College Sports and the NCAA Executive Director Dick Schultz Sizes Up the Progress of College Athletics Reform

By Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 1991 | Go to article overview

College Sports and the NCAA Executive Director Dick Schultz Sizes Up the Progress of College Athletics Reform


Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


IF Dick Schultz, the Johnny Appleseed of college athletic reform, is late for an appointment, he can't blame the airlines. A licensed pilot, the executive director the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) flies a Lear jet the association purchased after he assumed his current post in 1987.

That may sound like an extravagance, but it's actually proving cost effective, given Schultz's ambitious travel schedule. ll be on the road over 200 days this year, and sometimes in two or three places in the same day," says the soft-spoken leader of the 828-school association based in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, Mo.

A former University of Iowa basketball and baseball coach and a former athletic director at Cornell University and the University of Virginia, Schultz says "the perception of the general public is that colleges and universities are not doing a good job of controlling their athletic programs." He is spearheading efforts within the NCAA to establish a new model for college athletics and says he's committed to getting out the word, being a visible advocate and agent of change.

And he doesn't just visit the big-time athletic schools: He recently came to Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic Institute, where he participated in the college's homecoming activities and agreed to a Monitor interview. Edited excerpts follow:

Who are college sports for: the student body, the university community as a whole, the athletes, or the alumni?

I think it's probably all of the above. At Division I {the major-college level} it's for the athletes, it's for the university, it's for the general public as well. Many of these schools view it as a real extension of public visibility for the institution. I've talked to a number of college presidents at the smaller Division I schools and tried pointing out to them that they might be much better off in Division II or III. But Division I is very important to them ... not so much from an athletic standpoint, but it gives them the visibility they need to attract students.

Is the educational component being underplayed?

People will always question the educational value of athletics at any level, whether it's Division I or Division III. But people do need a diversion. They need things to take them out of the academic arena.

Does this create problems?

Yes, sometimes it does if a school lets things get out of balance.... To change that and move in a positive direction we need to change the model, which is the thrust of efforts we've made in the last three years. They're geared to making sure the athletic program is in its right role in the academic community and that the athletes move back into the mainstream of the university life and become as indistinguishable from the rest of the student body as possible.

How can this be done?

It will take quite a bit of time to do it. We've put even more restrictions on recruiting and limitations on the number of hours a day an athlete can practice, both in season and out of season. We're phasing out athletic dormitories and special training tables over a five-year period. We're coming into some strong academic reforms in January that I hope will be passed. And in the fall of '93 there will be a certification program for accrediting athletic departments.

College athletic programs often operate independently of the rest of the university. Is that part of the problem?

That is. It's a little bit of a double-edged sword, because some states have laws that say you cannot use tax money for intercollegiate athletics. …

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