Founding Principles of the SAA

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The founding vision and purpose of the Conference is to foster athletic competition and cooperation among academically selective, residential liberal arts colleges located in the southeastern region of the United States. Members of the conference are committed to a model of academic excellence that emphasizes the importance of student engagement as a critical factor in student learning and success. Thus, it is vitally important that students have the opportunity to work closely with talented teacher-scholars. In the same way, member colleges expect students to be fully engaged in the life and well-being of the campus community, both as participants and leaders. Varsity athletic programs are an integral part of the campus experience and offer significant opportunities for self-understanding, commitment, mastery, maturation and leadership.

The Conference vigorously affirms the spirit and principles of Division III as articulated in its philosophy statement:

Colleges and universities in Division III place highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on the successful completion of all students’ academic programs. They seek to establish and maintain an environment in which a student-athlete’s athletic activities are conducted as an integral part of the student-athlete’s educational experience, and in which coaches play a significant role as educators.

In this regard, it is the Conference’s goal to develop policies and operating principles that exemplify this philosophy and serve as a model of "best practices."

The Conference exists to provide a context for competition where the playing field is level, the rules of the game are clear and fair, teams have compatible values and operate with reasonable parity in resources, one’s opponents are respected, and rivalries are good-natured. Conference members affirm that the Conference and its championships are the primary context for competition.

Core Values and Associated Operating Principles 

Core Values
In this spirit, the Conference affirms eight founding values (numbered 1 through 8 below) from which it derives specific operating principles and practices as well as a foundation for future decision-making.

Operating Principles and Practices
Based on these eight founding values, the member institutions commit to developing principles, policies and practices along the lines described (and lettered) for each value.

Value 1. Varsity athletic programs offer an important and healthy means of student engagement at residential colleges; they contribute to the excellence and vitality of campus residential life. Therefore, Conference members seek to offer a wide range of varsity teams and to promote participation for both women and men.

  1.  a. Conference members commit to offering a wide variety of intercollegiate sports, with the expectation that members will have a minimum of 18 sports by fall 2015.


Value 2. Varsity athletic teams are valued as part of a comprehensive program of vigorous and structured exercise that promotes healthy living, self-discipline and character development for all students. Varsity athletic programs as well as intramural and recreational programs are integrated into the whole of the college’s educational offerings.

  1.  a. Member institutions provide a recreational and intramural program that engages at least as many students as the varsity athletics program. 

  1.  b. Coaches and other athletic department staff are involved with students other than athletes and seek to promote and support recreational and intramural sports programs for non-student athletes.  

Value 3. Varsity athletics are integrated into the whole of the student’s educational experience in a way that allows for and promotes both competitive athletics and multi-faceted engagement. The Conference always looks to do what is best for students in the context of the complete educational experience and high academic standards.

  1.  a. Conference members have internal procedures in place to ensure that student-athletes have reasonable opportunity to participate fully in other student organizations and campus activities, including the possibility of participation in a second varsity team.

  1.  b. If Division III as a whole votes to relax standards regarding length of the season or off-season, or the number of playing dates for specific sports, the Conference will evaluate such changes in the context of the complete educational experience and high academic standards.
  1.  c. The Conference will choose specific start and finish dates for regular season competition, that enable student-athletes both to enjoy the full benefit of seasonal play and participate in other campus, co-curricular or athletic activities.
  1.  d. Conference members will manage regular season competition and post-season play in a manner that minimizes conflicts with class schedules and examinations. As a regional conference, member institutions manage regular season scheduling using travel partners to minimize travel time and expense.
  1. e. The presidents will confer with the Faculty Athletic Representatives from member institutions in an advisory role regarding any changes recommended by the council of athletic directors related to length of season, number of playing dates, and start and finish dates, as well as other matters related to academics 

Value 4. Student-athletes are not valued more than or treated differently from other members of the student body.Student-athletes, individually and collectively, should be representative of the student body as a whole, both at the point of admission and in their academic performance, preferences and educational outcomes. Recruited student-athletes should reflect a wide breadth of intended majors and interests.

