Question of the Day

What advice would you give to Myles Brand as the new NCAA President?

By Staff

Athletic Management, 15.2, February/March 2003,

Lee McElroy, Director of Athletics and Recreation, University at Albany

One of the first things I think President Brand should do is get a lay of the land by listening to as many constituencies as he can—coaches, student-athletes, prospective student-athletes, athletic administrators, faculty reps, conference commissioners.

The fact that he’s been president at both Big Ten and Pac-10 institutions and had other high-ranking positions in higher education is a tremendous benefit, but we’re now in the 21st century, and the entire intercollegiate athletics industry is undergoing tremendous change. He’s going to be our leader in that regard, so getting a sense of where things are now and determining what the landscape is going to be in the years ahead would get him off to a good start.

As a member of the [Division I] Management Council, I know there has been some reform, but we need to tweak those reforms. We know that the governance process, at least at the Division I level, hasn’t been as communicative as we first thought. There needs to be greater participation and involvement from people on campus.

Another thing that needs to be addressed, at least in Division I-A, is the economic structure and what’s going on in terms of fiscal efficiency. There’s a laundry list of things the NCAA needs to do in order to move ahead, and Dr. Brand needs to make sure we do these things in concert with focusing on student-athlete welfare.

John Biddiscombe, Director of Athletics, Wesleyan University

From a Division III perspective, the advice I’d give to Dr. Brand on his first day is to understand that the NCAA has a very diverse membership. Each division has very different needs. He needs to take the time to understand and analyze the differences in needs among the divisions.

In Division III, the biggest issues right now have to do with championships and subdivisions. There is a sentiment for expansion of national championships, but how can that best be accomplished in harmony with the Division III philosophy, which really emphasizes in-season play rather than postseason play? The administrative structure of the NCAA will also need to address the possibility that we may eventually see a Division III-AA or III-B.

I don’t think he has much experience in the Division III environment, but since he is an academic, he will understand the concerns that the academic community has about big-time athletics. I think the challenge that he faces is understanding how athletics integrates with academics at the Division III level.

At Division I schools, the athletic community accounts for one or two percent of the student body, whereas in Division III, the athletic community often makes up as much as 30 to 40 percent of the overall student body. That has significant implications for how you administer and approach the problems associated with Division III athletic programs.

Marilyn McNeil, Director of Athletics, Monmouth University

Dr. Brand will be confronted with a million competing interests, but I hope he’ll remember that two of the competing interests are men and women, and to try to serve them equally. The issue of equality and opportunity for women, particularly minority women, has to come forward and be addressed.

I think the governance issues are huge, but that’s a membership problem. If the governance structure is simplified, then the NCAA can also simplify its bureaucracy. For the most part, the people within the NCAA are good people who are working hard. They’re just trying to do what the membership keeps asking them to do.

I hope that since our core mission is about higher education, Dr. Brand’s background will work for him. It would be a shame if it worked against him—it would show how far we’ve removed ourselves from the tenets of education. But I’m hoping he’ll bring us back. It’s a tough job—I admire him for taking it.

William Carver, Athletic Director, Fayetteville State University

The needs of Division II schools have to be considered. We try to have the best programs within our means, but we are different from D-I schools in many ways, not only in finances but in scholarships and other areas.

Dr. Brand will need to be aware of the desires of Division II schools, because sometimes we get pushed to the back burner. We don’t operate on the same premises as Division I schools, and it’s very important for him to listen to our basic concerns.

Jim Livengood, Athletics Director, University of Arizona

My advice for President Brand would be to listen to the athletic directors in our member institutions and develop a dialog with them. He’s been at Arizona, Oregon, Indiana—large institutions—so he understands the role of intercollegiate athletics very well. But he’ll need to engage with athletic directors across the board with regard to what is happening in the trenches of our intercollegiate athletic programs.

I predict his agenda will have much to do with academics and how we should continue to move forward in that area, and, in concert, the financial issues in college athletics. Those are two issues that are on everybody’s plate right now. How can we do a better job with student-athletes, graduation rates, initial and continuing eligibility, and the everlasting financial wars that we’re fighting every day? That would include capital projects, salaries, and not having programs go by the wayside because they’re financially not feasible anymore.

Jerry Wollmering, Director of Athletics, Truman State University

Student-athletes are the first thing Dr. Brand should keep in mind as he evaluates NCAA activities. That’s what we’re all about.

One area he should focus on is making sure as many championship opportunities are available to as many student-athletes in as many sports as possible. This is especially important now, since we read every day about programs being dropped everywhere. President Brand should consider what the NCAA can do to help save some of these Olympic sports that seem to be dying a fast death.

Dave O’Brien, Director of Athletics, Northeastern University

First, simplify the rules. They’re too complex and the process is too remote and confusing.

Second, Dr. Brand should consider the problem of a drop in fan support, especially among young fans. We’ve sold our souls to television. The games are too long and there are too many on television. As a result, attendance at collegiate contests is dropping, and we need to do something about that.

Third, he should consider promoting better sportsmanship through a strong promotional program in that area, and focus on discipline for misbehavior from student-athletes and coaches.

Fourth, recognize the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots in college sports. It’s not a healthy situation, and something needs to be done about it.

As a former college president, he’ll be attuned to continuing the academic emphasis that has been the focus of NCAA rules in the last decade. Since he has not been an athletic administrator on a day-to-day basis, I hope he will appreciate the complexities of trying to run programs without enough money, balancing equity issues without clear direction or definition, and responding to multiple constituencies that expect athletic directors to do the impossible. To do that, he’ll need to get a sense of how athletic administrators operate today.

Michael Hanna, Director of Athletics, Hobart College

I’d suggest that Dr. Brand get out and visit a select number of campuses representing each of the divisions. Each division has its own issues, and getting a feel for those issues on campuses or at the conference level would be a huge help to him. Also, attending Division II and Division III championships would impress a lot of people and build the teamwork that he’s going to need to get the job done.

Subdividing Division III is on the table for discussion, but I’ll be surprised if it happens in the next 10 years. The issues of championships, the nontraditional season—how many weeks of the academic year should we commit to each sport?—and the length of the playing season are going to keep us busy for awhile.

Dr. Brand’s background in academia could be a benefit to him, but whoever is in that seat has to be very knowledgeable about both academics and athletics. The NCAA president has to nurture teamwork and build relationships. He must also be a person of strong character, which Dr. Brand obviously is. After that, it’s a matter of rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.