentation, I spoke with several individuals on both sides of the issue. The majority of athletics administrators who favor no change seem to be either from institutions whose teams have serious weather concerns requiring them to conduct a fair number of contests during their nontraditional seasons, or from institutions that do not have serious weather concerns, but whose teams frequently take full, or at least substantial, advantage of the 21-week playing season's limit.
This suggests there may be two distinct groups on the no-change side of this issue, making it very difficult for us to properly assess and interpret the data received from the recent survey. Perhaps if we were to develop and present a creative model for change that appropriately addressed the needs of at least one of these groups, we might once again, get a clear message favoring change from the Division III membership just as we obtained during the straw vote at the last NCAA convention.
Already on the other side of this issue are a number of large institutions that would like to see our current model modified. These are institutions whose teams rarely, if ever, make use of the 21-week playing season. As many of you know, I'm from such an institution. Our conference allows neither competition nor full team practice during the nontraditional seasons. Our conference does, however, allow coaches to work with one or two athletes at a time during the nontraditional season, provided the practice sessions are voluntary and initiated at the request of the students.
I'd also like to mention that my interest in seeing the practice and playing seasons' model modified is strictly philosophical. Personally, I don't care if those of you whose teams are taking full advantage of the current nontraditional seasons are gaining some sort of competitive advantage. What really concerns me about the current playing and practice season's model is that it not only allows, but in some cases, actually encourages teams to play full 21-week schedules and place what many of us who favor change, believe are inappropriate, out of seasoned time demands on Division III coaches and student-athletes.
A prime example of this occurs in the sports of baseball and softball where the current Division III regulations restrict teams to a maximum of 36 contests during their typical 14 to 16 week traditional playing season. However, our current regulations reward these institutions by allowing them to play nine additional games if they conduct full fall ball programs. While the original intent of this extra contest provision may be admirable and completely justified, that is providing teams from weather affected parts of the country the opportunity to play a reasonable number of contests in their nontraditional season, it has also had the unfortunate side effect of allowing a number of baseball and softball programs from non-weather effected parts of the country the opportunity to conduct mandatory full-team practice over a 21-week period or approximately two-thirds of the academic year and play as many as 50 contests per year counting alumni games and tournament exemptions. There are a number of us who believe that if we really are primarily concerned about maximizing the overall educational experience for our student-athletes as the Division III Philosophy Statement suggests, then requiring student-athletes to make a 20- to 25-hour per week time commitment to any of our sports over a 21-week period, seems inappropriately excessive.
In my opinion, we should not only be encouraging students under our care to participate in a broad-range of developmental activities at our institutions, we should also take great care to insure they have enough time during the academic year to do so. I believe we are being inconsistent with our stated philosophy and do our student-athletes a disservice when we hold our own particular developmental activities in such high regard that we allow any one of them to dominate our student-athletes' time and attention for a period of time spanning two-thirds of the academic year.
I wish to encourage the Division III leadership to continue working on this issue. I'd like to see the membership have the opportunity to consider a model that continues to allow weather-affected institutions the opportunity to play a significant number of contests in the nontraditional seasons without providing non-weather affected institutions both the opportunity and extra contests incentives to conduct full 21-week practice and playing seasons.
This model I've put in your hands has been prepared and it gives you an idea of just one possible way of looking at this. This model suggests that all sports get 16-week playing seasons during which daily full team practice and competition is allowed. In addition, all teams would get 15 additional practice opportunities over a three to five-week limited contact period during which coaches could focus on player evaluation, fundamental skill development and out of season conditioning activities. You'll notice that I've recommended that spring and fall sports, except for football, could choose to divide their 16-week playing seasons into two distinct segments if they wish, but under no circumstances, would the total number of contests increase as a result of doing so.
It's not my intention to try to discuss this model in great detail. Obviously, it's just a skeleton. It's something I thought would be helpful to put in your hands to stimulate thoughts and discussion. I'm certainly not suggesting this is the only or the best approach to this issue. I'd like to encourage the membership to keep this issue on the table. Basing conclusions on this somewhat ambiguous, with all due respect, survey we filled out that wasn't really specific enough, we need to break it down. It's very difficult to tell why people responded as they did to this survey. To put too much stock into that at this time and give up on pursuing this further would be a terrible thing at this time.
