Concerns About Governance Of Intercollegiate Athletics (Past Chair John S. Nichols)

Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Oversight Concerns (Word)

The University Faculty Senate currently is not fulfilling its responsibilities in the shared governance of Intercollegiate Athletics, and failure to redress the problems could place the University and its excellent athletics program at unnecessary risk.  A serious re-examination of the Senate’s proper role in the governance of intercollegiate athletics and an updating of existing governance structures and policies are badly needed and long overdue.  An open letter to the Senate by Past Chair John S. Nichols is linked above (Clicking on the link will open a Word document).

Please read the letter and you may add your comments on this Discussion Forum by clicking on “Leave a Reply” above, entering your comments below and clicking “Post Comment.”

One thought on “Concerns About Governance Of Intercollegiate Athletics (Past Chair John S. Nichols)

  1. afb11 Post author

    Date: 18 December 2018
    To: Open Letter to John Nichols and Penn State Faculty Senate
    From: Ronald A. Smith
    Re: Shared Athletic Governance at Penn State

    John Nichols knows well what he has recently written concerning shared athletic governance at Penn State and the need to correct its faults.

    Penn State has probably had the cleanest athletic program among all big-time intercollegiate athletic programs in America since the Ernie McCoy years as Athletic Director and Dean of the College of Health and Physical Education in the 1950s and 1960s. Penn State is only one of four big-time institutions that has never had a major NCAA violation. The other three are Boston College, Northwestern, and Stanford. It does not, however, mean that the faculty has been strongly involved in the question of athletics and academic integrity. It has never had effective Faculty Senate oversight despite the long tradition of the Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics. When I was on the Faculty Senate in the 1970s, the Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics was basically a rubber stamp for what the Athletic Department was recommending, and I suspect that is the case four decades later.

    To my knowledge, the Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics never discussed the high number of football Presidential Admits in the 1980s; Rene Portland’s breaking of Federal, State, and Penn State Policies relatives to lesbians on her teams; or Joe Paterno putting pressure on the Vice President for Student Affairs, causing her to resign over athletic policies. The Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics should have raised questions about the illegal firing by athletic director Dave Joyner (and costly court case) of fencing coach, Emmanuil Kaidanov in which Penn State was found guilty. If it did not, the Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics should have raised questions about the shameful Freeh Report (and Consent Decree) that damned Penn State and its faculty with “a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community.” These incidents at Penn State had much to do with athletics and academic integrity.

    The Penn State Athletic Integrity Council creation was one of the more than 100 actions foisted on Penn State when President Rod Erickson signed the infamous NCAA-Penn State Consent Decree in July of 2012. When Pennsylvania State Senator Jake Corman’s lawsuit against the NCAA was settled out of court in January 2015, the Consent Decree was thrown out as a result of the NCAA caving into the lawsuit just before a jury trial. One would have expected that the Athletic Integrity Council’s existence would have been abrogated at the same time unless the Penn State Senate and Administration would have had a shared decision to keep it in place.

    The present Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics could help insure the continued existence of athletics and academic integrity by doing several things:

    1) Recommending the creating of an ombudsman for both men’s and women’s athletics so that athletes could discuss problems or suggest solutions that affect them as athletes,
    2) Receive yearly a list of all presidential admits, those athletes who cannot get admitted into Penn State academically and are admitted into the university by the president—and then submit a public list each year of the number of presidential admits by sport,
    3) Include on the Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics individuals who are knowledgeable about intercollegiate athletics and who will be on the Committee for a number of years,
    4) List all Penn State violations of NCAA Bylaws since the NCAA began with the first one in the 1950s, listed by sport and the coach of the sport. This would include the known violations from women’s sports (basketball, field hockey, gymnastics, volleyball) and men’s sport (football, wrestling, and volleyball). There may be others, and
    5) Have a member of the Faculty Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics on each hiring committee for coaches and senior athletic administrators.

    John Nichols is right to point out that university faculties nationwide have little influence in the direction taken by big-time athletics. However, he is not correct in his statement that “university faculties nationwide have never had a major role in the governance of intercollegiate athletics.” There have been university faculties that have 1) dropped athletics from the university, 2) prohibited certain coaches from being hired, 3) limited the number of contests and when they can take place, 4) removed players because of academics, and 5) voted to prohibit football teams from going to bowl games.

    However, don’t expect any of those actions by faculties in the 2010s or 2020s. John is right when he says university Faculty Representatives to the NCAA have almost no power as a collective group. The NCAA has been run completely by university presidents since the 1990s, and for the last quarter-century, Faculty Representatives are mainly used by the president-dominated NCAA to make it look like faculty do have some power over athletics. Fortunately at Penn State, we have had Faculty Representatives that we can be proud of looking after athletics here in Happy Valley.

    Someday, Penn State may have an athletic-academic crisis such as experienced by the University of North Carolina. By strengthening the Faculty Athletic Committee, there will be less likelihood of an administrator or faculty member wondering how the crisis came about and who was at fault. Someone will then go to the Penn State Archives and find John Nichols’open letter and wonder why the Penn State Faculty did not act more adequately relative to faculty-administration governance back in 2018.

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