Board oversight sought in athletics
Report issued in light of Penn State scandal
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 00:10
In light of the Jerry Sandusky case, a report released Tuesday recommends increased board oversight of college athletics.
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges [AGB] released the report titled “Trust, Accountability, and Integrity: Board Responsibilities for Intercollegiate Athletics,” Tuesday which issues recommendations for appropriate board engagement in Division I institutions.
AGB President Richard D. Legon said the report’s findings are designed to “reaffirm standards and ethics in college athletics.”
“In light of recent issues in college sports, it is imperative for boards to function at a higher level of awareness and judgment in order to address the financial challenges associated with college sports, to ensure the link between intercollegiate athletics and academic priorities,” Legon said in a statement.
The report calls for college boards to be accountable for athletics policies and oversight, to act decisively to uphold their athletic departments’ integrity and ensure the departments are aligned with the institutions’ academic missions and to educate themselves about their roles in the policies and oversights of their athletic programs.
The recommendations were made in the hope that institutions will establish a balance between academics and athletics before government becomes involved.
The survey included in the report was issued before the Penn State scandal broke last fall, but the report states the incident was “a painful reminder that all boards need to be well informed and must clearly establish the appropriate role of athletics in relation to the core values and academic missions of their institutions.”
The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics’ report, “Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values, and the Future of College Sports,” stated that between 2005 and 2008, Division I-Football Bowl Subdivision schools increased spending per student for academic programs by 20.5 percent; during that same time those institutions increased the rate of institutional spending for athletes by 37.9 percent. It also found that the rate of spending per athlete ranged from four to 10 times the expenditures made for educational purposes per student.
“Intercollegiate athletics is big business, and it is getting bigger across most athletic divisions – particularly in Division I universities in the Football Bowl Subdivision,” the report states.
AGB’s report states that out of the 143 respondents to its survey (51 presidents from FBS schools, 51 from Football Championship Subdivision schools and 41 from Division I schools that do not have football), 33 of the FBS schools reported their institutions had athletics department operating budgets equal to or greater than $40 million, while every FCS school and Division I school without football reported operating budgets of less than $40 million in the fiscal year 2012.
Duquesne’s athletic expenses during that period totaled $14.3 million.
John T. Casteen, director of the report and president emeritus of the University of Virginia, said as FBS athletics programs continue to grow, boards must become more active in the oversight of their departments.
“Chief executive officers administer their institutions’ sports programs on a daily basis, but boards must engage actively and appropriately in the policy considerations surrounding the key issues, which can have a major impact on their institutions’ financial welfare and reputation,” Casteen said in a statement.
Almost one-third of respondents characterized their board’s ability to oversee compliance with NCAA rules as neutral, somewhat poor or poor.
Carolyn Lang, former board chair at West Virginia University who worked on the report, said boards need to become more involved in oversight of athletic departments to avoid ignorance of what is happening within their own universities.
“Sometimes we get a little too comfortable with the status quo and we want it to be the way it has always been,” Lang said. “But we need to ask questions. You don’t want to intrude where you don’t belong, but you want to provide a system of check and balances.”
At the end of each section, the report lists several questions boards, not limited to those at Division I schools, should ask themselves to determine if they have established appropriate oversight of their athletics programs.
“I don’t think it’s totally exclusive to Division I schools,” Lang said. “There might not be many things going on at the smaller schools just because the size of the student body, the campus and the infrastructure is just smaller, but these should apply to all collegiate institutions housing athletics.”
Lang also said she cannot be critical of how Penn State handled the Sandusky scandal.
“There are things that happened and it would be better to have foresight rather than hindsight, but they didn’t have that,” Lang said. “That’s what this report is meant to do. It’s meant to make institutions more proactive than reactive.”