The developing model such as I suggest would take a lot of communication, a lot of time and a lot of energy. Ultimately, it's in the best interest of our student-athletes and in the best interest of our division. I encourage us to keep pressure on the Division III leadership to at least try to develop such a model. If we all put our energies and creative time into this, I'm sure we can do it. Thank you.
Thank you Dan. Thus, concludes the presentation part of this panel. We're hoping to get some good dialogue today.
John Galaris from Salem State College. Dan, I have a question specifically aimed at what you were saying. I tend to agree with you. One of the questions I get from my spring and fall coaches is, "You talk about allowing the students to be students primarily, yet the winter sports play about 19 weeks and we're limited to 11 or 12 weeks. Where's the equity there? What is the difference? Explain it to me." To be honest with you, I don't have an answer.
I agree John. That's why I specifically suggested in this model that all sports get 16 weeks during which to conduct their practice, their real practice and playing season. With the fall sports, it's specifically in mind. That's an issue in our conference and I know it's an issue across the country. We hear the same thing from our coaches and we're very sensitive to that. We would like to be able to answer that by imposing further restrictions, or at least, bringing the spring sports into a tighter model and still allowing fall sports to conduct a competition in a nontraditional season.
Saying that everyone gets 16 weeks of actual playing season at least moves us in that direction. It's a good observation and that's exactly one of the issues we're trying to get out.
John Biddiscombe from Wesleyan University and also Division III Management Council. I'd like to take this opportunity to present a thought to you. I was very interested in Judy's comments about the role of the Steering Committee when playing and practice seasons were put into place. The Division III Management Council, at this time, finds themselves somewhat in the same situation the Steering Committee found themselves in 1988. In many ways, the information is rather inconclusive. We had a straw vote at the last convention that indicated there was interest in change in the traditional and nontraditional playing season legislation. We have the results of a survey that are rather inconclusive, however, if you look at the comments attached to the survey, most of those comments advocate some kind of change from the current situation which prevails.
One of the thoughts that have been provided to me about where we go from here is that the membership has a difficult time reacting to a survey that doesn't necessarily provide a case scenario of how that change will impact my institution. Therefore, unless there is some kind of definitive definition of what will be the change, it's difficult to respond to.
The hard work of the committee is going to provide the Management Council at our July meeting with food for thought and discussion. The challenge before the Management Council in recommending something for the presidents is how then we more clearly define the option, if there is to be another option. Some of this could come from legislation from the membership. However, we have not seen any specific legislation to this date. Some of it could come back from feedback at this time. The only other way is for the Management Council, just like the Steering Committee did in 1988, to take the leadership and try to create something we think reflects the sentiment of the membership, something that will address the current issues or problems or the specific relevant conference objectives we hear from the membership. That's where we are at this time.
If we could get any further specific ideas similar to what Dan has brought forth from your conference, institution that might be interested; it would be tremendously helpful. Otherwise, I think we have one or two options. The Management Council can create specific legislation that may react to some of the issues, or we can endorse the status quo and not come forward with any new proposals. Thank you.
Connee Zotos from Drew University. I don't have an absolute position on this. I understand both sides of the argument and have feelings for both sides of the argument. One thing I do want to say about Bob's presentation that I really agree with is that we, on our own campuses, can control this a lot more than we think we can. I'm not so sure that teams are getting much of a competitive advantage that take full advantage of the off season program.
At Drew University, we don't require off-season. We do limit it to four weeks of off -season unless you go three days a week and we let you go as long as six weeks. It's pretty much a 20 practice and playing date opportunity. We don't let teams use any indoor space. Our trainers and our equipment managers are in on the planning of off-season and if they say, no, that puts me two weeks in a row without a day off, you can't do it. You just have to work it out. We keep our budgets very small in the off-season, which doesn't allow much competition, if you're lucky. If you can, you get two teams to come to your place since we don't have much of a budget.
That's how we set our restrictions. Sometimes we're challenged a little bit. Coaches will ask if they could use fund raising money in the off-season budget to increase our games. We tell them that's not really the spirit of what we're trying to do here. Whether I want to make everybody be like us, I don't know. That's the age-old question, but I think you can really control it on your own campuses. I encourage you to do that for sure.
What worries me the most is that we have had to cancel several off-season contests in the last two or three years because the other school didn't provide a trainer. We didn't start calling ahead of time to make sure until we had some experiences four or five years ago when we sent teams and there were no trainers around. That's a real problem.
