The Faculty Report in the Reform of Intercollegiate Athletics

Article excerpt


Principles and Recommended Practices

The report that follows was approved for publication by the Association's Committee on Teaching, Research, and Publication in October 2002. Comments are welcome and should be addressed to the Association's Washington office.


Athletics first appeared on American college campuses as an intramural activity, a much-needed recreational complement to academic life. During the past century this form of athletics, usually organized by students and overseen by faculty, was gradually transformed on many campuses into a highly commercial, increasingly professional enterprise whose control, audience, and venues became ever more divorced from campus life. The subsequent record of excesses, exploitation, and abuses in intercollegiate athletics proved impervious to repeated efforts at substantive reform.

A decade ago, concerned about these abuses and their increasingly corrosive impact on the core academic mission of American institutions of higher education, the AAUP published two reports on the subject: "The Role of the Faculty in the Governance of College Athletics: A Report of the Special Committee on Athletics" and the "Statement on Intercollegiate Athletics."1 Both reports described the major problems in intercollegiate sports that were judged to require substantive reform and offered recommendations to improve the educational experiences of college athletes. The reports argued that Association-supported standards of governance in colleges and universities, and the need to protect and preserve traditional educational values and academic standards, demanded more active faculty engagement with and oversight of intercollegiate athletics programs than had previously been the case. The reports went on to call for reforms in admissions and financial aid practices, closer faculty monitoring of college athletes' educational experiences and academic progress, and better management of the financial operations of the athletics program.

In the decade that has passed since those reports were written, a large and growing body of literature has continued to detail the baleful influence of intercollegiate athletics on higher education.2 Many of the same academic and financial improprieties-and lack of accountability-that occasioned the earlier AAUP reports are still present some in more extreme forms. The Association has been especially concerned about the continuing preferential treatment of athletes with regard to admissions and scholarship aid, disappointing graduation records for athletes, and ethical breaches of academic standards by coaches, students, administrators, and faculty. The problems associated with intercollegiate athletics have involved not only the quality of education offered to athletes but also the effects of bad practices on the academic wellbeing of the student body at large. They have also included exploitation and abuses of students by coaches, practice and contest schedules incompatible with commitments to academic priorities, improper intervention in academic matters by athletics administrators and staff, undue reliance on sports programs for institutional status, subordination of the academic progress of college athletes to the demands of athletics, and outside interference by overzealous alumni and boosters in college and university governance. For many years such issues were thought to be problems only at major institutions with big-time sports programs-in particular, institutions with Division I-A football and basketball teams. Recently, however, as some smaller institutions have coveted the potential revenues and public notice associated with highprofile sports programs, the temptation for these institutions to promote athletics has been intense and at times irresistible. The problems noted above exist, to a greater or lesser extent, at most institutions that engage in competitive intercollegiate athletics.

Across the spectrum of higher education, budgetary allocations made to intercollegiate sports have continued to rise exponentially, often at the expense of academic programs. …