UTD hosts NCAA representatives

Graphic by Matt Strack | Mercury Staff.

The NCAA visited UTD to meet with members of the athletic department as part of its effort to build a guide of best practices for Division III schools.

Six members of the NCAA national staff came to campus on Jan. 26 and 27 as a part of a new program which will help improve Division III athletic departments across the country. The NCAA sought out advice from faculty at UTD such as Athletic Director Bill Petitt as they gather information.

“We feel that it’s a real honor that they decided to come here and hopefully we’ll do a good job for them,” Petitt said. “I think it speaks really well of the department and the campus.”

When the NCAA staff members arrived on campus, they met with Petitt, assistant athletic director Angela Marin and President Richard Benson.

“They’re really excited to see Dr. Benson’s level of involvement already,” Marin said. “He’s only been here six months, but he attended the convention and he is already a great supporter of our program. We are so grateful and that really came across in the meeting. The NCAA staff were really impressed with how he’s trying to promote and support athletics on this campus.”

After the meeting, the NCAA staff members met with the rest of the athletic administration to get their points of view, asking what’s working for the department and what they’re doing on campus to help students.

“It’s seeing how we can support our student athletes in every aspect of their lives, not just athletically,” Marin said. “That was a unique opportunity for us.”

The NCAA staff also had a private meeting with 10 students.

“Our student athletes were so excited, one, that the national office wanted to meet with them and hear their perspective and point of view, and two, to bounce ideas and information off of them as well,” Marin said. “They were really excited and I’ve heard nothing but great things come out of that meeting.”

Lastly, they met with other members of the student-athlete welfare support system, who work to help them be successful on a day-to-day basis. Part of this includes treating the athletes as students first and ensuring they are staying academically focused.

“I think one of the things that surprised the national office was that our students come to UTD first for their education and getting to play is a bonus, getting to compete at a high level is a bonus,” Marin said.

The national office is also working to show the differences between the reality of life as a student-athlete and what is shown both fictionally and through media coverage of top tier Division I schools.

“(The media coverage doesn’t) represent the majority of our student-athletes at any division,” Marin said. “(We are) trying to change the perception that people have, especially our local community, of what are kids are and who they represent is a fun, unique challenge that we have.”

The NCAA also wants to change the idea that they’re hands-off and monitor the athletic-departments from afar.

“One of their initiatives is to get out on more Division III campuses, so they get a holistic approach of what’s going on in Division III,” Marin said.

The NCAA is interested in UTD because it has unique aspects that make it different from the average Division III school. According to the NCAA, only 20 percent of Division III institutions are public. The NCAA also lists the average Division III school as having an undergraduate enrollment of 2,648, with UTD as the second largest in the division.

After their visit, there will still be follow-ups with UTD as the NCAA prepares the program for implementation.

“I’m looking forward to this relationship that we have with the national office and it’s really great that they were on campus among us and among our kids,” Marin said.

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