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35th NACDA Convention
Orlando, Florida
June 11-14, 2000

NCAA Division III Breakout Session
Nontraditional Seasons Update and Options
Monday, June 12, 10:00-10:45 a.m.

Tim Gleason

If we could ask everybody in the back to find a seat. There are some handouts on the chair in the middle of the room. Help yourself. I'd like to welcome everybody to this Division III Breakout Session on Nontraditional Seasons. My name is Tim Gleason. I'm the commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Conference. At the NCAA convention this past January, there was a proposal on the floor that would drastically change the way we look at nontraditional seasons. That proposal passed 150 some to 150 some and, of course, the lunchtime lobbying overturned that. I think we were sent a pretty good message and that is 150 some people wanted to look at the possibility of changing in the way we look at nontraditional seasons. That's why we're here today. We're here to continue that dialogue. We're here to see what directions may or may not be feasible.

To do so, we have the panelists. Dan Dutcher, the chief of staff for Division III for the NCAA, is here today. He will not be speaking, but he is available as a resource and for questions and answers. John Harvey and myself will throw out some possible ideas and some directions. We're not thinking we have any answers, we just want to keep the process moving and the dialogue going and keep everything afloat. Bridget Belgiovine, the Division III assistant chief of staff for the NCAA is here to give us a breakdown of the timetable, where we are and where we might be headed as far as process is concerned.

We'll start with Bridget.

Bridget Belgiovine

As you know, the governance structure has been dealing with nontraditional seasons probably pre-restructuring. We held off dealing with it until the new structure came into being and then spent the better part of that last two years addressing the issue of nontraditional seasons within the structure of the playing and practice seasons legislative bylaws.

Tim indicated what happened in January of 2000. Briefly, let me give you where the structure is from January on. I don't think we need to rehash before that. As you know, at the convention, there was legislative proposal number 55 on the floor. It was perhaps one of the closest votes, although we're still not sure because of the issue with the voting units that we had, but it was a 50-50 split.

After the convention, at the Post-Convention Meeting, the councils both agreed they would continue to discuss this issue at their upcoming April meetings. At that point, the request was made to the membership. Basically, what the governance structure was doing, was saying to the membership we came forward in 2000 with a proposal and it, obviously, wasn't approved by the majority and now it's going to back in the hands of the membership. So, from January at the close of the convention until the April Council Meetings, we solicited member feedback and did get a great deal of proposals. Some were in letter form, some in bullet form.

At the April meeting, the Management Councils Playing and Practice Sub-Committee spent three hours discussing the issue and came out of that meeting with an agreement on two major areas. They were recommending the Council sponsor legislation to prohibit missed class time and overnight travel for competition in the nontraditional segment for all sports except golf and tennis. Quite honestly, that sub-committee was as split as the membership even in their discussion at that meeting.

That recommendation was then forwarded to the Management Council. They recommended the presidents sponsor legislation to prohibit missed class time and overnight travel for competition in the nontraditional segment for all sport except one event for golf and one event for tennis. That was realizing what the golf and tennis community had communicated over the previous year. That was forwarded to the presidents and after a lengthy discussion by the members of the Presidents Council, they did not approve the Management Council recommendation. In fact, they agreed to encourage the membership to continue to dialogue and to present proposals to them that they would review again at their August meetings. They were very clear in their discussions that all the membership seems to be split and not clear on a particular direction. Their sense was, if the issue is such a concern and one that the membership does care about, this is the membership's opportunity to come forward with some legislation to do what it is you, as a Division III membership, want to do.

Here's what they noted in their response. They are interested in a broad approach to address the issue, not singular sports. They were wanting and identified the importance of presidential leadership, involvement and input. They recognized whatever would come forward at their July meeting, if proposals were to come forward, they would then take an active role in dealing with their presidential colleagues on the issues.

There was some support for missed class time, but they thought it didn't go far enough. The prohibition against overnight travel, they felt was too regulatory given where some institutions are and it creates some safety and equity concerns by forcing people to come back what may be late in the evening for a trip simply because you said there was no overnight travel. Then, we're not here. We can tell you that July 15 is the legislative deadline for the membership to submit proposals that the councils would then review at their July and August meeting.

