The action took place on Friday at the AU Hotel and Conference Center at a special meeting called by Richardson to address what he called urgent issues for the university in its efforts to eliminate the probation put on Auburn last December by SACS, the university's accrediting agency.
Richardson said the dissolution of the committee will make it clear that the president of the university is in total control of the athletic department, something he said is essential for Auburn to be on schedule to eliminate its academic probation problem. The board's adoption of Richardson's two resolutions on Friday made it clear that even though Richardson is an interim president, he is taking a strong leadership role at AU.
"I think it is a very positive step," board member Jimmy Rane said. "I think it sends a very clear message as to the intent of Auburn University, its board of trustees and the president.
"I would think this would clearly demonstrate to them (SACS) what we have known all along," Rane said. "Obviously, they needed to hear it in a clearer way so hopefully we have done that today."
The board adopted a 12-point policy on intercollegiate athletics that has the following parts:
1. Acknowledges its constitutional and statutory obligation to "manage and control" the university, commits itself to the most effective administration of that duty, and as such, delegates to the president of the university the full conduct and control of Auburn's athletics program, holds the president responsible for it, and includes this responsibility among those assessed during presidential performance reviews.
2. Requires the president to report to the Board of Trustees annually and periodically as necessary regarding the president's fulfillment of his responsibilities for the athletics program, even as it extends full support to the president in execution of his responsibility for intercollegiate athletics. The president's reports shall include, as pertinent to board policies, information concerning the operation of the athletics department and presidential actions taken or to be taken in compliance with this policy on intercollegiate athletics.
3. Designates its Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Finance and Executive Committees with ongoing responsibility for diligent review of the president's annual report on athletics programs and, as advisable, further research into areas of athletics policy. Other committees and task forces, each from its own perspective, shall be further charged with review of the athletics program insomuch as policy to be reviewed falls into such committees' legally charged areas of responsibility.
4. Sets and reviews expectations of the overall benefits the university may expect from the athletics program and requires that there be an athletics department mission statement.
5. Approves, with the president, benchmarks and standards for success.
6. Verifies that the intercollegiate athletics program reflects and supports the university's academic values and mission.
7. Reviews and approves the athletics budget, along with all other within the university, all within a full understanding of the complex finances of the department. Proposals for significant capital improvements are to be approved by the board with the framework established by already existing policies. The board makes sure that all funds raised by affiliated organizations and spent on athletics are controlled and overseen by the president.
8. Confirms that the president reviews and monitors institutional compliance with Title IX requirements, reviews and discusses the results of the NCAA self-study process, monitors the independent audit of the department required by the NCAA, and reviews its athletics department's compliance with other laws or regulations to which the university is subject."
9. Monitors the compensation packages of the athletic director and head coaches of major sports.
10. Regularly reconsiders its policies with respect to athletics, for both currency and completeness.
11. Agrees to include a thorough review of athletics policy issues as part of its orientation of new trustees.
12. Requires the president to review and report to the board regarding admissions policies, financial assistance, graduation rates, transfer rates, declared majors and academic support for athletes, all as compared to the general student population and to statistics from peer institutions.
The board also adopted a three-part resolution, also without dissent in second roll call vote, that deals with standards of conduct for board members. The first part amends the board's code of ethics policy. Among the provisions is a clause that prohibits a board member from using his/her position as a trustee to profit financially. Another clause reads, "A member of the Board of Trustees shall, when making decisions in that capacity, exercise independent judgment so that no minority cohort of the board, or organization or interest separate from the board, controls the decisions of the board, and accordingly, such that the sole concern of each member is the benefit of the institution."
The second part of the resolution is entitled "Policy on Trustee Administration Communications." It states that board members are not to directly take a management role in the day to day operations of the university and states that is the job of the university president.
Richardson said that he expects and wants board members to interact with faculty, staff and coaches in a relaxed and comfortable manner to make them more knowledgeable about the issues facing Auburn. He said the line of what is proper and improper is crossed when an individual bypasses the president or the athletic director and goes directly to trustee members to try to push a personal agenda. "That is what we have to watch," Richardson said.
The third part of the resolution is to establish a board of trustees audit committee to "enhance the board's ability to effectively manage the assets entrusted to the university by the citizens of the state of Alabama." Richardson said that when the board meets again in June, he hopes to put that committee into operation.
Richardson said the meeting was vitally important to the university's long-term health because it dealt with his number one issue, responding to the accreditation problem. Commenting on the need for the resolution concerning board conduct, Richardson said, "We must respond to the SACS charge. We are trying to determine if one or two trustees would have an undue influence on the majority of the board. That was their (SACS) language and that is really what we are after." Critics of the board have charged that Montgomery businessman Bobby Lowder has exercised too much control over the board in recent years.
Before the vote on the two resolutions by the board members, Richardson told them, "I would like to say that the proposals, in my opinion, are critical not only to the SACs, but for the effective, overall operation of the university."
Board member Paul Spina said that he agreed with Richardson's plans to address the accreditation issue. "They are very important resolutions, particularly in regard to the SACS process," he said. "I have been committed to that previously and so have most of these board members. There has been a lot of innuendo and deception out there that we weren't committed to these policies, but the re-commitment to them and the individual commitment to them will speak volumes in regard to the SACS issue. I am optimistic that we have the right man in place at the right time to help us."
Also at Friday's meeting, Dr. Richardson recognized the men's and women's swimming teams and their coaching staffs. Both squads repeated as national champions. Each member of the teams received a plaque from the university and a handshake from the president, who praised the teams for their large number of honor students in addition to their athletic exploits.
Retiring women's basketball coach Joe Ciampi was also honored at the meeting and like the swimming teams, he received a standing ovation from the group. Ciampi was given an eagle statue and high praise for the way he ran the Auburn women's basketball program for 25 years.