Matt's Convention Recap

The MIAC staff just returned from sunny San Diego, Calif., which was the site of the 2014 NCAA Convention. Today, MIAC Assistant Executive Director Matt Higgins shares his thoughts from his fourth convention experience to conclude the MIAC Convention recap series. A week ago, MIAC ExecutiveDirector Dan McKane led off with his recap, and MIAC Assistant Director MeganGaard offered her experiences earlier this week.

2014 NCAA Convention Recap
By Matt Higgins

Our view of downtown San Diego from the Hilton.
I'm going to start at the end. After we got back, the NCAA sent out a survey asking us to rate the convention, evaluate the sessions we attended and provide feedback on the experience. I gave them some very clear feedback on my survey ... "HAVE IT IN SAN DIEGO EVERY YEAR!"

That should give you a pretty good idea of what I thought about this year's location. We were based at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, the San Diego Convention Center and the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, and it was spectacular. While the polar vortex was ravaging our homeland, we were enjoying perfect 80 degree weather right on the San Diego harbor, and night-time receptions either on the Hilton's harbor-front plaza or the Marriot's lavish pool deck. I remarked to a few of our ADs about the NCAA reception at the Marriot that it felt like were at a Hollywood party rather than the convention.

Dan and Megan did an awesome job providing the details of the convention and the work side of things, so I'll keep mine a little more touristy, aside from a few MIAC and NCAA notes. My favorite educational session was the Division III social media session, largely because of the performance of Augsburg Assistant A.D. Kelly Anderson Diercks. I thought she was a fantastic representative of the MIAC and Augsburg - yes, I'm definitely biased - but was impressed with the information she presented and the clear and concise way she presented it. I also got to engage in some great discussions at the Division III issues forum, as Megan mentioned, and I thought the Division III business session voting was as smooth and non-controversial as we'll ever see it (though it'd be nice if they sped that session up a bit ... more feedback from my survey).

Jack Ohle, featured in the NCAA Convention Newsletter.
Another cool aspect was seeing the MIAC's impact on a national level. The legislation we sponsored and passed a year ago to allow coaches to use all electronic means of communication in recruiting was still a highly-discussed topic at many forums. It was great to see Gustavus Adolphus College President Jack Ohle finish out his term as the chair of the Division III Presidents' Council and receive worthy recognition throughout the convention, and it was fun for us to spend some time celebrating with President Ohle and his wife as retirement looms. Also, it was great to see Carleton A.D. Gerald Young elected to the NCAA Management Council, and we're excited for him to represent us at the national level going forward. Dan also continued his leadership role as vice chair of the Division III Commissioner's Association. Our conference is widely respected in Division III, and the convention gives us a chance to feel it.

Now on to the fun stuff. Dan and I were very lucky to be part of a select group of Midwest Division III Conference commissioners and assistant commissioners invited to a private tour of the San Diego Padres' Petco Park. CCIW Commissioner Chris Martin used to work for the Padres, and used his connections to get us an amazing behind-the-scenes tour from Padres Vice President and Assistant General Manager Fred Uhlman, Jr. This was my third MLB ballpark tour (PNC in Pittsburgh and Wrigley in Chicago) but the others paled in comparison to the access and information Mr. Uhlman gave us. He was so incredibly nice and welcoming, fielding all our questions, providing great information and even offering to take pictures of our group. "Minnesota Nice" is alive and well in the Padres' front office.

Dan McKane and Matt Higgins at Petco Park.
Highlights of the tour included the Padres clubhouse, weight room, manager's office (complete with a bed that pulls out of the wall, and a broken chair thanks to a 2013 ejection), the Padres' dugout, on-field access, and a suite high above the first-base line that Uhlman and company have converted into a conference room with one of the best views in America as they work on things like the draft and trade deadline. We also learned that the Hilton where we were staying will be the site of the 2014 MLB winter meetings. Very cool, and hopefully the Twins pull off a couple big moves in the same meeting rooms and lobbies where we were conducting our business!

