2013 Convention recap

I had intended to blog at least once - if not more - from the NCAA Convention, but to say it was busy week in Grapevine, Texas, would be a massive understatement. In addition, the fact that I wasn't staying off-site and my computer battery's lack of cooperation derailed my plan to provide daily updates of our trip to Texas, so here's a recap of the convention.

Some of the big news was covered yesterday in a press release, including the MIAC's role in the passing of new Division III legislation as well as two big national appointments for conference administrators. Gustavus President Jack Ohle kicked off his one-year term as chair of the Division III Presidents' Council - one of the highest-ranking positions in the entire division - and MIAC Exec. Director Dan McKane was elected the vice president of the Division III Commissioners Association.

The details of Jack and Dan's new positions are in yesterday's release, but to add some brief commentary here, it's great to see the MIAC so heavily involved on the national landscape, and that goes beyond these two important appointments. The MIAC is extremely well-represented on committees and leadership groups throughout the division, and that makes our interactions with other conferences fun at events like the convention. At Friday's Division III issues forum, my table went through a brief round of introductions, and after identifying my position, the elder statesman at the table nodded and said, "Prestigious conference." That was pretty cool.

The legislation we passed will now allow Division III coaches to use all electronic means to recruit - including social media - as long as the communication is private and one-on-one. Previously, Division I and II coaches could use social media to recruit, as can admissions offices from all divisions, so Division III coaches were the only group being shut out to this increasingly important method of interaction. Not anymore, and we're proud to have helped change that, along with our co-sponsors and friends at the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC).

The legislation came about because it was presented - and tabled - a year ago, and seeing a few ways we could improve the proposal, we took it on. Over my two-plus years here, it seems to be most common request/complaint from coaches throughout the conference. There are some who were against including this in recruiting practices, and we certainly understand why and respect that, but we're confident most of the coaches and administrators in the MIAC (and hopefully, all of D-III) will be pleased with this change to the recruiting landscape.

Shortly after Christmas I went and saw the movie Lincoln, and was enthralled with the detail and politics behind the passing of the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. The scale of the legislation isn't even remotely comparable, but our four days in the Dallas area certainly reminded me of aspects of that movie. Prior to the convention, we developed a position paper to clarify some of our intents and goals with the proposal. Throughout the convention we were gauging interest, trying to get a feel for concerns or negatives, and developing talking points for the floor that we hoped would help get our legislation passed. Now, it clearly wasn't even in the same ballpark as the movie I referenced - although an armed James Spader as a "negotiator" certainly would have helped - but we certainly did our due diligence and put forth a lot of effort to present our legislation in the best possible way, and it was a combination of exciting and nerve-wracking.

Our efforts paid off, and the proposal passed by about the slimmest of margins: 246-227-4, or roughly 52 percent to 48 percent. The difference of just 19 votes was the closest vote of the day, and a pretty tense moment on the convention floor. After the fact, we heard through the grapevine that at least six votes flipped during the debate on the floor in our favor, so that validated our efforts and its possible our preparation ultimately made the different between passing and failing.

Here are some other convention highlights:

-My next blog installment will be a photo blog with some shots from the convention. I posted a few here and there on Twitter and Facebook, but have some other good ones to share to show more of the experience.

-I almost didn't attend this year's honors banquet, but am glad I did, especially as a University of Minnesota alum. Former Gopher Tony Dungy received the NCAA's top honor - The Theodore Roosevelt Award - for his contributions to both football and society as a whole. I was recently asked that old standard, "If you could invite five people to dinner, who would they be," and Coach Dungy was seated at my table. In addition to being the most famous football alum from my college, he's proven to be a man of great character and morals. I've read his first book - Quiet Strength, which had a huge personal impact on me - and am about to start his second book - Uncommon. My parents were both in school at the U when Dungy was the  Gophers' QB, so our family has followed him for a long time, and we bumped into saw him after leaving a play on Broadway a few summers ago.

After the banquet, attendees have a chance to meet the honorees, so it was a huge thrill to meet Dungy and get a photo. I told him I really enjoyed his talk at Bethel last year (details here) and was a fellow Gopher. He said he really enjoyed his trip to Bethel and chance to speak to their campus and especially the student-athletes, and we traded a "Ski-U-Mah." I wasn't sure I could top my first convention, when I got to tell Bo Jackson I loved running over people with him on Tecmo Bowl, but this definitely did.

-Another honors banquet highlight. Former Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson walked by me on his way out of the reception, and I asked him the only question I could think to ask a member of the Green Bay Packers 1997 championship team (I grew up in Wisconsin) in such a quick moment. "Hey Keith, you got your Super Bowl ring on?" He turned around, said, "Yep," and showed me the huge gold ring with a diamond "G." I just smiled and said, "Go Pack," and he responded, "Go Pack," and that was it. And frankly, I wouldn't change a thing about that interaction.

-There's a trade show that lets people like me meet with vendors to try to find new products and ideas and strengthen business connections on the athletics landscape. I had a pair of great meetings with the two companies we currently work with for our web site and our stats/scoreboard site, and I'm increasingly excited about the future of the MIAC's presence on the web.

-The MIAC Meeting on Friday afternoon was well-attended. We had to call up for more chairs more than once to accommodate all who attended the convention and the meeting, and had a great mix of athletics, faculty, vice presidents and presidents from around the conference. Our meeting ended with an educational session on integration - which is integrating athletics into the fabric of the campus - and after working at a small private college, it opened my eyes to a lot of new ideas and perspectives in regards to how athletics should interact with academics and student life. Lots of food for thought going forward.

-Hands-down my favorite part of the convention each year is the opportunity to connect with people from the MIAC and Division III at some of the receptions and free time between sessions. We're fortunately to have so many great people in our league, and the convention gives us a chance to interact in a more relaxed and informal setting than we're accustomed to at conference meetings and events. It's also one of the few times a year I can connect with some friends from other conferences and institutions around the nation, so it's almost more like a reunion than a convention.
-This was my first time at one of the Gaylord Hotels properties - the Gaylord Texan - and wow. That's quite the complex. I think the people who stayed there might have gone four days without going outside.

As you can see from the previous 1,300 words, there was a lot going on last week in Texas. I could've probably kept going for another 1,000 words, but I'll pump the breaks here and just say that it was a great experience. The only thing that could make it better? Warmer weather and a beach. Wait? The 2014 NCAA Convention is in San Diego? Let the countdown begin...

Look for that photo blog in the next day or two, and then more of a current MIAC sports-centric post this weekend. Also, tomorrow's newest MIAC Media video will have a very convention feel to it as well. You've been warned!

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