There is a whole series of other issues that are in the timeline. If there are any questions relative to specifics about legislation, Dan could address those at then end of this session. I would just note that in terms of submission of legislation, we require there be eight or more active institutions sign on, and the signature must be from the CEO of those institutions, or a Division III conference, which has eight or more members again, needing CEO authority and final signature.

That's it from a time perspective.

Tim Gleason

Thank you Bridget. John Harvey is the director of athletics at Carnegie Mellon University. John is former chair of Division III. He needs no introduction.

John Harvey

I appreciate the opportunity to continue this discussion on possible revisions or reshaping of what we currently do with nontraditional activity. I know many people are completely against any further restrictions on nontraditional activity, while many others are in favor of some sort of reshaping or control of nontraditional activity.

A number of Division III administrators talked to me after January's convention and definitely felt that Proposal 55 was not the answer. It didn't directly address what we had been hearing where the primary difficulties with nontraditional activities were. This is at least true for those people who felt that some restrictions were needed. That is, Prop 55 didn't directly reduce the impact on facilities. It didn't reduce the impact on staff or other resources, etc. It simply said no competition in the nontraditional seasons.

Proposal 55 also initially referred to all sports. As you know, and that was definitely a problem for a lot of people because it included such sports as tennis and golf where we really didn't think there was a problem.

Even with these difficulties in Prop 55, the vote was somewhere in the vicinity to 155 to 154. It was a close vote, a very slim majority. Coming away from that January convention, I didn't feel we were in a satisfactory position. I felt the vote was not compelling. There certainly wasn't a real mandate to go ahead even though the vote won by a slight majority.

So, in the past four or five months, I've been trying to contact quite a few conferences and individuals to see what they were currently thinking and to gain as great a variety of ideas and possibilities I could. Leon Lunder is here today. He is head of our Division III Athletics Administrators. He sent out a survey and the response to that survey was in the number of 100 respondents and a great variety of ideas came from that survey. They didn't imply any particular direction, but nevertheless, a lot of good information.

I've taken everything I've pulled together, and from what we've heard from Leon's survey, to try to shake it all down into some sort of fairly simple and basic principles or provisions that were widely represented. I don't know if they were in the majority of people's minds or not, but were definitely represented in all of the material we gathered. We hoped to find some adequate moderate position or a base from which to start.

I want to add that I haven't been in favor of pursuing something if there wasn't a strong indication that a lot of people felt it was worth the effort. I didn't want to go ahead of I couldn't get a feeling of very great interest that would lead us to think that we should continue this whole thing.

I was deterred by the report Bridget gave coming from the Management Council and the Presidents Council that they didn't really agree in either of those groups on many basic principles, but they sent it back to us, to the membership, to come up with what we felt was the appropriate course to take at this point. That is the best way.

In the last month or so, I have heard from several conferences, ones that I hadn't thought were interested in some sort of restrictions on nontraditional activity. Now, they are coming forward and saying they do favor some sort of legislation instead of 55 and they would support a moderate proposal that will establish a few selected guidelines or base points for restrictions.

Most people were saying we shouldn't get into too many specifics, too many restrictions and we shouldn't put a limit so much that institutions and conferences have reduced flexibility and reduced options. The idea would be that if anything does come forward, there should be proposals that are basic and widely accepted. From that base point, conferences and individual institutions can add further restrictions, if they like.

My own conference institutions feel, and quite a few others that I've heard from feel, that certain restrictions, certain policies are most appropriately left in the hands of the those conferences and institutions.

The provisions that seem to be the most favored are the following. First, any legislation that comes forward should not apply to individual sports. It should really just apply to six team sports. Those team sports that we traditionally play in the fall, such as soccer, volleyball and field hockey would then use the spring season for their nontraditional activity. The spring sports such as baseball, softball and lacrosse would use the fall season. Those would really be the only six sports that most people are considering some possible restrictions. Tennis and golf would be left out.

There should be a restriction saying that no classes should be missed for nontraditional practice or competition.

