SEC faculty leaders urge reform for athletics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Faculty representatives from all 12 of the Southeastern Conference schools concluded their two-day meeting on the role of academics in college sports at Vanderbilt University Friday, by forming the SEC Association of Faculty Leaders and urging "significant reform of intercollegiate athletics."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Faculty representatives from all 12 of the Southeastern Conference schools concluded their two-day meeting on the role of academics in college sports at Vanderbilt University Friday, by forming the SEC Association of Faculty Leaders and urging "significant reform of intercollegiate athletics."

The group of about 40 faculty representatives made recommendations that would result in the increased role of the faculty in athletic department policy-making; closer study of athletic seasons and scheduling and their impact on academics and student welfare; and standards that would promote the academic success of student athletes.

The meeting was the first of its kind of SEC faculty leaders, who came together to consider the role of academics in intercollegiate athletics. Virginia Shepherd, president of the Vanderbilt Faculty Senate and co-organizer of the meeting, said the meeting far exceeded organizers' expectations and that the group's vote on the issues in the final report was nearly unanimous. "I think the voices that are being heard now from the presidents down to the faculty to the governing boards are that we need reform, but we want to retain athletics and we want the best academic situation and options for those student athletes," she said.

Among the recommendations issued from the meeting, the group urged that competition scheduling should be based on academic considerations instead of on revenue considerations and that the NCAA and the SEC should examine the length of athletic seasons, the number of competitions and athletes' nontraditional season activities and their impact on student welfare and academic performance.

The faculty discussed issues related to the proposed NCAA reforms in intercollegiate athletics and concluded that student athletes who are admitted to member institutions should have a strong likelihood of academic success, that the six-year graduation rate of student athletes should equal or exceed that of the other students at the institution and that there should be processes in place to guarantee institutional control of the quality of all academic programs.

Among its general conclusions, the faculty group "endorsed the efforts of the presidents and chancellors of the Bowl Championship Conference schools to formulate and enact proposals for significant reform of intercollegiate athletics" and urged the presidents and chancellors "to continue their cooperative efforts and to engage their faculties in this process."

In addition, the group recommended that faculty at their colleges and universities play an increased and "significant role" in oversight of athletic department activities, policies and personnel decisions. In order to identify best practices, the group agreed to share information about the academic oversight bodies at their respective institutions.

The group assembled on Thursday as a collection of faculty leaders from the 12 SEC schools and adjourned as the newly-formed SEC Association of Faculty Leaders. Shepherd said they now are "an organized faculty voice that the presidents and chancellors will listen to" as they consider reform efforts. "I don't want to go so far as to say we are going to set policy," Shepherd said of the new leadership group, but "the support we're going to give to our chancellors and presidents is going to be very important."

The SEC Association of Faculty Leaders announced its next meeting, to be hosted by the University of Arkansas at the SEC Headquarters office in Birmingham, for sometime next year. In the meantime, a steering committee has been established to examine the role and composition of the group.

SEC Faculty Assembly Recomendations

On May 1 and 2, 2003, faculty leaders from all 12 SEC schools met to discuss general faculty governance issues and issues specifically related to the currently proposed NCAA reforms in intercollegiate athletics. We have the following statements and recommendations.

1 - We have officially formed the SEC Association of Faculty Leaders. Commissioner Slive has graciously offered the SEC Headquarters in Birmingham for our meeting next year which will be hosted by the University of Arkansas.

2 - As faculty representatives of the SEC universities, we endorse the efforts of the presidents and chancellors of Bowl Championship conference schools to formulate and enact proposals for significant reform of intercollegiate athletics. We urge the presidents and chancellors of our institutions to continue their cooperative efforts and to engage their faculties in this process.

Specific Recommendations from our four subcommittees:

Faculty Governance Subcommittee:

We recommend that faculty members be given a significant role in the oversight of athletic department activities, policies and personnel decisions.

Furthermore, it is the intention of this group to collect and share information regarding the academic oversight bodies at each member institution in order to identify best practices.

Student Welfare Subcommittee:

We will send two representatives - one from Alabama and one from Tennessee, to the October, 2003 meeting of the Student Athlete Representatives in Birmingham.

Costs and Commercialization Subcommittee:

We recommend that the NCAA and SEC examine the length of seasons, the number of competitions, and nontraditional season activities, and their impact on student welfare and academic performance.

We recommend that competition scheduling should be based on academic considerations and not on revenue considerations.

Academics Subcommittee:

We recommend that all student athletes who are admitted to member institutions should have a strong likelihood of academic success.

We recommend that the six-year graduation rate of student athletes should equal or exceed that of other students at their institution.

Statement of Principle: We reaffirm that there should be processes in place to guarantee institutional control of the quality of all academic programs.


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