What I'm saying is that if you're going to support an off-season program at your institution, you've got to do it 100 percent.
I'm Chuck Gordon from Emory University. I would like to speak in favor of the nontraditional seasons. We have had a relatively successful athletics program at Emory based on a limited nontraditional season model. We don't take advantage of every date and we don't take advantage of every week. Our athletes enjoy this. We have many anecdotal successes of tennis players who are all-Americans who play soccer in the fall and enjoy it. We have athletes who opted out. We have many athletes who are abroad during their nontraditional seasons. We have others who choose not to for other campus activities. It's worked very well for us. It's allowed for development on an individual basis.
We have many very uplifting stories of students who didn't play soccer their first year because they wanted to get settled academically who come out in the spring and enjoy the experience. They come back out in the fall. We just graduated an all-American who did that. She only played three years of soccer. She chose to get her feet on the ground academically first. There are wonderful success stories based on limited opportunities.
As far as filling out these surveys could we support limited opportunities? Yes. Do we support dictating to others what they do on their campuses? I don't think so. We are a weather-advantaged institution. You are not going to level the playing field for golf if you're in Wisconsin and we're in Atlanta. Our golfers are going to play golf whether it's under our auspices or on their own. The level playing field concept is perhaps misguided. There are potholes and hills in that field. It's not just a single tilt in one direction.
Many institutions choose to favor one or two sports over a broad-based program. There are all kinds of things we do on our individual campuses that affect our success. Some of these issues, in the past, have been related to championships access. It's no longer a problem since now championships access is mainly controlled through your conference, control it at the conference level. If you don't want nontraditional practice in soccer, don't have it. In all likelihood, your access to the championships is only through your conference season in the fall. It doesn't matter anymore what someone in your region is doing. There aren't any at-large bids to compete for. It's much easier if national championships are your concern, to control it at the conference level now than it ever has been.
I think the individual institution's choice is a very positive one and many of us who support nontraditional seasons do not maximize our options.
Steve Terry from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I'd like to speak to the level playing field or equity in this issue and talk to Bob about his points, but primarily the issue of equity for all athletes. At Wisconsin-Stout, we have approximately 400 athletes. One hundred of those are football players. Our football season is limited to 10 to 12 weeks depending upon success. They have no opportunity for nontraditional playing seasons. That means 25 percent of our athletes don't get the advantages of what Bob talked about. I think we can level the playing field or meet his positions with limiting competition and taking a sincere look at Dan's proposals.
One of the other concerns I have is the sports information and athletics training in the facilities of nontraditional seasons and limiting the competition would help defray the resource management of those positions with facilities, sports information and athletics training. Thank you.
Rocky Carzo from Tufts University. I just have a question. Having gone through this for a very long time, much like Judy and some of the other people, in the data you sent out, I didn't see any concerns voiced about the inequities with respect to championship achievement. Those teams that had extra practice sessions won more championships than those that didn't. I didn't know whether that's a concern. Since I didn't see that represented anyplace, I felt the concerns about this legislation really have to do with what we say they have the least to do about and that's about staff and students. As athletics directors, we're responsible for managing those two constituencies in a way that reflects some equity in terms of their opportunities. It's extremely difficult to get valid data. If we think we can get valid data from students, that's a preposterous assumption. I don't know of any student-athlete on our campus that would say, yes, cut back the number of practice sessions, cut back the number of game and give me time to study and give me time to play other sports. They just don't react that way. If I went to any of our coaches, I would get the exact same response.
The point I'm trying to make is that it's a very difficult thing and it's going to come back to the responsibility of the managers of the programs. You're going to have to play God in each situation and decide if whether or not you're going to let your teams practice without trainers. Maybe legislating or mandating those things are a way of controlling it. But, it does cause problems. I don't know whether those kinds of competitions are in the best interest of the university, the students or your keeping your own job. I would have no personal reservations saying to teams that we're going to adhere to the rules. I know they're unpopular, I know you don't like them, I know your coaches are going to complain about them. Somewhere along the line we're going to have to bite the bullet and control things a little better. We have to control staff and we have to give students more opportunities. That staff doesn't just mean coaches.
Thank you. We've got a good crowd for the next session and I don't want to lose you. We can get started into the next session.