Committees to replace athletics directors in academic oversight

by Erin Ghere

A University faculty committee recommended removing athletics directors from academic oversight Thursday, placing another wedge between coaches and students in the aftermath of the men’s basketball scandal.
Under the plan, two new faculty-controlled committees would be created for athletics oversight. Athletics directors would not be official members of either committee.
Athletics directors were influential, but unofficial, members of the former committee.
The new model has never been tried at the University or any other institution before.
The committee intends the change to create a more effective oversight mechanism, after the former oversight committee appeared blind to widespread academic fraud in the men’s basketball program.
The proposal suggests abolishing the current oversight committee, the Assembly Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, and replacing it with two groups.
“We can’t promise miracles, but we need to try something different from the things that led to problems in the past,” said Fred Morrison, faculty consultative committee chairman and law school professor.
The first, a nine-member Faculty Academic Oversight Committee, would set standards for academic eligibility and integrity. This committee would review student-athletes’ grades and address scheduling issues to limit the number of class days athletes miss.
The second, a 16-member Advisory Committee on Athletics, would advise University President Mark Yudof on athletics matters such as budgets, gender equity and facilities.
“The faculty have a special, significant role in determining academic standards and progress,” Morrison said.
The athletics directors would be non-voting members of the second group only.
“I don’t think there is a diminished role,” Morrison said, referring to athletics directors.
Tom Moe and Chris Voelz were unavailable for comment.
Morrison said the proposal keeps faculty members doing what they have always done — setting and administrating academic standards. The athletics directors continue to be responsible for student athletes’ compliance with those standards, he continued.
Morrison said the recommendation is not a sign of distrust for athletics, but a “careful definition of roles and functions.”
“This change will be very beneficial for obtaining appropriate compliance to academic progress,” Morrison said.
Prior to the academic fraud report’s release, the committee recommended limited professional association between coaches and professors, in an attempt to limit any influence coaches might have on instructors. At the time, then-athletics director Mark Dienhart said that by alienating coaches, an “athletic leper colony” would be created.
Dienhart said professors need to treat coaches as educators as well, or the University will be facing the same type of scandal down the road.
The committee’s recommendation will be sent to Yudof in the next few days.