By Jim O'Hara
ROME – The proverbial light at the end of that NCAA transition tunnel is truly getting brighter.
That’s the optimistic feeling being felt at Shorter University a week after the institution hosted the required two-day site visit by NCAA officials that will help determine if Shorter is on track to begin its third and final year toward becoming a full Division II member.
“Based on the initial feedback we got, we are where we’re supposed to be,” Shorter Director of Athletics Bill Peterson said about the recent visit by the NCAA’s three-member delegation that evaluated if Shorter is integrating the policies, procedures and philosophies of Division II legislation into the institution. “This was the culmination of what we’ve been preparing for, for more than a year.”
Having finished the site visit that is part of the Candidacy Year 2 requirements, Shorter is now tasked with the completion of an annual report and an update to the Institutional Self-Study Guide (ISSG) that must be submitted no later than June 1.
The NCAA Membership Committee is expected to meet in July to review all of the documents that Shorter submits and the results of the site visit, and determine if Shorter is ready to begin its third and final year of the process as a provisional member.
Peterson said that the entire Shorter community has been a part of helping the university implement as much of the Division II legislation as possible over the past year.
“From the President’s office on down, it has encompassed the entire institution,” he said about the process in which Shorter president Dr. Donald Dowless and every department has demonstrated involvement and commitment.
Playing a huge role in making sure Shorter is on track, Peterson pointed out, has been three members of the Department of Athletics, who have spent countless hours getting everyone involved in the process ready – Matt Green (Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Media Relations) and Dr. Richard Cowan (Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance), who are tasked with making sure the university is in compliance with the NCAA guidelines, and Rachel Rogers, Shorter’s Senior Woman Administrator.
“They took us through dress rehearsals and helped us to do what we needed to do to be ready for the visit,” Peterson said. “This was an opportunity to show them that we were doing the things expected of an NCAA institution. From my perspective, I think we did a really good job.”
“The visit was encouraging,” said Green. “[The NCAA representatives] gave us a list of what they thought were our strengths and weaknesses. I felt like the strengths were in vital areas and that the weaknesses were manageable.”
At the end of its first year of candidacy last year, Shorter completed a 1,104-page Annual Report and Institutional Self-Study Guide, created the institution’s first Compliance Manual and Student-Athlete Handbook and reconstructed the Department of Athletics’ 30-page Strategic Plan that outlined specific goals and objectives of the department through the year 2015.
That report, Peterson said, was a nine-part document. This year, the report will have 11 parts.
“We’ll feel a lot better when the annual report is filed,” he said.
Once Shorter, which is a member of the Gulf South Conference and began playing a full GSC and Division II schedule in every sport this year, begins the provisional period in the membership process after approval by the NCAA Membership Committee this summer, it will be required to operate in full compliance with NCAA Division II legislation during the 2013-14 year.
A compliance blueprint review that is a comprehensive evaluation of an institution's compliance program will also be conducted by the NCAA official assigned to the institution. The results of the review are shared with the institution and are included as part of the annual report that along with an ISSG are due not later than June 1, 2014.
At the conclusion of the provisional year of the membership process, the NCAA Membership Committee evaluates Shorter for invitation to become an active Division II member that would start of Sept. 1, 2014.