Tuskegee’s Playoffs Snub Reveals Lack of HBCU Representation On Key NCAA Committees

As controversy continues to build around the omission of Tuskegee University from the upcoming NCAA Division II playoffs, a deeper dive into who makes decisions for rankings, funding and support of Division II athletics reveals a significant lack of representation from historically black member institutions in key decision making groups.

A review of the membership roster of 13 Division II administrative committees shows that a majority have at least one member representing the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the nation’s two HBCU athletic conferences which regularly lead the division in statistics like attendance and revenues.

But a closer look at the powers of those committees, and those overseeing three of the revenue-yielding sports (Football, Men’s and Women’s Basketball), shows an interesting trend.

NCAA Division II Committee Rosters

Academic Requirements Committee – Two CIAA Reps
The Academic Requirements Committee is charged with reviewing the division’s academic standards and recommending policy and legislation regarding initial-eligibility, progress-toward-degree and transfer requirements. The ARC also: (1) Reviews and establishes procedures for considering waivers of initial-eligibility and progress-toward-degree requirements; (2) Monitors procedures for gathering data on membership graduation rates and reports the findings from the study of such rates; and (3) Makes recommendations when appropriate regarding relationships among the Association and its members, the secondary-school community and two-year colleges.

Championships Committee – Zero HBCU Reps
The Championships Committee is the primary oversight group responsible for administering policies and procedures surrounding the division’s 25 championships. The committee oversees the budget and conduct of these championships, as well as the qualification and selection procedures for each. All Division II sport committees report directly to the Championships Committee. Members of this committee meet three time annually (February, May/June and September). The September meeting often includes a day-long meeting with sport committee chairs.

Legislative Relief – One CIAA Rep
The Committee for Legislative Relief serves as the final decision-making body for any waiver requests in situations where no other committee, subcommittee or conference has the authority to act. The committee grants relief of legislation when extenuating circumstances exist or may determine that relief should not be granted. The committee also may impose conditions when relief of the legislation is granted. Committee members participate in conference calls as needed and attend one or two in-person meetings per year that last for one day.

Infractions – One CIAA Rep
The Committee on Infractions is the division’s primary steward of the enforcement process. The committee meets as needed to participate in hearings involving member institutions that have been alleged to have violated NCAA legislation. At these hearings, the committee determines facts related to alleged violations and, if necessary, imposes appropriate penalties or show-cause requirements on a member found to be involved in a major violation (or, upon appeal) on a member found to be involved in secondary violations). The number of institutions appearing at each hearing depends upon the length of each case and the amount of other business that the committee has to conduct. An institution’s appearance before the committee may last all or a portion of one or more days, depending upon the complexity of the case.

Infractions Appeals – One CIAA Rep, One SIAC Rep
The Infractions Appeals Committee per Bylaw 19.2 meets as needed to hear and act on an institution’s or involved individuals’ appeal of the conclusions and penalties of major violations levied by the Committee on Infractions. The appeals committee also establishes or amends enforcement policies and procedures set forth in Bylaws 32.10 and 32.11 that relate directly to the infractions appeals process, subject to review and approval by Management Council, to which the appeals committee reports.

Legislation  – One CIAA Rep
This committee’s primary charge is to determine interpretations of all Division II-specific legislation and incorporate new legislation and interpretations in the NCAA Manual. The Legislation Committee also reviews and considers legislative issues of those portions of the Association’s constitution and bylaws that relate to the principles governing financial aid and amateurism, professional sports relations, recruiting, personnel limitations, and playing and practice seasons. In addition, the committee consults with other Division II committees to review deregulation issues, and it reviews and considers issues regarding rules education and compliance resources.

Management – One CIAA Rep, One SIAC Rep
The Management Council reports directly to the Presidents Council and is charged with recommending administrative policy and regulations that govern the division. The Management Council reviews and acts on recommendations from the Division II committee structure and from Division II representatives to committees with Association-wide functions. The Council also is responsible for appointing Division II representatives to those committees. Members meet quarterly, including at the annual NCAA Convention.

Membership – One CIAA Rep
The Membership Committee reviews and considers issues pertaining to the Division II membership requirements and membership compliance issues. The committee establishes policies and procedures for prospective member institutions and conferences to achieve active membership status in Division II, and has the authority to approve or deny a prospective member’s request for membership. The committee also has the authority to conduct an audit of an institution’s fulfillment of membership requirements if the institution is placed on probation for failure to fulfill more than one membership requirement during a 10-year period. The committee also reviews issues regarding membership requirements (such as sports sponsorship and financial aid) that are discovered during the enforcement process, and imposes, when necessary, penalties for noncompliance. Members meet three times annually (February, July and November) and conduct at least three scheduled teleconferences in April, September and December.