  1. a. Conference members share with one another recruitment, retention, engagement and graduation information for student athletes and non-athletes, and develop appropriate outcome expectations. Recruited student-athletes should be comparable to non-student-athletes with regard to standardized test scores and high school grade point average (unweighted). Graduation rates should also be comparable.
  1. b. Conference members will not allow special admissions processes for athletics prospects, including no special admissions slots involving differential admission criteria. Data (without names) on athletic prospects will be submitted to the conference office on an annual basis and shared among member schools.
  1. c. Consistent with Division III policy and practice, no financial aid may be awarded to any student on the basis of athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance. Coaches and athletic staff shall not be involved in any decisions regarding offers of financial aid. Notification of financial aid awards may be offered in writing only by the institution’s director of financial aid (or comparable campus official) and not before the student has been admitted. Coaches and athletics staff shall not be provided with written or oral financial aid evaluations of prospective student-athletes prior to an offer of admission, and they shall not be involved in any adjustments to financial aid packages for student-athletes.

Value 5. All sports sponsored by the conference and its member colleges are valued equally. The Conference, and its member institutions, are committed to diversity and gender equity in all athletic policies, procedures, and operations.

  1. a. Member institutions strive to provide equitable levels of staffing and coaching resources across the sports that each institution sponsors. Conference members will share information, by sport, regarding staffing levels as well as game-day and non-personnel operating expenses.

  1. b. No head coach may receive total compensation in excess of the College’s highest paid full professor in the arts and sciences. (Items included in total compensation include any extra benefits provided such as use of automobiles, country club memberships, etc.)
  1. c. Athletics booster organizations will focus on providing quality experiences for the student-athletes generally with respect to activities and facilities. No booster, parent or alumni donations will fund coaching salaries, gifts or bonuses.

Value 6. The Conference serves as the primary context for competition, and Conference championships are the priority. At the same time, the Conference strives to provide good opportunity for post-season play at a national or regional level. Thus, the Conference seeks to maintain a sufficient number of member institutions to ensure "Automatic Qualifiers" in all core sports.

  1. a. The Conference seeks sufficient members to have 7 (or ideally 8) schools participating in each core sport in order to ensure the "Automatic Qualifier" as well as a robust structure for conference scheduling.

  1. b. The Conference will carefully consider expansion in cases where there seems to be a good institutional fit in terms of academics, athletics, and geography.
  1. c. Conference members will give serious consideration to adding "core" sports as designated by the conference for purposes of the "Automatic Qualifier" and conference scheduling. Conference members agree that the goal is to have at least 7 (and ideally 8) institutions participating in each core sport by fall 2015. The conference may also sponsor other sports (including championship play) when it benefits a subset of the conference members.
  1. d. Core sports for the conference include:
    11 for women: basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track & field, and volleyball;
    10 for men: baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, and track & field. 

Value 7. Varsity athletic participation provides a context for character development, self-discipline, and leadership development. In this context, coaches and other athletics staff serve as role models and educators. Further, it is the Conference’s expectation that all coaches, administrators, athletes and spectators adhere to sportsmanship ideals and reflect positively on the college and the Conference in all situations and interactions.

  1. a. Coaches, trainers and athletic administrators should be hired and evaluated based on their willingness to embody and support the campus culture, the principles and values of Division III, and the ideals of the Conference.

  1. b. Coaches, in particular, should be formally evaluated as educators and should actively encourage student-athletes to engage fully in the life and well-being of the campus community. 

Value 8. The presidents of the member colleges together assume the responsibility for ensuring that the conference lives up to these values and standards. All member colleges have an equal seat at the table.

  1. a. The presidents are responsible for the administration of all aspects of their college’s athletics program, including approval of the budget and audit of all expenditures as well as admissions and financial aid policies and procedures.

  1. b. The presidents will work together as a council to ensure the quality of participation across the Conference as a whole, recognizing that the well-being of the Conference must always be balanced with the individual identity and health of the individual member institutions.
  1. c. Ratification of this Conference Agreement requires unanimous vote of the founding member presidents. Subsequent amendments to the Conference Agreement shall require affirmative vote by 3/4s of the presidents’ council (rounded to the nearest whole number). Other major votes, including issues of membership or enforcement of standards, shall also be by a 3/4s vote.
  1. d. Conference rules, policies and procedures will normally be recommended to the presidents’ council by a council of athletic directors representing the member institutions. Ratification of the initial rules, policies and procedures document (the By-Laws) shall require unanimous vote of the presidents’ council. Subsequent modifications shall require a 3/4s vote.
  1. e. Member institutions will support a Conference Commissioner and appropriate staff as necessary to carry out the proper supervision and promotion of the Conference goals and member’s athletic programs. The Commissioner will report to the presidents’ council.

SAA By-Laws