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By Gary Brown
Division III student-athletes – the constituency that a proposal on individualized fundraising would most affect – are voicing their support of the measure at the 2011 Convention.
Intent: To specify that it would be permissible for an institution to designate money earned via fundraising by a student-athlete specifically for that student-athlete up to the actual and necessary expenses for the specific item (for example, transportation, uniforms). Any unearned money would go to the institution, athletics department or team. Further, to establish a definition of earned and unearned money.
January 2010: The Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee recommends changing current legislation that prohibits crediting fundraising proceeds to individual student-athletes (except for donations from family members) in recognition that some student-athletes may devote more time to team fundraising activities and should be credited for their effort.
January 2010: The Management Council at the 2010 Convention considers the recommendation but struggles with questions of whether it is appropriate to credit an individual student-athlete for raising funds for a team’s benefit. The Interpretations and Legislation Committee supports crediting student-athletes for funds raised by “volunteering or working a fundraising activity,” listing examples such as working concessions or ticket booths or serving as an usher. It also specifies activities for which it believed designation of specific funds should be prohibited, including selling goods, writing letters to solicit donations or participating in events featuring athletics ability. The Management Council agrees to solicit feedback during the 2010 Convention.
January 2010: The Division III Presidents Council suggests that, without a consensus within the governance structure, it is better to defer to the membership to create alternative proposals.
July 2010: Sponsors (Colonial States Athletic Conference, Little East Conference, New Jersey Athletic Conference and Presidents’ Athletic Conference) submit current fundraising proposal.
October 2010: The Management Council votes to take no position on the proposal, preferring to allow the membership to decide the matter on the Convention floor.
October 2010: The Presidents Council in a close vote agrees to oppose the measure.
November 2010: The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee supports the legislation after deciding that the opportunity for student-athletes to benefit from what they earn outweighs equity-related and other concerns. The committee also notes that because the legislation is permissive, it positions individual institutions to best address equity or team-chemistry concerns.
The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at its meeting in November took positions on all Convention legislation and supported each of the proposals, including the fundraising legislation that has generated debate within the governance structure for almost a year.
The student-athlete voice could be persuasive in deciding whether the proposal – which would allow schools to designate money a student-athlete earns via fundraising toward that student-athlete’s actual and necessary expenses for the activity or item in question – creates inequities or detracts from the team atmosphere.
“As a committee, we have hashed out every pro and con,” said SAAC chair Marie Godwin, a former volleyball student-athlete at Macalester.
While the SAAC itself was as divided on the issue in November as it had been earlier in the year, the feedback it received from SAAC at the institutional and conference level was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal. That swayed the national committee’s position.
“We have some pretty opinionated people on our committee,” Godwin said, “but in the end, it is our responsibility to listen to the almost 170,000 student-athletes we represent across Division III.”
Godwin said the feedback solicited from SAACs at the grass-roots level supported the notion of giving student-athletes more flexibility to raise funds during difficult economic times. Student-athletes also liked the fact that the legislation is permissive.
That resonated with the national SAAC, too, as members believe institutions can be the best judge of whether allowing the practice would threaten team chemistry or be unfair to student-athletes whose busy schedules wouldn’t accommodate fundraising.
If things stay as they are until the Division III business session on Jan. 15, it will set up an interesting dynamic on the Convention floor, with the SAAC in support, the Division III Presidents Council opposed and the Division III Management Council having taken no position.
But the Presidents Council has one more opportunity to review proposed Convention legislation at its meeting Jan 14. At its October session, the Council debated the fundraising matter at length – reviewing many of the same pros and cons that other groups had before it – and voted initially to oppose the measure. While that passed by just two votes, a member of the prevailing side sought to reconsider. That vote was 6-6, meaning that the opposition – divided as it was – stood.
The Management Council, meanwhile, was so divided that it believed the membership should decide the matter without being influenced by the governance structure. The Presidents Council considered the “no position” approach as well but felt that a stance was warranted to focus the debate on the Convention floor.
In addition to the fundraising proposal, the Division III SAAC supported all of the other legislative measures slated for a vote at the Convention. That includes another proposal that has generated discussion during the year – whether to allow strength and conditioning personnel to conduct voluntary workouts for all student-athletes.
The issue has prompted equity concerns between institutions that have strength and conditioning personnel and those that don’t, and people also worry that if the strength and conditioning coach is tied to a specific sport then the student-athletes in that sport might have more access than others.
The Division III SAAC was more interested, though, in giving student-athletes access to resources to improve their performance.
“Student-athletes just want to exhaust all the resources available to them in order to be the best they can be,” said Godwin. “While there are always equity concerns with many proposals, there already are inequities in facilities and staff among Division III schools.”
The strength and conditioning proposal also comes with an amendment that would restrict the availability to the academic year. But SAAC members like the base proposal better, since it allows fall-sport student-athletes, who prepare for their seasons during the summer months, to take advantage of the voluntary strength and conditioning workouts.
The Presidents and Management Councils have supported both the base proposal and the amendment. The SAAC plans to support the base proposal regardless of how the amendment fares.