The topic of presidential control of intercollegiate athletics has been a primary focus of the NCAA membership for decades but gained greater attention with the first Knight Commission report in 1991.
That report generated considerable discussion and evaluation on individual campuses of the proper role and oversight of the athletics program. The report recommended the one-plus-three model to strengthen presidential control with a focus on academic integrity, fiscal integrity and independent certification of athletics programs.
The Knight Commission issued an updated report 10 years later called "A Call to Action -- Reconnecting College Sports and Higher Education." That report encouraged presidents to collectively address the agenda of academic reform, de-escalation of the athletics arm race and de-emphasis of the commercialization of intercollegiate athletics.
The first Knight Commission report placed a great deal of the responsi-
bility for controlling the athletics program directly on the shoulders of the university president. I believe the second report emphasized a more appropriate approach to the issue of presidential control -- "the need to act together." I refer to this as the "shared presidential control model." This model is similar to the shared approach to rules compliance.
The system and issues have become too complex, the NCAA Manual book too thick and the outside influences too invasive to think that presidential control of a program can be effectively placed on the shoulders of one individual.
In this challenging environment, we must respond with a new paradigm that will assist university presidents and provide them with the greatest opportunity to succeed in properly controlling their athletics programs and positively shaping the future of inter- collegiate athletics. Shared presidential control not only requires presidents to act locally on their own campuses but also to join forces with their colleagues to collectively drive the conference and national agendas. The second Knight Commission report refers to this group as the Presidents' Coalition. This approach also includes clear and well-defined roles for the faculty, faculty representatives and governing boards.
The key to shared presidential control is "acting together" on campus to ensure a total integration of the athletics program within the university community. Total integration of all the administrative components of the athletics program within the university's organizational structure gives the president the greatest chance to be successful with one of the most challenging responsibilities placed upon his or her shoulders. Complete integration is essential whether institutions are financially self-supporting or subsidized from central funds to operate their athletics program. Since self-supporting programs may have more financial autonomy than programs that receive central support, it is imperative that institutional financial integration occur to ensure optimal oversight.
Changes have been made to organizational structures on campuses that have resulted in athletics directors reporting directly to presidents and integrating athletics department functions to be better aligned with the central student support services of the university. The most notable organizational integration has occurred with the change in reporting lines of academic support services to closely align with overall student academic support services on campus. Other areas that have seen organizational reporting line changes include, but are not limited to, development, finances, human resources, summer camps and medical delivery. Other university student services areas that also should be integrated are admissions, financial aid, registrar, bursar, housing and food services, and risk management.
It is essential that the student services areas of a university embrace and recognize that the young people participating in our athletics programs are members of the student body and should receive the same attention and focus as other students on campus. Student-athletes have the same academic, social and health needs and challenges as other students and student services integration is an important component of the shared presidential control model. Proper use of student support services and academic support centers is essential for institutions to keep student-athletes in the campus and academic mainstream.
Many people may argue that little progress has been made over the past decade and that university presidents are less engaged in athletics. I, however, believe that much has been accomplished and that intercollegiate athletics is healthier than at any other time in the membership history. This belief is based upon the fact that presidents, through the NCAA governance structure and by other means, are becoming more engaged than ever before.
If the membership and presidents have been guilty of anything, it has been their lack of advocacy of the positive educational contribution that athletics provides annually to more than 360,000 student-athletes. Collectively, the membership has allowed the negative and highly visible missteps to outshine the benefits we witness every single day in our programs. We need to be more vocal in advocating what is right about one of the greatest educational processes on our campuses -- intercollegiate athletics.
We must work hard to change those negative views and perceptions of athletics and make the academic community understand that intercollegiate athletics is one of the most valuable teaching laboratories on campus. Intercollegiate athletics is one of the few units that every day brings students of diverse backgrounds together to work toward one common goal.
The more we embrace the fact that intercollegiate athletics is one of the most effective tools for diversity education, the more we will appreciate that intercollegiate athletics is a valuable educational component. Not only does intercollegiate athletics support the academic mission of higher education, but if properly structured, managed and comprehensively integrated, it can be the greatest educational asset any university president could have on his or her campus.
I encourage university presidents and the membership to focus on the positive aspects of intercollegiate athletics and not let the challenges of the day (for example, de-escalation of the arms race, reluctant commercialization and APR rates), overshadow the significant value of intercollegiate athletics.
Tim Curley is the director of athletics at Pennsylvania State University.