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Publish date: Aug 12, 2011

DIII presidents say no to year-round drug testing

By Gary Brown

Division III Presidents Council members at their meeting on Thursday in Indianapolis made it clear that they are not interested in devoting Division III resources to support drug-testing models other than the championships testing program already in place.

The declaration clarifies months of debate on what to do in light of a two-year pilot study to determine whether dedicating resources to an optional year-round drug-testing program is either necessary or desirable for the only division that currently does not conduct NCAA year-round testing.

Prior discussions had contemplated both an educational approach and support of optional testing as alternatives, but Presidents Council members said they no longer wish to pursue either a division-wide testing program or ways to facilitate testing at the local level. The Presidents and Chancellors Advisory Group echoed that sentiment at its meeting on Wednesday, as well.

“The decision not to pursue year-round testing models shouldn’t be interpreted as presidents not being concerned about drug use on our campuses,” said Presidents Council chair Jim Bultman of Hope College. “On the contrary, we believe that, given the results from the pilot, an educational approach is the more prudent use of the division’s resources in this area.”

Results from the pilot indicated that the use of performance-enhancing drugs within the division is not significant enough to warrant a year-round program. Presidents also have said emphatically that alcohol-abuse is the greater concern on their campuses, and that any NCAA educational efforts should be structured accordingly.

With that in mind, the division will pursue a drug- and alcohol-education effort that:

  • Focuses on effectively partnering with the student-affairs community;
  • Recognizes and leverages the key role coaches play in influencing behavior of student-athletes; and
  • Prioritizes alcohol abuse within the new educational framework.

The NCAA already has contacted NASPA (an association of student affairs professionals) about collaborating to create and maintain an education resource that Division III members and student affairs personnel can use.

The Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee had previously reviewed a number of options that would include an optional testing component, including a matching-grant or “mini-grant” program as a way to support institutions that may not have funds to dedicate to drug testing. Even though those types of programs had merit, most Division III stakeholders have preferred an educational approach from the start.

Division III members will hear more about the educational models at the January Convention.

Philosophy adjustments

The presidents also agreed to sponsor legislation for the 2012 Convention to modify the Division III Philosophy Statement to align more explicitly with the division’s core principles.

In general, the revisions:

  • Emphasize that Division III intercollegiate athletics is primarily focused on a four-year, undergraduate experience.
  • Clarify that initial- and continuing-eligibility standards are best left to institutional and conference autonomy.
  • Express a commitment to supporting a student-athlete’s right to meaningful participation in non-athletic pursuits as a method of enriching the overall educational experience.
  • Clarify expectations related to broad-based sports sponsorship.

The modifications essentially clean up issues left over from discussions that began in 2006 on how best to manage membership growth in the division. While Division III rejected the idea of a new NCAA division or subdividing Division III, members did agree to a series of “white papers” published in 2008 that fortify the division’s attributes and unify the membership under one identity umbrella.

Among the recommendations in the white papers was to add to or revise language in the philosophy statement to more strongly reflect Division III principles. Read the draft proposal here.

Council members also heard about research on student experiences in college from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program through the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. The surveys are similar to the NCAA’s GOALS study on student-athlete experiences but contain additional data relevant to Division III.

The CIRP studies on student experiences in college have been conducted for more than 40 years, but the most recent version reflects collaboration with the NCAA research staff to query how athletics participation affects those experiences.

Overall, the studies strongly reinforce the positive experience of Division III student-athletes. Many of the results also relate to the attributes identified in the Division III strategic-positioning platform. The findings indicate that Division III student-athletes:

  • Are highly engaged in campus activities. Student-athletes participate in student government and student clubs in numbers comparable to non-athletes. Student-athletes also were more likely to report that they see themselves as part of the campus community.
  • Report active academic engagement and participation in academic “extras” that are offered by their institution, such as research with faculty and study abroad.
  • Report significant gains in personal skills and attributes, such as leadership, problem solving, and an ability to get along with peers and colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
  • Report significantly greater gains in time management and leadership when compared with non-athletes. Student-athletes in the study were more likely to report “leadership potential” as an important consideration in choosing a career.

The CIRP study will be presented in more detail to Division III members at the NCAA Convention in January.

Other highlights

In other action at the Division III Presidents Council’s August 11 meeting, members:

  • Heard a report from a new subcommittee established to determine which proposals from the Division III governance structure and membership fit under Presidents Council jurisdiction and which should be considered by the Management Council. Accordingly, the Presidents Council agreed to sponsor the following proposals for the 2012 Convention:
    • Legislation clarifying what it means for institutions to be “core” members of a single conference;
    • Requirements mirroring those in Division I surrounding the sickle cell solubility test; and
    • Legislation to relax current restrictions on how professional sports organizations may serve as financial sponsors of competitions and ancillary events, consistent with Divisions I and II.
  • Supported a Management Council-sponsored proposal for the 2012 Convention that would allow text messaging from athletics department staff to prospective student-athletes to be regulated in the same manner as email, for which there are no restrictions on the timing or amount of the communication. However, the Presidents Council noted that its level of support would depend in part on additional feedback from the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which will be soliciting input from conference and institutional SAACs on the matter this fall.
  • Welcomed Hiram President Thomas Chema to fulfill the remaining term of Ken Baker. Chema’s term expires at the end of the January 2013 Convention when he will be eligible for reelection to an additional term not to exceed four years.