A third point that quite a few people brought up is that we need some sort of defined window within each semester for this nontraditional activity to take place. Most liberally, a number of people mentioned either a five- or six-week window. Some sort of defined window in each of those semesters that nontraditional activities should take place; more restricted people, let's say four weeks. You have to have three sessions per week for four weeks. That seemed to be a little bit too tight for a lot of places and not allowing for enough individual difference as far as seasons. The suggestion seemed to be better to say a six-week window in each the spring and the fall during which you could do your nontraditional activity, whatever amounts your wanted. To put a date on that is one other provision that a lot of people put forward. That six-week window should finish in the fall by about November 1. In the spring, that six-week window should not start until March 1 to accommodate basketball, etc. At least, if you were going to have a window, there would be some sort of focus. Each institution could pick whatever six weeks they wanted and use them, as they wanted depending upon their weather and on their particular use of their facilities and all other conditions appropriate to that institution.

Beyond those four things, folks wanted to focus on six team sports, not missing any classes, having a six-week window and having that window defined by dates to a degree. Those were about the only four things that I would say approached even a consensus of the material I heard. Even those, I'm sure, are more than a number of institutions want, but I put those forward simply as a basic starting point that would have much larger degrees of support than other proposals. I'd like to see if there is going to be any legislation that works, a better or a more mandating resolve than a 157 to 154.

I would just put those ideas forward as a lower-level base from which to start discussions and from which institutions could begin to think about proposing. This material was based on quite a bit of input over the last four to five months.

I'll leave it at that, but hope that a lot of people would identify themselves if they are interested in further restraints on nontraditional seasons so that other institutions may find common support and common interest in something like this.

Tim Gleason

One of the complications of this whole issue is that it is so fragmented we end up with almost a plurality instead of a majority. There are so many different ways of looking at nontraditional seasons that you don't get on this side of the fence or on that side of the fence, because there are too many splintered ways of looking at it.

One approach to nontraditional seasons is to look at a hierarchy of activity and divide the fall sports from the spring sports and divide practice from play. Now, if you are of the mindset that we need to treat all sports the same, you're not going to like this. If you are of the mindset that we can treat things fairly without necessarily being the same, then this might be an approach to help us get to some kind of a resolve.

We already inherently don't treat all sports the same. We allow 45 baseball and softball games and 24 basketball games. Why 16 in wrestling and only nine in cross country? We already look at sports from their individual needs' standpoint, so we don't necessarily have to be the same. We know there are big differences between the fall and the spring. If we try to paint everything with a broad brush, we may not come to an answer. If we look at fall as being different from spring, we might be able to come to some conclusion.

We know that in the fall when the season is done, the season is done. The year is over. With the spring sports, in the nontraditional season, we know the season is still ahead. We know that with the fall sports, when the season is done, the seniors leave. You don't know who your freshmen are going to be coming in next year. In the spring sports, you know what your squad is like during the nontraditional fall time, so there's a difference.

We know there's a difference in weather. The spring sports are very frustrated in the northeast. This is what I heard more than anything when the vote was overturned at the NCAA convention. There were a lot of schools in the northeast, where baseball and softball were concerned, where weather was a big factor. We know that weather is a big factor for spring sports to be able to get out in the fall and do some activity, whereas in the fall, weather is not the same factor. We know there's a difference.

We also know there's a difference with freshmen retention. If you're a spring sport coach and you have to wait all those months before you come in first contact with your student-athletes, that's tough. But, in the fall, you come in contact with your student-athletes before class has even started. There's a difference between the spring and the fall.

We divided practice and play. Let's just look at a hierarchy of activity. The first being nothing, where we do not allow any fall sports to practice or play in the spring, we do not allow any spring sports to practice and play in the fall. That is, obviously, the most restrictive level on this hierarchy. The next level is to allow your spring sports, for all of the reasons I talked about, to get out and practice in the fall, but don't allow competition and then don't allow the fall sports to do anything in the spring. We already have differences. Why do we allow soccer and volleyball to practice and play in the spring and we don't allow football? We already recognize there are some differences.

The third level is to allow both spring and fall to practice in their nontraditional seasons, but allow neither to play. The fourth level is to allow the spring sports to practice and play, but allow the fall sports to do neither practice nor play. Levels three and four are close together.

