February 20, 2012


B. Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) Report.

As the UT Austin representative to COIA, Professor Edmund (Ted) Gordon (African and African diaspora studies) presented a comprehensive annual report to the Council; his written report is attached for your review in Appendix B. Following an introductory overview of COIA, its mission, and areas of concern, Professor Gordon reported on the national meeting he attended on January 21-22 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after thanking the president’s office for providing resources for his trip. He noted that minutes of the meeting had already been received and policy recommendations would be forthcoming, so his report largely included his impressions of COIA activities and issues, as well as his perceptions of what might be done on the UT Austin campus in this context. He said issues and problems addressed at the Tulsa meeting comprised a lengthy list that included the following:
  • Integrity issues related to athletics and economics whereby universities increasingly cannot control funds coming from or being expended by athletic programs
  • Challenges to striking a balance between the entertainment values and the academic values universities should and do represent
  • Growing revenue gaps in athletic programs, as indicated by only 20 programs not producing a deficit, 25% of football coaches receiving in excess of $2 million per year in salaries, only 16% of athletic expenses going to student scholarships while 33% supports the salaries and benefits of those supervising the student athletes, and twenty colleges having changed conferences in the last year—half of those due to financial inducements and other considerations
  • Loss of presidential authority to that of regents or trustees in making decisions regarding athletics while presidential positions are jeopardized where wrong decisions occur
  • Erosion of trust among presidents causing the inability to act in a unified manner within the NAACP group regarding regulatory improvements
  • Universal exclusion of faculty from decision-making about athletics
  • Commercialization of athletics when universities are being pushed in the same direction even in areas outside of athletics
  • Problems regarding the health and well-being of student athletes, including short- and long-term injuries due to sports participation, missed classes due to sports scheduling and the increasingly larger geographical areas covered by conferences, and low graduation and academic progress rates
  • Equity concerns about the large amounts of money made by programs when the student athletes do not receive commensurate compensation for their labor
  • Lawsuits by student athletes when the use of their names and images does not result in compensation
  • NCAA penalties being unjustly assessed against individual student athletes instead but not against their institutions
  • BCS issues putting pressure on decision-makers to have a football championship series         
Professor Gordon said attending his first COIA meeting was an “eye-opening” experience, but it gave him pause as to how any kind of workable solutions could be found to resolve the complexity of problems occurring in college athletics. He reported that COIA was currently working in three primary areas. The first was the rising emphasis on moving toward the pay-for-play model for football and basketball, whereby players would receive a $2,000 stipend for their work. In addition, he said there would likely be a return to freshman ineligibility and a recommendation that scholarships be provided to student athletes for a five-year period at the time of recruitment rather than just for one-year with the possibility of renewal based on performance. Professor Gordon indicated that the other two areas where COIA was working toward developing recommendations involved the BCS-system and the NCAA’s possible request of an antitrust exemption from Congress. Due to the complexity and the division among COIA representatives on these issues, he did not know how these issues would be resolved and what the recommendations would be.

As to COIA’s presence here at UT Austin, Professor Gordon said he thought the organization was worthwhile and recommended that Council members review the valuable information available on the organization’s website. However, he did not see an “obvious mechanism for the insights that one gets from participation in this organization to actually impact anything that goes on {here} on the UT Austin campus.” He said the first reason was that no direct role existed for faculty input regarding athletics, outside of the athletic councils, which actually report to the president rather than to the Faculty Council, even though an annual report is provided to the Council. He said he was a member of the Intercollegiate Athletics Council for Men and thought it performed a useful role, but he felt there was no direct way for faculty to have input in terms of what’s going on in athletics. Professor Gordon indicated there was certainly no direct mechanism for the types of recommendations that COIA provides to actually impact the process here at UT Austin, even though he thought that would be very valuable if it could occur. He said the second reason he was not sanguine about faculty involvement in athletics here at UT Austin was because the past relationship between the COIA representative and the UT athletics department was generally an antagonistic one. He believed this relationship needed to change and thought this might occur due to his appointment to the COIA position. However, he emphasized the importance for effort to be expended on improving interactions between all parties: faculty members, athletics personnel, and the COIA representative.

Professor Gordon said it was a “shame” that the UT Austin COIA representative was not necessarily a member of the athletics council. Although the COIA representative and the members of the athletics councils are appointed in different ways, he thought it was “a happy circumstance” that he was involved in both roles this year. He believed the situation on many campuses was similar to that here at UT where mutual suspicions exist between faculty members and athletics personnel regarding the intentions of the other group. He added that his participation in COIA has convinced him that this opaqueness or perceptual barrier needed to be broken down. He thought faculty members generally had little idea about what was happening in the athletics department and actually might “suspect the worst,” and athletics personnel generally felt that faculty members “look down on their athletes.” Professor Gordon said this was a real problem, and these negative perceptions needed to be worked upon for better relationships to exist.

With regard to COIA, he found it distressing that the organization was one largely comprised of “old white men.” Although this particular group had a great deal of important information to share, he thought they were not the only group who did. He recommended the involvement of more women and people of color on COIA, especially when he realized he was only one of two African Americans serving as representatives to the organization. He also perceived that COIA was not focused enough on student athlete well-being and the inequities that exist. He added that if he attended future meetings as the representative of UT Austin, which was a founding member of the organization and has a good deal of influence, he would work on these important issues.

Professor Gordon indicated there were many issues that COIA was currently concerned about that he felt were not problems here on the UT campus. He said it was apparent to him that UT Austin athletics was a very efficient organization as well as quite productive in terms of its use of resources. Therefore, the problems that many institutions were experiencing because their athletics programs consume too many of their resources does not exist here. He added, “We loom large in COIA discussions. For example, the well-known quote, or at least it seemed to be well-known at COIA, that ‘we eat what we kill,” comes directly from this University and can be seen as positive, on the one hand, but also pretty negative on the other hand.” Even though UT Austin has managed to avoid the stresses on its resources due to its athletics program, he said there were other important issues needing attention on our campus, such as (1) athlete welfare and academics, (2) faculty participation in athletic governance, and (3) the lack of transparency that exists on both sides of the athlete/faculty equation. He pointed out that these were priorities that COIA was addressing and said he thought UT Austin should be addressing them as well.

After Professor Gordon said he was willing to answer questions, he received a round of applause from the Council. Chair Friedman asked if there were any questions and then thanked Professor Gordon for his report. He added that he wanted to make a few comments. First, he said it was not just a coincidence that Professor Gordon had been appointed to serve as both the COIA representative and on the men’s athletics council. Second, if Professor Gordon brought recommendations from COIA to the chair’s attention, they would be presented to the Faculty Council for consideration. Third, Chair Friedman pointed out there had been a strong COIA presence for several years on the UT Austin campus. When Professor Tom Palaima (classics) previously served as the COIA representative, Chair Friedman noted, “he certainly did everything he could to make us aware of the problems that were going on, many of which you reiterated.” Chair Friedman told Professor Gordon that he appreciated his service and would like to include an electronic version of his COIA report along with his own report to the faculty about the Council meeting if one were available.

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