OCTOBER 21, 2013


A. Increasing Faculty Engagement in a Deregulated Athletics Context, Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (D 10669-10673).
Because of Professor Gordon’s scheduled commitments, Chair Hart had moved this agenda item to an earlier time slot allowing him to give his report immediately following Provost Fenves’ introduction, as noted above.

Dr. Gordon reported on the February 1-3, 2013, Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) meeting saying that the primary focus had been on three main issues 1) intercollegiate athletics’ growing fiscal imbalance, 2) trends towards professionalism, and 3) the NCAA’s proposed reformation and restructuring, which includes the “imminent decentralization and deregulation of many areas of college sports.” He explained that the proposed deregulation would mean a shift from centrally administered rules-based system that enforces competitive equity to a local values-based system. The COIA representatives drafted recommendations to the NCAA “to expand faculty participation in the governance of intercollegiate athletics at the national level and to develop a ‘tool kit’ that universities can use to improve oversight of athletics—especially on academic matters—at the campus level.” He said that he strongly endorsed the COIA recommendations (D 10669-10673) and suggested that UT Austin adopt a version of all of the COIA recommendations. He then proceeded to give a brief outline of what he felt those versions should be, which appear in his report in Appendix A and in his PowerPoint slides in Appendix B.

Professor Gordon noted that the University’s athletics department is one of the best-run and most profitable programs in the country. Dr. Gordon conceded that there had been significant improvements, for example, in the education of student athletes. He recommended that the Faculty Council meet with President Powers and the athletics department to discuss playing a better role in the process, “particularly in relationship to the academic aspect of athletics.” Dr. Gordon also endorsed the COIA recommendation to establish an Academic Integrity Group (AIG), chaired by a tenured faculty member and serving as the Faculty Council’s athletic representative, appointed by the Faculty Council. He recommended that there be an ongoing dialogue between the various groups and representatives with each other and with the Faculty Council and that a regular report be provided to the NCAA.

Concluding his report, Professor Gordon cited the significance of the ongoing O’Bannon class action law suit against the NCAA, as well as “the effect of concussions and other forms of brain trauma in NCAA sports,” i.e., the physical and mental welfare of athletes. He strongly encouraged the Faculty Council’s involvement with COIA. “This is an organization of great importance. And one of the only voices for faculty participation, the governance of collegiate athletics as well as one of the only brakes on a national collegiate juggernaut that seems on the verge of doing permanent harm to the institutions and students who participate.”

Upon Professor Martha Hilley’s (music) inquiry, Dr. Gordon suggested that the first step to change would be a dialogue between the Faculty Council (possibly the chair), the president, and the athletics director. He cautioned that any such conversation should be initiated in a non-adversarial way.

Professor Michael Domjan (psychology) thought that the current time, with an ongoing search for a new athletics director (AD), would be perfect for expressing the suggested recommendations, before the new AD is on board. Dr. Gordon shared this sense of urgency. He suggested that the Faculty Council pursue another seat on the search committee, in addition to Michael Clement (FAR) or at least be in close consultation with Professor Clement.

Professor Paul Shapiro (astronomy) asked if the opportunity for participation had already passed because of deregulation. As a key player in college athletics, he wondered what UT Austin’s role, had been in the conversation about deregulation. In light of recent scandals, he did not think that this was “the moment for deregulation.” Professor Gordon agreed that UT Austin was the biggest athletics program of its kind, probably the most prestigious, and certainly the most profitable, and had likely played a major role, though he was merely speculating and not privy to any of the relevant discussions. While he noted that the “NCAA has real problems with the regulations it has,” he did not venture an opinion if this was the right time for deregulation. He noted that the NCAA had created more and more rules, had taken on a policing function, and had been punishing more and more athletes in extrajudicial operations. He did, however, see the need for careful oversight of college athletics, which is all the more reason to increase faculty input. With deregulation, the role of UT Austin will greatly influence the rest of the country, certainly the Big 12 Conference.

Dr. Shapiro asked “who runs the NCAA? And don’t the universities, who are now about to take on their own role locally regulating themselves, run the NCAA? So, I don’t understand the logic, which says that these institutions are being unfairly regulated, micro-regulated, and are helpless to reform those regulations, so let’s abolish the NCAA. I guess that’s the question.” Professor Gordon reminded Council members that money plays a big role in all of this. There are a few universities making a lot of money and many universities losing money. However, student bodies, and particularly alumni, are very enamored with college football, which makes it difficult for university presidents to rein in college athletics and a “president’s future is as tied to the success of the football team as it is to anything else.” While he conceded that faculty influence may not be very substantial in light of all this, it does not mean that it is not one’s civic duty to be involved just as it is in politics, “to attempt to do what we think is right.” The audience sent Dr. Gordon off with a big round of applause. For additional reference, see the Steering Committee’s “Report to the Membership” in Appendix C.

Chair Hart noted that the head of the AD search firm had contacted her, obviously seeing the need for increased faculty input. She then returned to the regular agenda by continuing the report of the chair (IV.B.).

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