Myles Brand

by Bob Eno, former Chair, COIA
Fall 2009 COIA Newsletter

When Myles Brand became President of the NCAA in 2003, he undertook to transform that association into an agent of change that could enable academic leaders to address the need for serious reform in college sports. In office he asserted the primacy of the academic mission and implemented the first sustained attempt to link success in athletics to academic integrity. His death on September 16 is a blow to all who, like COIA, endorsed this commitment to reform and hoped to see an expansion of that vision. Brand was a great friend of COIA and he met frequently with COIA members and representatives. Many of us feel his death as a personal loss.

COIA’s origins were closely entwined with the emergence of Brand as a spokesperson for athletics reform, and our coalition was formed in the months surrounding Brand’s NCAA appointment. As a university president Brand had been a strong supporter of faculty governance, and only three months into his tenure at the NCAA he brought members of his Board to meet with COIA leaders and initiate a publicly announced alliance with our coalition of faculty senates. He invited COIA representatives to a series of meetings with athletics directors, opening lines of communication to help us educate one another. He visited our national meetings, introduced us to university presidents working for change, publicized our work, and opened doors for us in many ways.

For all that, COIA was frequently a voice of criticism. While steering a serious academic reform package through the complex and contentious NCAA structure was a tremendous achievement, COIA pointed to the work yet to be done verifying the effectiveness of those reforms and addressing other pressing issues, such as the professionalization of college sports and the arms race in salaries and facilities. Brand did not always agree with our ideas, but he always showed respect for them, and in many cases he accepted our criticisms, regretting that with the tools he possessed he could not do more.

In later years, the pace of reform slowed – the low-hanging fruit had been picked and problems fell short of a crisis that could mobilize broad political will. In a 2007 meeting at the NCAA, COIA leaders worried that without tangible progress our coalition could not be maintained. Brand’s response was emphatic: “You have no idea how important it is to have a credible organization based in faculty governance articulating these views on a national level. It would be a terrible mistake to give up.”

It will be months before anyone has a clear sense of the direction the NCAA will now take and there is no guarantee that the future will provide us with opportunities for effectively promoting the remaining reform proposals that COIA advocates. But in recognition of President Brand’s accomplishments and his collegial friendship towards our coalition, the COIA Steering Committee has pledged to the NCAA Executive Committee that COIA will remain ready to support them in working towards President Brand’s vision of intercollegiate athletics as a truly constructive enhancement of our academic mission.