The next level is to allow your fall sports to practice in the spring, but don't play; and to allow your spring sports to both practice and play. The final level is to level six, which is to allow everything. Allow your fall to practice and play, allow your spring to practice and play.

If we were to get some kind of a feel for where institutions fall on this hierarchy, we might be able to come up with some kind of a point where we say, 50 or 60 percent happens to like a certain level and that may be where we can come up with a proposal.

Just as a straw sample of this, how many of you are for level one? How about level two? Not too many. How many people like level three? We're getting more and more. How many people like level four? How many people like level five? Level six? Okay, there's your plurality. There's where it is fragmented. If we were to be able to see where, on that hierarchy, where there was the 50 percent mark, you might be able to come up with your answer. In our league, we're at level two. If there was a proposal that came forward that represented level three, you'd get all 10 of our votes. We're more restrictive and even though that's not as far back as where we are, that is at least coming a distance from where it is.

This is just a certain approach to look at.

From the Floor

Perhaps the most intelligent proposal I've heard on this debate is segregating out the team sports from the individual sports. I think that's an important concept. I have some concerns about proposals of putting dates and numbers of weeks around whatever we do because when we did that for the 21-week playing season, suddenly we enabled coaches to extend their season. When you start putting specific timeframes around practice and playing seasons, particularly in the nontraditional season, we've already got a control with 21 weeks. If we start saying you can only go four or five or six weeks, in many cases, that may be an expansion of what already exists.

We shouldn't lose sight of that because that's exactly what happened with the 21-week proposal when we passed it a number of years ago thinking we were eliminating it. I do like the segregation of the team sport from the individual sports. I think that's a very important first step.

John Harvey

Quite a few people did feel that 21 weeks, as we now have it, was quite a bit and that some cut back from that should be made. The alternative is one that I mentioned that rather than saying in the total number of weeks available, you cut from 21 to 19 or 21 to 18. Instead of that, they focus on, in each semester, saying the window would be six or five weeks or whatever, in the fall and the same in the spring. That, in effect, would achieve what some people would have wanted through cutting from 21 to 19. There are alternatives there if you do feel that 21 is too much.

From The Floor

I've got a question. Has there been conversation on level 3 about game limitation?

Tim Gleason

This has just been a very broad, general way of looking at it.

From the Floor

I understand that, but if you're looking at nine and 36 and your eliminate nine and say you're only going to have 36 spring sports, you may get more negative reaction. Personally, they are tied together and that's why I'm trying to resolve the issue myself.

Tim Gleason

I would think that you want to reach the point to where you can find a majority of people that would be happy with what the change is. For example, when we just took all of your votes, I would be willing to say that 70, 75 percent of you were on level five or earlier. That means if there was a proposal put forward, level five proposal, that might receive a positive vote.

My whole point is to look at it piece-by-piece, until we find a point to where we can get a majority of people. If what you're saying, with the number of contests, if that makes a big difference, we need to look at that.

From the Floor

Tim, can we speak for a moment about the calendar. We look at fall sports, spring sports, individual sports, play, practice, we've got all sorts of variables. It seems as though that perhaps one of the common bonds is, how long are we allowing our student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics for the given year? In our case, we have an academic calendar of 32 weeks. If we allow our student-athletes to be in one sport for 21 of those weeks, that's two-thirds of the academic year. Perhaps that's a significant amount.

If we look at perhaps how long the seasons should go, John mentioned 19 weeks. In our conference, we've spoken about 18 weeks. Having a reasonable amount of time, we all have different demographics and things that we deal with. Perhaps trying to legislate what we can do isn't as effective as how long we're allowed to do it. If we look at an 18- or 19-week calendar, I would personally like 18 weeks, but if we look at some sort of calendar, let's just do what we want to do when we need to do it. It just doesn't give us the window of opportunity to do it. More is not always better.

John Schael

When I look at your chart, Tim, I like level five. It makes a lot of sense. One thing we have to remember is that whatever we pass at the next convention, that our conferences themselves can be more restrictive than any legislation that is passed. You're never going to have a perfectas of legislation.

