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Delegates vote against controversial Division III graduate transfer proposal

On Jan. 21, delegates from all D-III schools voted on legislative proposals that could greatly impact the future of D-III athletics. (Northern Review photo/ Grant Pepper)

A proposal that would allow student-athletes with remaining eligibility to transfer from Division I or II schools to finish their collegiate careers at the Division III level, while also attending graduate school, was defeated on the final day of the NCAA’s annual convention, Jan. 21.

The controversial proposal failed 291-175, with delegates from all D-III schools voting at the convention.

While the proposal was viewed as student-athlete friendly -- it would have given student-athletes with an undergraduate degree the opportunity to further their education and play out their eligibility at the Division III level, likely with guaranteed playing time -- it would have also vastly altered the recruiting landscape for D-III coaches and potentially damaged program chemistry.

Ohio Northern athletic director Tom Simmons, who has represented ONU at every NCAA Convention since his hiring in 1999, saw both sides of the vote.

“I think that’s a perfect example of [legislation that] could have had some unintended consequences,” Simmons said last week on WONB’s The Pep Talk.

“Most legislation, if it’s student-athlete friendly, has a pretty good chance of passing… [However] this one had some potential consequences, because a coach is going to start recruiting people that are graduating early and have another season left, and they’re going to come in and expect to play. Then you’ve got someone who’s been there a while, and may be going into their senior year, and it’s their turn, and we just brought in a graduate school student who has one year left and are going to plug him in. And one of the questions was, ‘What is that going to do to team chemistry?’”

The proposal was brought forth in part by the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which houses eight University of Wisconsin branch campuses (such as Wisconsin-Whitewater and Wisconsin-Oshkosh), all with 13 or more graduate programs.

“Those are all pretty good-sized state schools, and they’ve got some graduate programs that most -- including us -- wouldn’t have,” Simmons said. “So if you can get that legislation passed, they’ve got a little bit of an advantage over everyone else.”

“But that’s a big argument for them, saying, ‘What’s this really about? Are we trying to give student-athletes the best education and a chance for them to go somewhere and get a graduate degree, and still compete?’ And I get that, but there are some unintended consequences.”

There were several other proposals presented at last week’s convention, held in Nashville, Tenn. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Establish independent medical care: Adopted, 455-22 (effective Aug. 1). This means that, according to the NCAA, every school will now have to “establish an administrative [medical] structure that affirms unchallengeable, autonomous authority for athletics health care providers for return-to-play decisions.” While Ohio Northern already has an athletic training staff that has autonomous authority on return-to-play decisions for student-athletes, some schools do not; now, they are required to have one.
  • Standardization of annual contest and date of competition exemptions: Adopted, 428-35 (effective Aug. 1). This means that, according to the NCAA, each sport will be allowed “to exempt two scrimmages, exhibitions (including alumni contests) and joint practices in addition to conference and season-ending championship exemptions.” The key word here is each; now, all sports (besides wrestling, which is still not permitted exhibitions) are given two exhibition opportunities, whereas this matter was taken sport-by-sport before, and some sports might have gotten more exhibitions than others.
  • Deregulation of camps and clinics: Adopted, 453-23 (effective immediately). This means that D-III schools are now allowed to host camps and clinics for recruits, during which coaches are allowed to provide instruction. However, no recruits may receive free or reduced admission to the clinics, and the clinics must be open to the public. In approval, Simmons said, “[This proposal] might make for a more efficient use of our time if the recruits can come here, and that way our coaches don’t have to go out on the road. I think it’s a good recruiting thing, and I don’t think it’s harmful in any way.”