Newsletter Spring 2010


Nathan Tublitz has stepped down as co-chair of COIA after four years of service. Under his leadership, COIA has become a strong and respected faculty voice for intercollegiate athletic reform. Our new co-chair is Ken  Struckmeyer from Washington State University.

For several years the COIA Steering Committee has discussed the possibility of registering as a non-profit organization in order to raise funds to support its operations. This requires obtaining 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. The Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State has offered to house COIA’s operations, and presently maintains our web site. Attempts to find a lawyer in Pennsylvania who would take on this task pro bono have not been successful. Therefore, at the January meeting, the membership agreed to ask member senates for a one-time $100 donation so that we can hire a lawyer to guide us through the process. For further information, please contact one of the COIA co-chairs at browne@wfu.eduor

COIA and the Curley Center for Sports Journalism have teamed up to work together to develop a survey designed to measure how well universities integrate athletics into their academic mission. Using criteria based on best practices suggested in COIA white papers, the Curley Center, with input from experts in the field, developed a survey instrument. In February of 2009 a pre-test was distributed to the faculty senates of 12 FBS institutions. Based on the results of the pre-test, the survey was fine-tuned and then distributed to the faculty senates of 120 FBS institutions. Sixty schools chose to participate in the survey. Data analysis is underway, and will be completed by the summer of 2010. The intention of the survey is to “facilitate reflection, discussion and reform … and to highlight programs that integrate COIA’s best practices”.

Recent articles of interest:

Experience in Sports Optional for New Leaders

College Presidents Say They’re Powerless to Control Big-Time Athletics

College football coaches see salaries rise in down economy


Highlights of the annual meeting

The annual COIA meeting was held Jan 22-24 at San Diego State University.  There were 64 attendees, representing 33 of COIA’s 57 member institutions.

Christine Jackson, President of the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A)served on a panel which discussed student-athlete welfare issues, along with Gerald Gurney, N4A President-elect, and Colleen Evens of SDSU.  The message was that faculty need to work with the student-athlete support services to ensure that these students have the best possible opportunity to succeed academically. The discussion turned to admissions standards, and the effect that the NCAA sliding scale has had on widening the gap between the typical student and student athletes admitted under special admissions policies. As the gap widens, more student-athletes fall into the at-risk category.

John Columboof the University of Illinois School of Law discussed the tax code and its possible role in the reform of intercollegiate athletics.  Dr. Columbo’s has numerous publications on the legal standards for tax exemption of charitable organizations and has testified before Congress on the issue of the tax-exempt status of the NCAA.   He believes that the NCAA is clearly a tax-exempt organization under existing tax law. On the issue of whether theUnrelated Business Income tax should be applied to Division I-A football and men’s basketball programs, he stated that if there was any profit to tax, which there rarely is, it would disappear quickly. In his opinion, the way to use tax law as a vehicle for pursue major athletic reform is to make the tax exempt status of the entire institution be dependent upon certain conditions, such as the filing of public disclosure forms. But the question is, do we want the IRS to regulate what universities do?  Is it worth it to ask Congress to help reform intercollegiate athletics? Columbo believes the answer is yes, because reform will never come from within –it will have to be imposed from the outside.

Brad Wolverton Money and Management Editor for The Chronicle of Higher Education described the true cost of the college sports obsession. Together, the biggest athletics departments  raised over $4 billion for capital improvements from 2003-2008.  In addition to football stadiums, the money went for such things as a 34,000-square-foot academic support facility for athletes, a weight room the size of a Wal-Mart store, and an amenity-rich basketball practice facility.  Wolverton noted that athletics gifts to Division I schools went from representing 14% of overall university-wide gifts in 1999 to 28% five years later.  During the same period, gifts to institutions for non-athletic purposes were flat. And who is watching? The presidents, he noted, as reported by the most recent report of the Knight Commission, have largely “thrown up their hands.”  The athletic directors are driven by the need to balance the budget.  And, he wondered, how much time can the faculty spend on, and influence, big-time athletic programs?  Wolverton said that COIA must sharpen its voice.  It is important to make clear that COIA is a body representing faculty senates, not a collection of individuals.  COIA now is largely of invisible, but it has much to offer; it needs to be more strategic in voicing its views and aims.

Dr. Gerald Gurney, President-elect of the N4A, took issue with reforms adopted by the NCAA in 2003 and pointed out what he saw as undesirable consequences.  Universities may steer their at-risk student-athletes into less challenging academic programs designed to protect their athletic eligibility. Eliminating a minimum standardized test score in favor of a sliding scale has resulted in athletes being admitted using inflated grades. An inevitable consequence of the pressures placed on struggling student-athletes underprepared and overcommitted student-athletes is that some will risk the consequences of academic dishonesty charges to meet their eligibility demands.   He urged faculty to wrestle control of athletic special-admissions from their administration and athletic program.

Wally Renfro, Senior Adviser to the President of the NCAA, gave an update on the search for the NCAA president.  The search committee is composed of presidents from the NCAA Executive Committee.  Working with a consultant, the goal is to have a NCAA president in place by the beginning of fall term.

Renfro also spoke about the potential problems of special admissions, and reinforced that institutions must make admissions decisions in accord with their own values. He said that it is imperative the faculty retain authority over the curriculum, the standards of instruction, and the standards for the major.