Life in the Balance Proposals Being Considered for Division II
By Gary Brown
The NCAA News
In an intercollegiate athletics landscape often criticized for its excesses, Division II presidents and chancellors are supporting a package designed to rein in the division's playing and practice seasons - and the spending that comes with them.
The four-proposal Life in the Balance package that Division II delegates will consider at the January 16 business session in Atlanta addresses what a recent Knight Commission survey of presidents cited as a primary concern: the inability to moderate athletics.
If approved, though, the four Division II proposals would reduce contests in 10 sports, shorten seasons by a week in six, reduce the financial burden on institutions by allowing fall-sport student-athletes to report a week later and introduce a seven-day dead period over the winter holiday break.
The later arrival date for fall-sport student-athletes is especially financially friendly for institutions since it reduces the time when only student-athletes are on campus. And since the proposal also shaves a week off the fall sports (except football, which recouped it by moving its championship back), it does not alter the preseason practice and conditioning time for student-athletes. The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, in fact, reviewed the Life in the Balance package and agreed that it did not compromise student-athlete health and safety.
Though the package emerged from a presidential concern that playing and practice seasons did not align with the division's strategic-positioning platform, the proposals were well-vetted with conference commissioners, athletics directors, faculty members and others who sought relief from "season creep" and escalating costs.
While not everyone in the division endorses the idea of scaling back, the Division II governance structure backs the proposals, along with Division II members of the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association, which endorsed all the proposals except the dead period for winter sports (they would prefer institutions being able to declare their own seven-day period rather than a prescribed week off). In addition, the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee recently agreed to support three of the four proposals (taking no position on the other) and said they were prepared to speak in favor of the package on the Convention floor.
Meanwhile, the Division II Presidents Council continues to urge fellow presidents and chancellors to vote yes on the entirety of the package.
"In some ways, we're like a potter with a piece of clay who shapes a form - but a sudden movement makes the form come apart," said Presidents Council chair Stephen Jordan. "Division II presidents are shaping this initiative called Life in the Balance, and we don't want it to come apart. We believe what we're doing accurately reflects our institutional and divisional missions, but we're also asking whether we are shaping the best whole person that we can.
"That's a judgment call about the mixture we've put in the clay. We have athletics, academics, community engagement and all these activities on campus that we think help a person to grow intellectually, emotionally and socially. We think the ingredients are not bad but they're not quite right and that we need to make an adjustment in continuing this shaping process."
The package for the 2010 Convention is Phase I of a more comprehensive review. The Presidents Council already has charged the governance structure with reviewing exempted contests and nontraditional seasons as possible areas from which to cut back. Those proposals are expected to emerge for the 2011 Convention.
Life in the Balance proposals for the 2010 Convention
- Reduce contests in men's and women's soccer (from 20 to 18), field hockey (from 20 to 18), women's volleyball (from 28 to 26), baseball (from 56 to 50), men's and women's basketball (from 27 to 26), men's and women's golf (from 24 dates to 21) and softball (by eliminating the tournament exception).
- Reduce the length of seasons in soccer, volleyball, field hockey and cross country by allowing student-athletes to report 17 days before the first permissible contest (which cannot be before the Thursday preceding September 6) or five days before the start of classes, whichever is earlier. Those dates are about a week later than current legislation.
- Football student-athletes could begin their preseason practice activities either 21 days before the first permissible contest date in Division II (which also couldn't be before the Thursday preceding September 6) or seven days before the start of classes at the institution, whichever is earlier. The Division II Championships Committee approved a policy change (contingent on the adoption of the proposals) to move the football championship back one week to accommodate the later reporting dates.
- Establish a seven-day "dead period" from December 20-26 that prevents winter-sport student-athletes from participating in practices or games and precludes student-athletes in all sports from participating in voluntary workouts on campus during the same period unless those activities are conducted in facilities open to the general student body.