Role of athletics to be discussed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Faculty leaders from all 12 Southeastern Conference schools as well as SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and NCAA President Myles Brand will gather at Vanderbilt University May 1-2 in a historic meeting to focus their attention on the role of academics in intercollegiate athletics.

While faculty leaders in some athletic conferences meet regularly, the meeting is the first ever for the representatives of the faculty senates of the SEC schools. Though the leaders are expected to discuss general governance issues and coalition building among the member institutions, the two-day gathering will focus primarily on recent efforts to encourage strong academic performance in athletics programs.

The SEC faculty leaders will consider joining their counterparts in the Big Ten and Pacific 10 conferences in a coalition designed to ensure faculty's involvement in proposed NCAA reforms in a coordinated and unified way.

Virginia Shepherd, president of the Vanderbilt Faculty Senate and one of the organizers of the SEC meeting, said SEC faculty members initially were approached by their counterparts in the Big Ten Conference about convening a meeting similar to one the Big Ten schools held last November.

"The response among the faculty of SEC schools has been overwhelmingly in favor of such an effort," Shepherd said. "Representatives are coming from all of the SEC schools, including faculty senate presidents, faculty athletic committee chairs and other faculty leaders. We hope that this signals not only the beginning of productive discussions of athletics and academics on our campuses, but also of a new era of cooperation among our faculty governance leaders."

Last fall's Big Ten meeting resulted in a statement in support of efforts of the presidents and chancellors of the Bowl Championship Series conference schools to develop significant reforms of intercollegiate athletics. Shepherd said she hopes the SEC faculty leaders will develop a similar statement after a thorough discussion of various aspects of the issue.

Breakout sessions are scheduled the afternoon of May 2 on the impact of athletics on academics and on student life, the costs associated with college sports programs, the increasing commercialization of intercollegiate athletics and the role of faculty governance in athletics.

Slive, named SEC commissioner last July, will deliver a keynote address the evening of May 1. Brand, the former president of Indiana University who has spoken out in favor of fundamental changes in intercollegiate athletics since becoming NCAA president in January, will deliver an address the morning of May 2.

Also that morning faculty leaders will hear from Vanderbilt Athletic Director Todd Turner, University of Alabama faculty athletic representative Gene Marsh and Indiana University faculty senate president Bob Eno, a member of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics. Turner is the chairman of an NCAA task force that is studying various incentives and disincentives for encouraging and improving academic performance in collegiate athletics.

Members of the 70-year-old SEC, which is based in Birmingham, Ala., are University of Alabama, University of Arkansas, Auburn University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.


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