Story by Alysse Maynard
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the governing body for all collegiate athletic departments and student-athletes across the United States. Broken into three divisions, the NCAA oversees the safety and wellbeing of nearly 500,000 student-athletes at over 1,000 schools across the nation.
The University of Mount Olive Department of Athletics has a special relationship with the NCAA as four members of the Trojan family serve as representatives on various Division II national committees.
Dr. Philip Kerstetter, President; Jeff Eisen, Vice President for Athletics; Dr. Brenda Cates, Professor of Mathematics; and Jeff Yasalonis, a senior student-athlete on the men's volleyball team, are the four Mount Olive representatives with roles on several NCAA committees.
A member of the President's Council, Kerstetter and his peers are tasked with governing the NCAA Division II as a whole, setting policies and procedures for all schools to adhere to as well as developing strategic plans for the growth of the NCAA Division II.
Kerstetter commented, "To me, Division II is neat because it really exemplifies what I think the goals of athletics and higher education in general across the country are, in that it keeps the collegiate experience in balance. You can be a great student-athlete, but you had better be a great student too."
"My role of being on the President's Council and being involved in the governance is being able to speak out on those issues," Kerstetter said. "I think that it is an important thing to recognize that the NCAA is a president controlled organization and it should be."
Eisen currently serves on the NCAA Division II Membership Committee and has previously been on the NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship Advisory Committee for the Southeast Region, the NCAA Division II Championships Committee, and the NCAA Division II Membership Fund Selection Committee.
The Membership Committee is responsible for reviewing college and university proposals to become a member at the Division II level. It establishes minimum requirements for membership, promotes best practices for members, and enforces various policies and procedures used to govern Division II schools.
When asked why he decided to join an NCAA committee Eisen stated, "I think it is important to give back and get involved in the NCAA. It is an organization run by its members, and it is important to take an active role. Instead of sitting back and saying 'why did they do this' or 'why don't they do that,' we are actively engaged and take a participatory role."
"I think that it also has other advantages," said Eisen. "It keeps you more educated and informed with what is going on in college athletics. It is also a great networking opportunity, getting to work closely with other athletic administrators around the country and a chance to get to know more people and pick their brains on how they do things, which gives you a lot of good feedback that you can then bring back to our program."
Cates, the Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) at Mount Olive, has served on several NCAA committees in her time at Mount Olive. Her current appointment is to the Academic Requirements Committee (ARC). Cates is in her second tenure on the ARC with her appointment ending at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.
The ARC is tasked with reviewing policies and regulations regarding student-athlete progress towards degree, initial eligibility, and transfer regulations. It also is active in trying come up with proposals regarding changes to eligibility requirements and making the application process more streamlined.
"With the ARC we are involved primarily with academics, so I was also on the path to graduation task force," said Cates. "We were instrumental a few years ago in looking at some of the research that had to do with our graduation rates and the success of our student-athletes and comparing that to the progress towards degree, initial eligibility and two-year transfer regulations. We on the ARC made some pretty significant sweeping changes to the legislation, and it was all research-based."
Cates went on to say, "I would like to continue being involved in the governance structure moving forward. Division II makes it fairly easy and allows you to self-nominate. If there are certain committees that you have some skill in that you feel you can be of value to the membership, they encourage you to join."
Yasalonis, a senior setter for the men's volleyball team, is a member of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and he represents all the student-athletes within Conference Carolinas. He is also currently the SAAC representative on the ARC, joining Cates on that committee.
In addition to his role on the NCAA DII SAAC, Yasalonis serves as part of the CPR/AED certification task force team, which determined a goal to have at least 50-percent of conference SAACs certified in CPR/AED this calendar year. Yasalonis is also a member of the SAAC's Make-A-Wish subcommittee, which helps oversee the division's partnership with Make-A-Wish, and the Nominations subcommittee, which selects incoming national SAAC representatives.
"I had the desire to be a part of the NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to interact and create change with like-minded student-athletes from all over the country," said Yasalonis. "I quickly learned that this group of individuals would change my life forever through their passion, determination, and care, not just for one another, but for the conferences and student-athletes around the country. I have a very unique and advantageous opportunity to surround myself with extremely intelligent people; it gives me the ability to better myself as a whole on a consistent basis."
Jill Willson, an NCAA governance contractor and president of Double L Consulting, spoke about the relationship Mount Olive and the NCAA shares by saying, "It is extremely unusual for one school to have four individuals on key NCAA committees like Mount Olive does. Mount Olive has a place on the map in Division II because their staff, their coaches, their administrators significantly value Division II and give back to the governance structure – and that is valued."
While the members of the UMO community receive no pay for their NCAA service, they are paid back in knowing that they are helping our student-athletes and are giving UMO a voice at the national level regarding all student-athletes.