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Publish date: Jun 10, 2011

Adjustments in squad size and bench area gain support

By Gary Brown

The Division III Championships Committee is backing an idea that could lead to more student-athletes being funded to attend NCAA championships competition by the 2012-13 academic year.

Reacting to a resolution adopted at the 2011 NCAA Convention that promised to study the appropriate number of student-athletes allowed in the bench area at various Division III championships, the Championships Committee recommended increasing those limits in several sports.

If that gains traction in the governance structure this summer (including budgetary review and sports committee feedback), some of the increases could be effective as early as this coming year. But the way it will work comes with a twist.

In the interest of fully funding the championships experience whenever possible, the Championships Committee is suggesting that growth in the bench area come through increasing the squad size and travel party for participating teams. Because those are reimbursed by the NCAA and thus a budget item, the committee isn’t recommending the proposal until the next budget cycle, which is the 2012-14 biennium (planning for which begins this coming fall).

To accommodate an earlier implementation, though, the committee is recommending that the increases it wants to make in squad size can be applied to the bench area for championships in 2011-12 in applicable sports. Funding those extra spots would come at the institution’s expense for this one year, since additional personnel above and beyond the squad size and travel party are not reimbursed by the NCAA. If championship policy were to be approved that increases the squad size per the committee’s recommendation, though, those increases in subsequent years would be fully funded.

The proposed increases from the committee are in the following sports:

  • Baseball (squad size from 24 to 25 for the 2013 championship; bench area from 34 to 35 for the 2012 championship) 
  • Field hockey (squad size from 22 to 24 for the 2012 championship; bench area from 32 to 34 for the 2011 championship)
  • Football [squad size from 52 to 58 for the 2012 championship; bench area from 72 to 75 for the 2011 championship (the Division III Football Committee recommended 75 based on sideline management preferences)]
  • Men’s and women’s ice hockey (squad size from 21 to 23 for the 2012 championships; bench area remains at 27 for the 2012 championships due to current playing rules)
  • Men’s lacrosse (squad size from 28 to 32 for the 2013 championship; bench area from 38 to 42 for the 2012 championship)
  • Men’s and women’s soccer (squad size from 22 to 25 for the 2012 championships; bench area from 32 to 35 for the 2011 championships)
  • Men’s and women’s tennis (squad size from eight to nine for the 2013 championships; bench area not applicable, but nine participants are eligible for practice and pre-match warm-up for the 2012 championships) 

In all, 25 additional squad spots are being recommended, which if allocated for each team in the applicable championships could require up to $600,000 in funding to be newly allocated or reallocated in the championships budget for the 2012-14 biennium.

The additional student-athletes would be permitted to be in uniform and participate in practice and warm-ups. 

The Championships Committee based its by-sport recommendations on data compiled from previous championships and input it requested from sport committees earlier this year. The committee used that, along with a review of the average squad sizes of previous championship participants, to determine the appropriate numbers. Committee members concluded that the existing limits in some sports were adequate; thus, not all sports were recommended for change.

While the review started out as what to accommodate in the bench area, the committee quickly turned its focus on actual squad size, since that would be the most fiscally prudent way to enhance the student-athlete experience without compromising competitive equity or putting undue pressure on facilities. 

Stuart Robinson, chair of the committee and director of athletics at New Paltz State, was proud of that approach.

“We took the topic beyond just the scope of looking at increasing the number of student-athletes who can be in the bench area,” he said. “The approach we took puts student-athletes first and is responsive to concerns raised by those who proposed changes at the Convention in January. It also reflects a commitment to what we think the championship experience should be. 

“It is more about providing a quality experience outright for student-athletes than it is about saying that schools that could afford to bring additional people should be allowed to do so. It has to be more than that, which is why I’m pleased that our discussion and ultimate recommendations went beyond institutional discretion.”

The Championships Committee also recommended steps to accommodate non-student-athlete personnel as part of the bench-area limits. Committee members are proposing that by the 2012-13 academic year, institutions in team sports other than golf and tennis be required to include an athletic trainer or team physician as a member of the existing travel party. If they don’t, then that spot in the travel party will not be reimbursed. Schools also will be allowed to include one additional medical personnel (which could be a student athletic trainer) in the bench area (at the institution’s expense).

Committee members also agreed to propose funding the “required administrator” spot as a member of the travel party for the 2012-14 biennium. Currently, while it is required for participating schools to bring an administrator who does not have other specified duties at the championship, that person is not funded. The Championships Committee recommended funding that position in the future if there are dollars left over after the squad size adjustments are made.

All of the squad-size recommendations will go to the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee for further review.

Playing-rules committees

In other action, the Division III Championships Committee is supporting the formation of stand-alone, nine-member playing rules committee for sports in which playing rules currently are managed through the championship administration committee (swimming and diving, cross country/track and field, and wrestling).

The action would require a legislative proposal to modify Bylaw 21.3 and would need to be adopted by all three NCAA divisions. The idea is for legislation to take effect August 1, 2012.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel asked for feedback from the affected committees. Those committees said they would like a more focused effort on the part of divisional representatives to the rules-making process and greater reach among the membership with respect to sport-focused committee composition.

The new rules committees would consist of four Division I representatives, two each from Divisions II and III, and a secretary-rules editor. Funding to establish the committees would come from reallocated sources.

Other highlights

In other action at the Division III Championships Committee’s May 31-June 1 meeting, members:

  • Approved Wisconsin-La Crosse as host of the 2013 Division III Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Ohio Wesleyan hosted the championships this year, while the 2012 national meet will be at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
  • Approved Nichols College as host of the 2011 Division III Field Hockey Championship at Vendetti Field in Dudley, Mass.
  • Approved Cornell College to host the 2013 and 2014 Division III Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The 2012 finals are at Wisconsin-La Crosse, which also hosted this year’s championships. The committee also approved Augsburg as host for the 2012 Great Lakes Regional at Si Melby Hall in Minneapolis, and Case Western Reserve as host for the 2012 Midwest Regional at Horsburgh Gymnasium in Cleveland. 
  • Noted that the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a request from the Division III Men’s Volleyball Committee to use the “12 unlimited substitution” rule for regular-season and postseason competition between Division III teams (Divisions I and II men’s volleyball teams have a maximum of six substitutions). NCAA playing rules typically are uniform among divisions (primarily for officiating consistency), but the Playing Rules Oversight Panel noted that many Division III men’s volleyball teams already were operating under this rule, particularly since it aligns with the division’s participation philosophy. (See related story on plans for the first championship in April 2012.)
  • Agreed with a Division III Women’s Basketball Championship Committee request to allow each region to rank eight teams, except for the Northeast region, which would continue to rank 10 teams, effective for the 2011-12 season.
  • Approved a Division III Football Committee request to use a team’s performance in the previous championship season as a criterion in situations when all criteria are equal among teams with undefeated records in the primary criteria. 
  • Tabled a football committee recommendation regarding moving most of the secondary criteria into the primary criteria, pending a broader review the Championships Committee is planning to undertake this fall along the same lines for all sports.
  • Recommended that the Division III Management Council sponsor legislation for the 2012 Convention to specify that a professional sports organization (1) may serve as a financial sponsor of an intercollegiate competition event (for example, regular-season contest, conference championship, NCAA championship, other postseason competition), provided the organization is not publically identified as such; and (2) may serve as a financial sponsor of an activity or promotion that is ancillary to the competition event and may be publically identified as such.