Division III has leverage in important NCAA-wide vote

D-III Business Session at NCAA Convention (Courtesy: NCAA.org)

I will start admitting it is far too late to bring up these ideas if no one in Division III has thought or discussed them. The time to think and debate on these was the past few months. There is also not a lot of time in Orlando this week to think or debate these because the NCAA wants the media recognition.

Division II and Division III have a golden opportunity this week at the annual NCAA Convention in Orlando. They have the chance to remind not only their brethren in Division I, but the entire country, that despite how it looks the NCAA is truly run by its membership – and not just those in the Power Five.

A major vote to be considered by all three divisions is to change the structure of the NCAA Board of Governors. In the fallout of the recent Division I men’s basketball situation regarding shoe companies and payments to recruits, their families, and members of coaching staffs, one of the major recommendations from an independent review is to add five non-NCAA, conference, or school members to the Board of Governors (BOG).

The 20-member BOG is made up of NCAA membership comprising of 1voting members and four non-voting members (i.e. NCAA President, former members, etc.). Of those 16 voting members, eight are chancellors or presidents from the D-I Board of Directors from the Football Bowl Subdivision institutions, two from the D-I Board of Directors from the Football Championship Subdivision, two from the Division I Board of Directors from Division I at-large, two from Division II, and two from Division III.

The recommendation to add five independent members to the BOG will be decided at a rare Thursday vote to be held in conjunction with the official opening of the NCAA Convention and “state of the NCAA” speech from NCAA President Mark Emmert. However, there has been some discussion on whether Division III should support the vote.

Courtesy: NCAA.org

This past fall, the Division III President’s Council (the highest board in Division III’s governance) showed general support for the added members, but there was also some concern. Some voiced a need for transparency for how the new members would be selected and interest in diversity not only in who the individuals are, but the fields in which they originate.

Meanwhile, the Division III Commissioners Association (DIIICA) expressed concerns that the five new members on their own would out-number Division III representation further diminishing Division III representation (new membership would outnumber D-II and D-III representation combined). They formally requested that the process of selection of the new members to include one-on-one time with Division III Board of Governor representatives. They also requested that individuals with a “Division III perspective” also be considered for the selections.

I have also been told by several source that there are institutions in Division III who have voiced their interest in voting down the BOG plan. There is also interest by some in DII to do the same.

While I support the idea of five “public members” to be added to the NCAA Board of Governors, I think there is an opportunity for Division II and Division III to make sure they are properly heard and represented. Unfortunately, the vote on this measure will take place on Thursday evening which is unheard of for any kind of vote, even division-wide measures. The last division-wide measure requiring all three divisions to approve was held a few years ago when women’s beach volleyball was added as a 90th sport in the NCAA. That vote was held during the usual Business Sessions on Saturday mornings where all three divisions gather in their own convention rooms (halls) and vote individually on division-only and NCAA-wide legislation.

This Thursday vote is being done for one obvious reason: media attention. The NCAA gets to say this has been “approved” on Thursday night and all-day Friday it is discussed (and, the NCAA hopes, applauded) by the media on Friday. Wait until Saturday to vote as would be the norm … and you won’t hear any serious discussions (or applause) until Monday when it already might be a distant memory.

Division III voting at NCAA Convention (Courtesy: NCAA.org)

Because the vote is taking place on Thursday evening, there is less time for Division II and III to possibly make a power move. Discussions will have already needed to take place over the phone, email, or in random gatherings. Not at the usual “Issues Forum” held on Friday mornings where Divisions come together to discuss the current legislation to be voted on and take straw votes on possible future legislation and ideas.

What kind of power move could Division III, or combined with Division II, make? Remember, Division III is made up of 450 institutions. Compare that to less than 350 in Division I and around 300 in Division II. Division III has more membership and with the help of Division II – even a little more than half – they could derail this vote and force Division I to listen to Division III’s concerns or ideas.

There are two ideas that could benefit Division III that would be worth pursuing. The first, which I’m told is already being discussed, would be to make sure one of the five public positions on the BOG must be a Division III individual. Someone with a Division III background and understanding that could represent the Division from the more public point of view. Division II could demand the same causing the balance on the BOG to remain somewhat the same as now.

The other idea: More money.

Division III operating budget for 2017-18 (Courtesy: NCAA.org)

We constantly discuss, complain, and shake our heads at how Division III being the largest division in the NCAA only gets 3.18% of the overall NCAA operating budget – the smallest allocation. That equates to around $30.2 million (per the 2017-18 budget), but we see how in all sports where the championship committees must make sacrifices to stay within the budgetary limits put in place. 75-percent of the D-III budget goes to championships and that still isn’t enough for the 28 team championships each year in the division. It isn’t enough to make sure two top ten football teams don’t face off in the first round or several conference foes in basketball don’t see each other in the opening weekend.

Division III could use its leverage to get a little bit more money from Division I.

Of course, Division I brings in about 98% of the operating budget to begin with thanks primarily to the TV contract with CBS/Turner to put on the Division I men’s basketball tournament. It is their money they are giving up, by NCAA rule, to the other divisions. However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t an opportunity Division III could capitalize on for the betterment of the division — a division even D-I speaks highly of for being the champion of the “student-athlete.”

Imagine if four or five percent of the NCAA operating budget went to Division III? D-II gets 4.37% of the overall operating budget. That equated to $42.7 million in the latest figures put on NCAA.org. That is $12.5 million more than D-III, for a division that has two-thirds the membership. Could you imagine how far that additional $12 million a year would go in D-III?

Again, I am coming at this a little late. I would hope that those at the DIIICA, President’s Council, or others have maybe already thought this through and maybe had these discussions. While D-III understands it doesn’t bring a ton of money to the table ($436,500 in membership dues), D-I needs D-III (along with D-II) to go along with this vote to be sure it passes. D-I would have egg on its faces if this vote were to fail, so making sure either one of the new public five BOG members is a D-III representative or the division has its budget allocation raised a percentage point or two (or both!) isn’t the worst deal to make. It is a drop in the bucket, literally.

By the way, a budgetary increase for Division III would also require an NCAA-wide vote and that’s where this plan becomes complicated. If I were in these conversations, I would make sure that budgetary increase was approved first before D-III then voted on the BOG membership. If it was done the other way around, there are no guarantees D-I or others would approve the increase after the fact. If that happened, D-III would have lost its leverage.

It seems D-III and D-II have an opportunity to not only help D-I improve itself (and thus the image of the NCAA), but improve their situations as well. Unfortunately, I am not sure there is time to pull it off.

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