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Publish date: Apr 15, 2011

DI Council considers changing legislative process

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Division I Legislative Council will present to the Division I Board of Directors on April 28 two concepts in which the legislative process could be modified to create a more efficient method of adopting rules. The Board will review the proposals but is not expected to act on the recommendations until later.

The concepts of a two-year rules cycle (similar to the one adopted in the playing-rules structure in 2007) and an increase in the number of institutions required to both override and suspend legislation will be presented by Council chair Shane Lyons, associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference. If the concepts receive Board support, the Council would refine the ideas and submit legislation in the 2011-12 legislative cycle.

Under a two-year rules cycle, certain bylaws would be candidates for modification by both conferences and the governance structure one year, with the remainder tackled the following year. Legislation would still be sponsored and voted on each year, and both the Board and the Legislative Council would retain the authority to sponsor noncontroversial or emergency legislation in a bylaw’s “off” year in certain cases.

Council members believe that lengthening the rules cycle would force a more thoughtful and less reactive process. While some administrators indicated they were frustrated when playing-rules committees first adopted the two-year cycle, they said they learned to work within the system and develop more feasible alternatives in the intervening periods.

The playing-rules community began discussing the idea of the two-year cycle in 2003, and the ice hockey committee was a test case. In 2007, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel mandated all rules committees move to the two-year cycle. The rules committees retain the ability to alter rules if there is an impact on student-athlete safety and if a rule voted in the previous year is having a negative impact on the game.

Some of the advantages seen in playing rules are a reduction in pressure on committees to make changes every year, more education of officials and more time to communicate rules-change proposals to the membership. Many of the same benefits could carry over to a legislative two-year rules cycle.

Increasing the number of institutions required to override legislation has been a topic of discussion for some time. The Council is proposing an increase from 30 to 75 institutions to override legislation and from 100 to 125 to suspend legislation (pending Board review). For legislation affecting only the Football Championship Subdivision, the numbers would move from 15 to override and 25 to suspend to 25 and 50, respectively.

The group also considered other concepts, including limiting the number of proposals a conference could sponsor in a single year and requiring more than one conference to sponsor legislation, but the Council ultimately decided to see how the first ideas played out before recommending any other changes.

The Council review is the result of a Board of Directors desire to focus more on issues of national significance and less on rules change that don’t have a sweeping scope. Lyons said the issue was tricky because “what is important or national in significance to one group may not be viewed as such by another.”

Additionally, the review is not a negative statement about the current process, Lyons said, but rather just a way to make improvements where they are needed.