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By Jack Copeland, NCAA News
It wasn't surprising when Myles Brand, in his first speech as the NCAA's new leader in 2003, declared that "presidential control of intercollegiate athletics is essential." After all, he owed his own selection for the job to presidents' recently won control of the Association's governance structure.
Brand, however, did more than say how things should be. He developed mechanisms for encouraging presidents not only to practice control over athletics operations but also to provide leadership in establishing a proper place for sports in the academic missions of universities and colleges.
By virtue of his own experiences as a president at major academic institutions, Brand could capture colleagues' attention in a way that none of his predecessors all athletics administrators ever could have hoped to do.
"I think that probably Myles Brand, because he's widely known in that community of presidents and chancellors, may be effective in demonstrating to all of us the value of direct presidential involvement in the governance of the NCAA," Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway, at the time chair of the Division I Board of Directors, told The NCAA News following Brand's selection in late 2002.
"He has changed the audience to which he can deliver his message," Bob Bowlsby, then director of athletics at Iowa and currently athletics director at Stanford, told USA Today in 2005. "Presidents listen to him, and I'm not sure, going back to Walter Byers, that presidents necessarily listened to the executive director or the (NCAA) president in quite the same way."
However, Brand made clear in his first speech to the Association's membership during the 2003 NCAA Convention that presidents must exercise not only control over the national organization's operations but also leadership in preserving what he soon would term a "collegiate model" for athletics a presidential role that he saw being distinct from control.
"University and college presidents are in the best position to provide institutional leadership, while taking into account the perspectives of student-athletes, coaches, fans, faculty members and governing boards," he said in articulating presidential control as a key principle for achieving reform of and advocacy for college sports.
"When missteps in athletics programs occur, universities are open to criticism, and the presidents are the ones on the front line," he continued. "I know because I have been there. It is presidents who have the ultimate responsibility for setting standards and ensuring that these standards are followed. The NCAA should make every possible effort to assist presidents in carrying out these responsibilities."
He set about providing such support, in ways large and small, from his first days in office.
Three months after the 2003 Convention, he asked the NCAA Executive Committee to approve a pilot, voluntary orientation program for newly appointed campus presidents and chancellors, in which a current or former university president would visit a campus not only to explain the operations of the NCAA but to offer counsel on ways to manage athletics issues on campus.
"The program will provide an opportunity to emphasize the importance of presidential participation in the NCAA and garner support for the NCAA's advocacy and reform agenda," he told the committee in his proposal.
The program continues today to provide a valued resource for recently appointed presidents at NCAA member institutions.
More visibly, campus executives regularly have been tapped by Brand to lead task forces that have addressed key issues in intercollegiate athletics. Doing so put presidents in visible leadership roles, tackling the most pressing problems facing college sports.
"Presidential leadership, which is not the same as presidential control, adds vision and strategic direction, and does so in a way that engages the many constituents to find a solution that works for all," Brand said in announcing the creation in 2005 of the Presidential Task Force on the Future of Division I Intercollegiate Athletics. That group, composed entirely of presidents, ultimately produced recommendations for achieving fiscal responsibility in athletics, supporting academic standards, providing presidential leadership on campuses, and championing student-athlete well-being.
During his NCAA presidency, Brand made clear that he wouldn't be satisfied serving as a voice for presidents. He moved quickly to build platforms from which they could speak more effectively for themselves.