Membership Fund – Zero HBCU Reps
The Division II Membership Fund was established in 2007 to allocate resources to retain current active institutions and help attract new schools or conferences to the division. The Membership Fund Selection Committee meets as needed to consider funding requests. The selection committee has the authority to approve or deny requests and also may issue certain parameter(s) or requirement(s) when approving a request. Requests for dollars from the Membership Fund shall be for “seed” money or matching-grant dollars. The Membership Fund dollars shall not be used as an annual supplement of dollars or to subsidize costs required of being a member of Division II or the NCAA. Applications are due in late September or early October each year. Successful applicants are notified in December, with funds distributed in January.

Nominating – Zero HBCU Reps
This group reviews nominations for vacancies on all Division II-specific committees, including men’s and women’s sport committees, and for the Division II positions on committees functioning in an Association-wide or multi-divisional capacity. The committee meets in person twice annually and conducts conference calls as needed to fill vacancies.

Planning and Finance – Zero HBCU Reps
The Planning and Finance Committee reviews budgetary recommendations related to the annual Division II budget and advises both the Division II Presidents Council and Management Council regarding the division’s financial affairs. The committee also monitors the Division II strategic plan and reports regularly on its implementation to the Presidents and Management Councils.

Sports – Football (Zero HBCU Reps) Men’s Basketball (Zero HBCU Reps) Women’s Basketball (One SIAC Rep)
Division II sport committees conduct their respective Division II championship and develop policies and procedures to administer the championship in an efficient and orderly manner. Sport committees report directly to the Championships Committee, which helps direct and approve recommendations or policies and procedures from the sport committees. Sport committee members also chair regional advisory committees (RACs), oversee selections to national championships and serve as the NCAA representative during preliminary-round competition and championship finals.  Most sport committees meet twice annually, including once at the national championship. The committee also conducts regularly scheduled teleconferences during the sport’s playing season.

Student Athlete Advisory – One CIAA Rep, One SIAC Rep
The Division II SAAC serves as the primary governance arm representing student-athlete interests in Division II affairs. SAAC members serve as student-athlete liaisons that monitor and discuss happenings on campuses, within conference and at the national level. Representatives are responsible for gathering feedback and reporting on behalf of their conference, as well as relaying important events, hot topics and educational information to both the campus and conference levels. In addition to relaying information across campuses and conferences, the committee speaks on behalf of the entire Division II student-athlete body throughout the NCAA governance structure. Division II SAAC members serve as voting members on a number of Division II committees, including the Management Council. The SAAC also has voting authority during the Division II Business Session at the annual NCAA Convention.

Student Athlete Reinstatement – One CIAA Rep
This committee reviews and discusses issues regarding student-athlete reinstatement and takes legislative action or directs staff to make recommendations to the Management Council accordingly. The committee has the authority under Bylaw 14.12 to determine all matters pertaining to the policies and procedures for the reinstatement of eligibility of a Division II student-athlete who is ineligible for intercollegiate competition as a result of an NCAA rules violation, and for waivers of legislation that the Division II Management Council or membership has authorized the committee to grant. The committee provides oversight and guidance to the reinstatement staff regarding the reinstatement process. Staff makes all initial decisions, while the committee serves as the appellate body for staff decisions. In addition, the committee sets policy and guidelines for the reinstatement process and reviews all flexible decisions made by the staff. Committee members meet twice annually, including a three-day meeting in May or June and another in early December. The group also conducts regular teleconferences.

What Does It All Mean?

Committees overseeing how conferences, administrators, coaches and students understand and apply NCAA rules have proportionate HBCU representation. But the committees with oversight over how Division II sports make money, rank teams and seed them for postseason play, qualify for championships, determine where championships are played, and appoint committee members (committees in bold) have no HBCU officials.

Essentially, the CIAA and SIAC are good enough to add voice to operational and policy discussions but are not welcomed for dialog on building Division II brand through sponsorship and championship administration. It appears to be a nonsensical distribution of leadership, considering that the CIAA and SIAC are two of the biggest sports brands across multiple Division II sports. If any conferences could advise the NCAA and other D-II institutions on how to attract fans and support with limited resources, its the two HBCU conferences.

But they are left out. And because of this, its not surprising that a team like Tuskegee can be left out of deserved playoff contention.

Looking to the Future

Tuskegee is a perennial D-II contender, so they will likely be okay even without a postseason berth in 2017. But the NCAA should be more mindful of past trends and future prospects involving HBCUs. In the last five years, black colleges have appeared in national quarter, semi-finals and finals in football and men’s and women’s basketball, with Shaw University winning a national women’s basketball title in 2012.

HBCUs are the brands attracting digital broadcasting contracts, major sponsorships, and building pipelines with professional leagues. If competitive balance is shifting in favor of HBCUs, and money and attention is following it, why would the NCAA ignore a culture change that can make all member institutions more money and earn more exposure? Why continue to halfheartedly sell the story about diversity and inclusion, which is only illustrated by grants to Division I HBCUs struggling to maintain membership instead of building a business model that actually works?

There’s a historic perspective on that, and there’s a contemporary fix to address it. Let’s hope the NCAA chooses wisely, and starts with its committee leadership structure.

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