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By Gary Brown
SAN ANTONIO – The first two proposals considered at Saturday’s Division III business session were adopted by huge margins and with little fanfare. But those first two were the last two of a significant presidential leadership package developed two years ago that puts presidents and chancellors in charge of the strategic direction of Division III.
The lead-off batter in the 2011 Convention legislative lineup delineates more clearly what types of initiatives fall under the purview of the Presidents and Management Councils. Going forward, the Management Council will be authorized “to adopt noncontroversial and intent-based amendments, administrative bylaws and regulations to govern Division III, sponsor legislative proposals and act in other matters,” while the Presidents Council “shall retain the authority to ratify, amend or rescind any action of the Management Council.”
That should get the Presidents Council out of the minutia business and more into the strategic-thinking arena. Before Saturday, governance-sponsored Convention proposals had to be sponsored by the Presidents Council. Now the Management Council can sponsor them.
“As presidents, our efforts should focus on strategic matters necessary to lead and guide the division. This proposal allows us to do just that,” said Hope College President Jim Bultman, who began his year-long term as chair of the Division III Presidents Council at the end of the Convention. “The Presidents Council should not have to review and ratify each and every action of Management Council. That duplication of efforts does not confirm presidential leadership but actually detracts from it.”
To help guide the legislative traffic and give the Presidents Council broader strategic shoulders, a joint subcommittee of members from the Presidents and Management Councils will be formed. Membership will include the two presidents serving on the Management Council and select members of the Presidents Council.
That group will determine which broader concepts warrant review by the Presidents Council, and which proposals coming from the structure are more “operational” in nature. (For example, a permissible start date for playing and practice seasons regulations might be considered operational, while the establishment of a new championship would require presidential sponsorship.)
It also would review any Convention legislation the Management Council sponsors, which gives presidents the authority to rescind a proposal that they oppose.
In addition to presidential members, the subcommittee will have two “athletics direct reports” on its roster.
That path was paved with the adoption of Convention Proposal No. 2, which increases the Management Council roster from 19 to 21 by adding individuals other than the athletics director who are assigned to directly oversee athletics in cases when the president or chancellor doesn’t. The goal is to broaden the Management Council’s perspective by including a voice that, while responsible for managing athletics on campus, has not historically been included in governance discussions.
About 80 percent of the current Division III membership has institutional structures that include an “athletics direct report” such as a vice president for student affairs, vice president for administration or another senior level administrator to whom oversight of athletics has been assigned.
“This proposal fills a gap that currently exists with regard to representation in the Division III governance structure,” said Kathy Owens, president of Gwynedd-Mercy College. “The result of this proposal is that our Management Council will increase from 19 to 21 members, but most importantly it will be more representative of our division and add a valuable strategic perspective to that body.”
The adoption of the two proposals follows the 2010 Convention at which delegates voted 466-0 – the first unanimous vote recorded on a Division III Convention proposal since 2000 – to state for the first time in the division’s philosophy statement that institutional presidents have ultimate responsibility for and authority over intercollegiate athletics at the institutional, conference and national levels.
Fittingly, the vote on Proposal No. 1 also was unanimous.
The matter of increased presidential involvement stems from the Division III Presidents Council’s September 2008 white paper that identified greater presidential leadership as essential for Division III to address membership growth.
Then-incoming Presidents Council chair Jim Harris of Widener University said at last year’s Convention, “It’s important to understand what the Presidents Council means in the white papers by what it refers to as presidential leadership. This discussion is really about allowing presidents to do what we do best – deal with strategic issues and the fundamental issues and principles of Division III – while delegating to our trusted athletics colleagues issues that are more administrative and operational.”
Now, Division III has facilitated the way for that mission to be accomplished.
“This structure will afford the Presidents Council increased time to focus on principles and concepts to ensure the division’s continued and future success, while the Management Council will continue to focus on how best to implement those goals operationally,” Bultman said.