Bates College director of athletics Jason Fein, pictured in 2017. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

A dream has come true for Bates College Athletic Director Jason Fein, but now there’s a lot of work to be done.

Fein was recently elected to be the chair of the NCAA Division III Management Council, with his one-year term to begin in January 2021. As chair, Fein, who is entering his fourth year at Bates, also becomes a member of the NCAA Board of Governors.

Fein has been a member of the council since 2018. He replaces outgoing chair Heather Benning, who is Executive Director of the Midwest Conference.

“As someone who has dedicated a career to educating and developing collegiate student-athletes, this is a huge honor, and the realization of a professional dream,” Fein said. “Being elected as the chair also means that your colleagues nationwide appreciate the work you do and trust you to help lead the way for the group for the next year.”

The next year will present some challenges that Fein and the council must confront.

“To be frank, this is one of the most challenging times for intercollegiate athletics, not only during my career, but maybe ever,” Fein said. “While NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) seemed to be one of the biggest undertakings for us just a year ago, and of course still is, we have seen a total shift nationwide in terms of sports, higher education and many other areas due to COVID-19.”

Bates Athletic Director Jason Fein. Theophil Syslo photo for Bates College

“Issues around racial equity and social justice were already a major part of our work in Division III, but of course it has had even more of a light turned on it this summer, considering the events we see happening nationwide. So many student-athletes, coaches and administrators have used their voices and platforms as a call to action. It’s been incredible,” Fein added. “The key will be continuing the momentum to push for meaningful change in a time where much of what we do must be done virtually due to the pandemic. But this work is ongoing, needs to continue to be ongoing and our Division is committed to being a force for positive change as we move through these times.”

The council not only has to engage those challenging topics, but also work on the numerous parts of what the group typically deals with, including to “oversee the ongoing and new initiatives, the committee structure, the programming for the National Convention, and the operating budget for Division III,” Fein said. “We review all legislative items, actions and issues that come up throughout the year.”

The 21-member council also works with the NCAA national office staff on NCAA championships operations and administration, as well as the national Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) “on a host of initiatives, including our national partnership with Special Olympics,” Fein said. “We also work closely with the advisory and working groups on LGBTQ initiatives and Diversity & Inclusion.”

Fein had to go through a nomination process to be appointed to the council in 2018, and then an election to become chair. The council’s vice-chair, who had to go through a separate election process, will be Michelle Morgan, the AD at John Carroll University in Ohio.

“What many folks don’t realize is that the NCAA, especially at the Division III level, is a member-driven organization. While the NCAA national office administers and provides oversight of NCAA championships, the governance structure is made up almost entirely of volunteers, from the ADs, to coaches, to faculty, to presidents. If our colleagues don’t serve on committees and working groups and provide feedback from where they sit, then the organization can’t move forward,” Fein said.

“Being involved in the committee structure helped me learn so much more about how athletics works in all areas of the country at every level of competition, something you really can’t appreciate if you don’t look beyond your local sphere of influence, or institution or conference.”

“Expanding your knowledge base in terms of what is happening on the national scene, within the rules and regulations, and by expanding your professional network can only serve to help you in your work at your institution. I like to think that it is a benefit for Bates to have me serve on the council,” Fein added. “In turn, you want to be the best representative of your institution as you can when serving. I’m certain that I would not have had the opportunity to come to Bates had I not made some of the professional moves in terms of getting involved in the NCAA on the national level prior to being here.”

Fein said he also hopes to positively represent both Division III members in the state of Maine, as well as the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) that Bates is a part of. He called his colleagues in the state and the conference “some of the best administrators I’ve encountered in the profession.”

He said he has brought his experiences at Bates, in Maine, and in the NESCAC to the council, including how the region’s weather or the NESCAC’s “highly selective and academically focused” institutions can play a role in athletics.

“I always try to remember that what is best for one institution or conference or region may not necessarily be the best for the entire Division,” Fein said, noting that Division III has 460 member institutions. “Everyone on the council does a great job of providing checks and balances for each other, and I would like to think that more often than not we come out in the right place.”

Fein said being named chair of the council ranks “right there at the top” of his professional and personal achievements.

“I’ve gotten to experience some amazing things thanks to my work in college athletics, both professionally and personally, but this is pretty special,” he said.


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