CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE PRESIDENTS COUNCIL ADOPTS ATHLETIC REFORM PACKAGE
The Centennial Conference Presidents Council has adopted an athletics reform package, designed to further enhance its academic and athletic balance.
In a unanimous vote on June 4 at the Conference's Annual Meeting at Haverford College, the presidents of the 11-member Conference - Bryn Mawr, Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Haverford, Johns Hopkins, McDaniel, Muhlenberg, Swarthmore, Ursinus and Washington (Md.) - passed more restrictive rules on eligibility and red-shirting, traditional playing and practice seasons, and the nontraditional playing segment than are currently permitted in NCAA Division III.
"The Centennial Conference member schools take great pleasure in the competition and camaraderie associated with college athletics," said Haverford president Tom Tritton, who chaired the Centennial Conference Presidents Council in 2002-03. "We also recognize that academics are our primary purpose, and thus we strive to find a proper balance between the life of the mind and the life of the body. The changes to our bylaws are intended to move us towards that balance and also to invite other Division III schools to join us."
The reform package includes:
* Eliminating red-shirting by specifying that a student who practices with the team beyond the first contest will utilize a year of eligibility. The Conference's philosophy is not to permit a student to delay his or her academic progress based on athletic reasoning.
* Further reduction in the Conference's restrictive policy on nontraditional segments or seasons, which refers to soccer practice in the spring or lacrosse practice in the fall for example. The Centennial Conference will reduce its permissible number of practice opportunities from 18 to 16 and its dates of competition from three to one. The NCAA permits a five-week nontraditional segment with one required day off during a calendar week - a maximum of 30 practice opportunities with no more than six in any one week. The following sports currently permit four contests/dates of competition during the nontraditional segment - field hockey, soccer, volleyball and lacrosse. Baseball and softball permit five contests.
* Changes to the playing and practice seasons. In a move to address missed class time for athletics, the Conference reduced the maximum number of contests for the following sports by 10 percent: field hockey, soccer, volleyball, tennis and golf. Significant reductions were also approved for baseball, softball and lacrosse in the number of permissible contests while classes are in session. The Conference also agreed to an effective date of August 1, 2004, for this reform, noting that contracts have already been negotiated for contests in 2003-04. The other reforms are effective immediately.
"This is an important time for the Centennial Conference and for Division III," said John A. Fry, president of Franklin & Marshall College and incoming chair of the Conference's Presidents' Council. "The Centennial Conference schools have taken a leadership position in these issues and it's up to the rest of schools in the division to meet this call for action.
"Schools like those in the Centennial Conference know that they exist to provide the highest quality educational experience for men and women. Athletics has an important role in the lives of many students, but the academic experience is now and must forever remain the clear priority for everyone involved," said Fry.
The Conference's reform agenda was crafted from five months of discussions with presidents, athletic directors and coaches. The agenda aims to restore "sanity" in the Division III atmosphere that increasingly asks for more - more contests, more playoff teams, more time in the nontraditional segment, and more say in the place that athletics takes in an academic setting.
The Presidents Council also unanimously voted to sponsor the red-shirting and the nontraditional segment regulations as proposed legislation for the 426 members of Division III at the 2004 NCAA Convention in Nashville. The presidents also noted that they recognize that meaningful reform within the Association may prove difficult.
"If meaningful reform cannot be achieved within the present NCAA Division III governance structure, a time may come for action with other conferences on more substantive reforms in these areas," said Steve Ulrich, executive director of the Conference. "The future of Division III and those who believe in its ideals are at stake."