The second remark has to do with football. You selected your six-team sports. Why do we continually exclude football from the equation? We have lots of young men who participate in the sport and we always exclude them as if they were outcasts.

Tim Gleason

John, I've been asking that question for 10 years and haven't been able to get an answer.

John Schael

I've tried for a long time too. Maybe we can give consideration to including football. I think that was one of the downfalls last year when we gave the exemption to tennis and golf. I don't think too many people felt that was a fair way to treat student-athletes, because we were not being equitable across the board. Maybe you can give some consideration even if it's reduced time. There is some value in allowing a football team to come together as a team in the spring for some defined practice opportunities. Thank you.

John Harvey

John, a lot of people brought that up. There clearly wasn't an equity among sports. Football, for example, being another team sport, which finishes in the fall and has nothing more, is not considered in a lot of these things. Personally, on the basis of equity, I would agree somewhere up the road, it would be good to have some sort of compensation or offering for football, as well. That had some support in what I've heard and read.

Chuck Emroy

Our student-athletes aren't always right, but if you offered them level five and said you can practice, but you can never play, it would be an unpalatable choice for them. Restrict the number of times they can play perhaps, but giving them a chance to test their skills against other teams.

On our campus, the fall sports, we're challenging academic institutions. Sometimes athletes chose not to get involved in the fall because of perceived pressures in academics and inability to handle both academics and athletics. At our place, that's been female athletes who don't chose to go out for fall sports because they feel they need to get their feet on the ground academically. They accomplish that during the fall, realize they can handle it, come out during the spring and do tryout for soccer and volleyball. We've had very successful stories. All-Americans in soccer who didn't play their freshman year because of perceived academic difficulties, they met those, came out in spring, had a chance to meet their teammates for next fall, practiced with the coach and played a couple of games. I don't see anything wrong with that. Limiting their time with the coaches and going less weeks than 21 is going to be difficult.

Probably the most dangerous thing we do on our campus with our athletes is the basketball preseason where eight athletes are in and a couple of guys join in for a pick-up game in September, and somebody gets undercut or hurt and the horror stories across campus are there. I'd rather see them in our control under our play, getting to the training room to be taped and taken care of, than throwing them back out into the mix. If we don't have any practice or play, soccer players will be playing in soccer leagues available in cities; volleyball will be playing USVBA. Student-athletes will not stop playing. We need to figure out a way to do this appropriately, under our control, guidance and safety.

Annette Shapiro

I'm Annette Shapiro from Nazareth College. The students are our clients. Everybody saw what they did at that NCAA convention. I'm also the SAAC advisor. How many schools have really gone to the student and polled their opinion? Our opinion was 100 percent, with control, for practice and play in the nontraditional season.

Tim Gleason

We might want to be careful about letting the student-athletes dictate what's good for them. Sometimes they don't always know what's good for them and they're not in the position, they don't have the maturity to make that decision. Otherwise, you'd have campuses where classes don't begin before noon and potato chips and candy are their lunchtime meal and the vending machines would be filled with Miller Lite. We need to figure out at what point do we want to take their input and at what point do we need to decide that we, as adults, know what's better for them.

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson, from North Central College and also chair of the Division III Management Council. I can tell you that the Management Council has spent a lot of time since the convention discussing this issue. As a member of the Presidents Council via the Management Council's position, I had an opportunity to listen to the presidents discuss it. There is one reality that really shows true through the whole process. We have spent all the time we can possibly spend looking at this issue from a Management Council and Presidents Council's perspective. If any action is going to take place at all, it is going to have to come from the membership.

These discussions are very good, but if we leave here and we leave the discussion here and we take no further action, either via our conference or like institutions who are willing to put forth legislation to get this discussion on the table before the full membership, it's just a discussion and we will continue with business as usual. If there is no passion to make a change, then we will see that. If there is a passion to make a change, these discussions are pertinent because, hopefully, they will spearhead additional discussions back on your campuses and in your conferences and we will see some action.

Tim Gleason

Thank you Walter. That's a good way of wrapping this up. We need to move on to our next session. The bottom line to this is that the membership is going to be looked upon to drive the answer for this. It is not going to come from the Management Council, it's going to become from the membership. We need to keep looking at it. We appreciate your attention.