Faculty to Meet with Trustees

By Staff

Athletic Management, 15.3, April/May 2003, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1503/wutrustees.htm

University faculty members who’ve been calling for restraint on athletics spending are seeking a new, potentially powerful ally: schools’ governing boards. And the concerned professors have at least gotten a willing ear.

Several of the faculty members leading reform efforts have approached the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) to talk about getting the group involved. The AGB has agreed, without commitment, to hear out the faculty members, along with leaders of the NCAA. It has also formed its own ad-hoc committee to address trustees’ role in athletics.

Although faculty groups have often clashed with governing boards, approaching the AGB is part of the strategy of reform-minded members of faculty at many universities in NCAA Division I conferences tied to the Bowl Championship Series. Over the past two years, many faculty senates have adopted resolutions calling on their respective presidents and trustees to restrict the growth and scope of athletics.

The movement began at the University of Oregon, then spread to other Pac-10 schools before going nationwide. Its main tenet is that athletics is too often the tail wagging the academic dog. The faculty resolutions typically seek slowed growth in athletic spending, weaning of general-fund subsidies for athletics, restraining coaches’ salaries and facility construction, and reducing sports’ interference with student-athlete and student-body academic demands and schedules.

If the faculty were to get trustees to sign on, they would have the endorsement of schools’ top layer of control. Some reports of the discussions early this year referred to these efforts as the start of a significant alliance. But AGB President Tom Ingram says talk of an alliance is premature.

“It’s exploratory,” Ingram told Athletic Management. “We have two understandings: That this initiative is not tied to any particular organization of faculty and that the NCAA leadership will be part of our conversations.”

Ingram says the AGB’s Board of Directors realizes trustees have a role in examining college athletics. “Ultimately, they control—or should control—the budget priorities within their own institutions and, at the very least, understand their responsibilities not to micro-manage athletics programs nor be unbridled boosters,” Ingram says. “Some trustees don’t quite understand that but I think the majority of them do, and the majority of governing boards do.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure trustees are properly informed about the issues, know what questions to ask, and have some guiding principles within their own board rooms about their place in the ultimate decisions that have to be made at every university concerning the conduct of intercollegiate competition.”

In early 2002, the AGB’s board formed an ad-hoc committee to examine athletics. Chaired by John Walda, former President of the Indiana University Board of Trustees, the panel plans to develop guidelines to help governing boards examine their policy-making responsibilities concerning athletics, Ingram says.

The AGB comprises members from private and public institutions across the NCAA’s three divisions. The athletics committee, Ingram says, will examine issues affecting athletics “at all competition levels, not just Division I-A, but also Division II and Division III.”