San Diego also lived up to its reputation as a city with some outstanding restaurants. The MIAC staff always has a working lunch on Friday to prep for our conference meeting. This year, we had that lunch at The Fish Market, right on the water next to the USS Midway Museum, and the seafood and wait staff was incredible. I had a skewer of scallops and bacon-wrapped shrimp which was amazing, and Dan raved about his yellow tail. If you're in San Diego, the MIAC highly recommends The Fish Market. And yes, we did manage to get our work done as well.

Wednesday and Thursday I also had lunch with different groups of MIAC administrators in the Gaslamp Quarter. Probably my favorite thing about the convention each year is the chance it gives us to connect with everyone in our conference, and other friends throughout the Division. That is always great regardless of the location, but it's even better when you can converse and laugh over lunch on a outdoor patio in January.

Whale watching was a success.
Finally, I'd like to crown myself the winner of our trip to San Diego because unlike Dan and Megan, who had to rush from the Business Session to the airport to head back to cold, snowy Minnesota, I parlayed it into a long weekend and my girlfriend, Leanna, flew out Friday so we could spend a little more time exploring everything San Diego has to offer (while escaping winter for a few extra days). We moved up the shore to the Wyndham San Diego Bayside for two more nights, and had an awesome view of the waterfront from our 14th-floor balcony.

Highlights from the rest of the weekend included a trip to the famous San Diego Zoo, including an active jaguar that looked hungry for human and my first-ever glimpse of the giant pandas. The following day we did a whale watching boat cruise and saw five gray whales, as well as countless dolphins, seals and sea lions. We ate some great food, sampled the night life in the historic Gaslamp Quarter and strolled through Seaport Village.

You stay classy, San Diego. Thanks for a great time.
The worst thing about San Diego? Getting on the plane to come home! But even though I endured a 75-degree temperature change when I landed Monday night, the convention certainly achieved its goals with me and our staff. We were able to network, learn and receive a first-hand reminder of why our work to provide an amazing experience for student-athletes is so important. 

At this convention, the larger discussions centered on things like the future of Division I, possibly paying student-athletes and other huge topics that could forever alter the landscape of major college athletics. But amid all that and the accompanying media coverage, it was nice to be reminded that our perspective in Division III is continually refreshing and our priorities are always focused in the right direction. Though the one percent that receives the most media attention and money certainly challenges some people's opinion of the NCAA, the 99 percent operating out of the spotlight is truly focused on enhancing the student-athlete experience to help shape the leaders of the future.

Megan's Convention Recap

The MIAC staff just returned from sunny San Diego, Calif., which was the site of the 2014 NCAA Convention. Each will share their thoughts from a great week of learning, networking and fun. MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane led off, and MIAC Assistant Executive Director Matt Higgins will finish off the series later this week. Today MIAC Assistant Director Megan Gaard shares her experiences from her first convention.

2014 NCAA Convention Recap
By Megan Gaard

Megan Gaard and Dan McKane at a MIAC staff lunch
at The Fish Market in San Diego, overlooking the harbor.
As a first-year attendee at the NCAA Convention, I really had no idea what it was going to be like going into it. Being a young professional in this field, the goals of my first experience were geared towards soaking in as much information as I could and networking with other interns, coaches and athletic administrators. It was a busy week was filled with a wide range of meetings and informational sessions varying from Personal Health and Wellness to Campus Emergency Plans to Social Media Strategies. There was something for everyone's interests and needs.

The three sessions that stood out for me were the NCAA Keynote Luncheon with Jim Nantz, NCAA Honors Celebration and NCAA Division III Issues Forum & Business Session.

On the first day of Convention, the NCAA hosted a Keynote Luncheon with CBS Sports anchor, Jim Nantz. Jim gave a captivating speech about his lifelong dream to be a sports anchor for CBS Sports. He believes his experience as a student-athlete, support from coaches and willingness to dream big propelled him to success. Overall, I felt he was a relevant and engaging presenter with a good message that supported the NCAA.

This luncheon was also an initial opportunity for me to break into the networking scene. I sat at a table with two Athletic Directors from different divisions, a few student-athletes representing NCAA National SAAC and another intern that holds my position at another conference office. This gave me the opportunity to make connections with representatives on other campuses, learn more about job opportunities in the athletics field, hear about new initiatives and discover challenges other athletic programs face.

