COIA Presentation to Faculty Council
Edmund T. Gordon
February 20, 2012
“The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA; the Coalition) is an alliance of faculty senates from NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools. COIA’s mission is to provide a national faculty voice on intercollegiate sports issues. Areas of concern include academic integrity and quality, student-athlete welfare, campus governance of intercollegiate athletics, commercialization, and fiscal responsibility.” (http://blogs.comm.psu.edu/thecoia/)
I attended COIA’s national meeting held January 21st thru the 22nd of this year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This was my first experience with COIA. I found a group of highly informed individuals who are deeply involved in and knowledgeable about the workings of intercollegiate athletics. For anyone on the Faculty Council interested in these issues the COIA website is a great source of data and analysis. http://blogs.comm.psu.edu/thecoia
During this year’s meetings the speakers included Dr. Steadman Upham, President of The University of Tulsa and member of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, leading critical sportswriters, NCAA officials, and faculty officials of COIA.
During the two days presentations and discussions covered a large number of current areas of concern in the NCAA. Most were centered on academic integrity and/or economics. One issue of key concern is increasing inability of universities and particularly university presidents to control their academic programs and particularly the monies they spend and generate. Increasingly presidents are not in position to make the key decisions regarding their university’s athletic programs. These decisions are often made at the level of trustees and regents. If presidents stand up to these forces they are in danger of losing their jobs. On most campuses faculty are excluded from decision making with regard to athletics. To make matters worse, over past two years there has been an erosion of trust among presidents in the NCAA and therefore their ability to act together to reform athletics has been further eroded. In general, there is an aura of despair at COIA with many questioning; how are we going to keep athletics from going commercial when the universities themselves are being pushed in this direction?
Clearly the challenge is to strike a balance between entertainment values and academic values; a balance between the academic model vs the commercial model. Currently, the commercial seems to be winning out. At the majority of FBS schools the revenue gaps are continuing to grow. Only 20 programs make enough money to balance their academic budgets. All the while, 25 percent of football coaches receive in excess of 2 million dollars annually in salary. Many coaches receive more money than the scholarship costs of their entire football teams. Only 16 percent of athletic expenses are for scholarships while 33 percent are for salaries and benefits. In the last 18 months 20 universities have switched conferences mostly for financial reasons.
There was also some discussion of the inequities of collegiate sports economies. We discussed the advisability or athletes receiving payment for their participation in money making sports as well as the fact that some student athletes are suing the NCAA to be compensated for the use of their names and likenesses.
The health and well-being of athletes received some attention. COIA is concerned about such things as the large numbers of athlete concussions and steroid usage as well as the large number of missed classes and low APR and graduation rates. There was also some discussion of the possible arbitrariness and injustice of NCAA disciplinary proceedings where individual athletes are concerned.
We also discussed the probability that the BCS will be redone this year putting in a championship game or play off series. Questions arose such as, what would be a good exchange for the extra profits that the NCAA will make from having a championship game and can it pay for a reduction in current schedules? There are approximately 11 billion dollars coming in from this source, what do we want from the NCAA?
The COIA executive committee chose to focus on three of the above issues to try and create consensus among members and to establish policy recommendations:
- The rising call for shift to “pay for play” models of college sports. The NCAA’s suspended policy recommendation that a $2000 stipend be played to some athletes. A return to freshman ineligibility, five year scholarships, and a number of other related issues.
- Suggestions for reform of the BCS system
- A proposal for an antitrust exemption that will allow greater NCAA regulation of athletic program and their expenditures.
COIA has distributed notes from the meetings and has also asked member faculty councils to vote on the executive committee proposals formulated on the basis of our discussions, subsequent to the meeting’s end.
COIA at UT
There is no obvious mechanism for insight from participation in organization to actually impact what goes on in athletics at UT. There is no direct decision making role of faculty with athletics, whereas on some campuses faculty decide on such things as special admits for athletics.
The Men’s and women’s Athletic Councils are advisory and report to President. There is no fully effective mechanism for report to faculty. To compound matters, in the past the COIA representative has had an antagonistic relationship with athletics and has not been a member of the Athletic Councils. The Faculty Council has remedied this in part by appointing as its COIA representative a person who is also a member of the Men’s Athletic Council. In as much as possible this should be codified as Faculty Council policy.
There are a number of problems that COIA is grappling with that do not seem to be problems here at UT:
- Athletes at many schools cluster in particular majors. Recent reports seem to indicate that this is not a problem at UT.
- Many athletic programs around the country are run at a deficit, bleeding resources from other areas of the university budget. At UT, as far as we can tell, athletics contributes positively to the University’s budget. However, our athletic program’s “we eat what we kill” mantra was unflatteringly quoted several times during the recent COIA meetings and should probably be rethought.
- Many programs around the country are plagued by lax enforcement and continual violation of NCAA regulations. Compliance at UT, to this point, has been exemplary.
There are some areas where UT needs work:
- Faculty participation in the governance of athletic program is anemic compared to some of our counterpart universities.
- At UT there is a marked lack of trust between faculty and athletics with both sides almost completely opaque to the other.
- This creates real tensions between the two sides, which is ultimately detrimental to the University.
- Athlete welfare, especially in the money sports, has not yet reached optimal levels.
- UT athletics has made tremendous strides in enhancing the academic accomplishments of its student/athletes over the last five years. However, some programs have not kept pace with these improvements and all can improve even more.
- The inequity of unpaid or poorly paid labor from mostly underprivileged backgrounds producing enormous riches for the University is unacknowledged and, of course, unaddressed.
ETG Observations about COIA
COIA is not a diverse organization in terms of its membership, which, given its focus on FBS athletics in this country, is unfortunate. It is also concerned with issues of academic integrity and economics and much less on athletes’ well being and inequities. One of the things that was most striking to me at the meeting I attended was that the issue of race was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to acknowledge. Blacks, predominantly poor Blacks, make up the majority of student/athlete unpaid labor in the revenue generating sports that are COIA’s main concern. However the top athletic administrative positions (presidents, ADs, head coaches), many of whom are handsomely compensated, are rarely Black. The fact that many of these student/athletes do not even get the educations they have been promised is immoral and, from my perspective, should be one of COIA’s preeminent concerns.