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Division III Management Council Recommends Blanket Waiver for All Student-Athletes

Oct. 22, 2020, 2:15 p.m. (ET)

Content courtesy of NCAA
Imahe courtesy of DePauw Athletics

The Division III Management Council is forwarding a recommendation to the Presidents Council to allow all Division III student-athletes to compete up to the established dates of competition/contest maximums without being charged a season of intercollegiate participation for this academic year.

The Presidents Council will review the recommendation during its Oct. 28 videoconference.

The blanket waiver request would not charge student-athletes a term of attendance for any term (semester/quarter) during the 2020-21 academic year in which they were eligible for competition.

The council noted that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to dramatically affect higher education at least through the end of this academic year and likely beyond, and student-athletes are feeling the impact from both an academic and athletics perspective. The uncertainty regarding the extent of their athletics participation and the related eligibility repercussions contribute to a growing list of concerns for student-athletes.

This recommendation does not serve as a rationale for future reduced enrollment by student-athletes. Rather, the council reaffirmed its commitment that intercollegiate athletics involves students competing against other students. Consequently, student-athletes benefiting from this waiver still would be expected to adhere to full-time enrollment requirements in current and future academic years, consistent with the Division III philosophy.

“I want to commend the council members for their thorough consideration of the waiver request,” said Heather Benning, chair of the Management Council and executive director of the Midwest Conference. “Several perspectives were brought to the table, and, ultimately, I believe the consensus point for the council is recognition of the undue stress and mental health impact the uncertainty of college sports amidst a global pandemic has placed on student-athletes. Providing this one-year waiver will provide definitive guidance for DIII student-athletes making academic and athletic decisions for the winter and spring terms.”

Almost three-quarters of the Division III conferences recommended the season-of-participation blanket waiver, and it also was supported by several governance committees, including the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Championships Committee
The Management Council this week also approved a slew of recommendations from the Division III Championships Committee, including an item that maximizes the brackets and field sizes for all 2021 winter and spring sport championships at 75 percent. Committee members understand adjustments may be necessary later based on the number of eligible institutions as championships approach.

Following a recommendation from the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, all tournament sites will be predetermined in an effort to safely host winter championships participants. Testing and other sanitation protocol requirements will increase total expenses for winter and spring championships. These two recommendations add approximately $9 million in additional costs and ultimately were the reason the council approved the Championships Committee’s field size recommendation.

The council also approved winter championships selection date recommendations, with several dates to be set later, making room for additional regular-season competition.

State of collegiate officiating
The council received an executive summary of a report on collegiate officiating, A Strategic Analysis of the State of Collegiate Officiating. A year ago, the Division III Commissioners Association hired a contractor (Pictor Group) to conduct a study of officiating issues in Division III, as well as the NCAA’s role and current and potential initiatives to address those issues. The executive summary summarizes the data collected from more than 15,000 key stakeholders via surveys, focus groups and videoconferences. The study identified several critical issues facing officiating and framed a strategic plan for the D3CA to implement over the coming months.

Nontraditional coursework
The council approved an official interpretation from the Interpretations and Legislation Committee confirming nontraditional coursework — including distance learning, as well as correspondence, extension and internet/virtual courses — may be used to satisfy full-time enrollment requirements for practice or competition in a manner consistent with established institutional policy to determine the enrollment status for all students.