Later on in the week, I attended the NCAA Honors Celebration which recognized current and former student-athletes for their achievements in their sport, work in the classroom and their contributions to society. Some of the honorees included: Troy Aikman and Olympians Dara Torres and Billy Mills. The event included a formal dinner, award ceremony and in-person interviews with the honorees. It was a special event and I was happy to see how athletics can be such a positive influence in the community.

NCAA President Mark Emmert addresses Division III
at Saturday morning's Business Session.
The entire trip came together for me at the end of the week when I sat in on the Division III Issues Forum and Business Session. It was at that moment I fully understood how the process of NCAA legislation worked. The opportunity to discuss all of the proposals with people outside the MIAC gave me a better understanding of the national perspective and, because of some of the discussions I had, some of my opinions changed. Being a former student-athlete, it was exciting to be a part of the administrative side of athletics for the first time.

I look forward to attending the convention again next year with a better understanding of what I can expect from the event. 

Dan's Convention Recap

The MIAC staff just returned from sunny San Diego, Calif., which was the site of the 2014 NCAA Convention. Each will share their thoughts from a great week of learning, networking and fun, starting today with MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane.

2014 NCAA Convention Recap
By Dan McKane

Dan McKane
Every year I look forward to attending the NCAA Convention. I always take a lot away from the many meetings I get to attend and the conversations I have with many great athletic administrators throughout the association. This year was no exception, my convention experience lived up to everything I was hoping for, including some fantastic San Diego weather.

One of the highlights from the trip was taking part in the Division III Special Olympics event. Special Olympians from the San Diego area were mixed in with Division III student-athletes and administrators, taking part in soccer and bocce ball competition. Due to my soccer background, I naturally gravitated to the soccer games and had a fantastic experience. The games were competitive and fun. One of the best parts was watching our NCAA National SAAC Rep (Domenic Fraboni from Concordia football) playing soccer. Another highlight from the event was gathering four Gustavus graduates for a photo with Gustavus President Jack Ohle (Chair of the NCAA Division III Presidents Council).

The D-III Special Olympics clinic was featured in the NCAA
Convention Newsletter. MIAC SAAC rep Domenic Fraboni
is pictured chest-bumping a student-athlete, and he and
Augsburg's Kelly Anderson Diercks are in the group shot.
The annual Division III Commissioners Association meeting during convention is always valuable, as it is a time to discuss important issues pertaining to conferences, but also take time to have conversations with people around the division that play similar roles in conferences. I always learn so many new best practices from my exchange with the 44 conference commissioners. Another highlight for me is attending the NADIIIAA (division III administrators) session each year. The topic this year was on campus emergencies, covering horrifying stories of campus emergencies. The speakers discussed some of the things they learned to help prepare their campuses for future emergencies.

Every year during convention, Friday is dedicated to the Division III Issues Forum and the MIAC administrator meeting. The Issues Forum allows me to really hear from administrators around the division on several key topics. This year the main topic was recruiting reform. We discussed many concepts that could alter the way the division recruits. I am very interested to see which concepts develop into proposals for next year’s convention. The recruiting topic is one that I have spoken to most coaches groups throughout the conference and have heard many passionate responses on a number of ideas. Friday afternoon featured our MIAC administrator meeting, where we covered NCAA legislation, several hot topics in the NCAA and MIAC. Former MIAC Executive Director Carlyle Carter also stopped at the meeting to catch up with our many long time administrators. We also congratulated Gerald Young (Carleton AD) on his appointment to the NCAA Management Council and JoAnn Andregg (St. Thomas Associate AD) on her upcoming retirement.

Gustavus President Jack Ohle presides over the
NCAA Division III Business Session.
Saturday, the final day of convention, features the Division III Business Meeting where we hear several key updates and vote on proposals. There were nine proposals and one resolution. All items were approved, with the exception of a proposal dealing with football helmets in the spring conditioning period which was withdrawn on the convention floor. We celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Division III this year.  Division III has a lot of positive things going for it, as we look to keep our student-athletes safe and provide them not only great athletic experiences, but also keep them focused on their academic pursuits.

Overall, I came away from the NCAA Convention more energized than ever before. I wasn’t excited to enter back into freezing temperatures after experiencing 80 degrees each day in San Diego, but I am ready for the winter sports season and excited for our upcoming championships.