Faculty join effort to reform athletics

MU Faculty Council teams with national group to work on problems in athletics.
Friday, June 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Expect more faculty oversight of intercollegiate athletics at MU.

The MU Faculty Council on Thursday voted in favor of joining the Coalition On Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of 36 faculty senates from colleges and universities working toward athletics reform. The vote was unanimous with two abstentions.

“There is a concern by many faculty members at this university, as well as many other universities, that some sports in the intercollegiate athletics have gradually become mass entertainment industries rather than primarily educational activities,” council member Rex Campbell said.

Reform of athletics has taken on more urgency since the NCAA last June began its investigation into the MU men’s basketball program. By July 1, the university must respond to NCAA allegations that several basketball program members bought meals, provided transportation and had impermissible contact with recruits between 1999 and 2003.

Gordon Christensen, the Faculty Council’s leader, said the coalition can help MU address issues of intercollegiate athletics specific to the school. The coalition works as a support group in which faculty senate members help design a reform plan specific to each registered institution.

Although the coalition has developed a general athletics reform plan, member senates do not have to adopt the specifics of that plan, Christensen said.

The council vowed to reform campus athletics in August 2003 when it passed a resolution similar to the coalition’s reform plan. The resolution sought to cut back “inappropriate aspects of commercialization,” require annual reports of intercollegiate athletics to the MU faculty senate and make incoming academically at-risk students ineligible for varsity competition during their freshman year — all proposals endorsed by the coalition.

On Thursday the council agreed on the next move: to create a task force that would examine how intercollegiate athletics committees, designed to advise chancellors and athletics department directors, operate at other schools.

Campbell wanted particularly to strengthen oversight of how much MU athletics programs have revenue-driven incentives.

“We are not being critical of what the (MU Intercollegiate Athletics Committee) is doing,” Campbell said, “but we could learn something.”

The council also voted to host another meeting of the Big 12 Conference to develop a conference-wide athletics reform plan.

“It would help the conference speak together,” Christensen said, adding that the Big 12 Conference would be strengthened if it adopted a uniform reform plan.

The council hosted a similar Big 12 meeting in January, where reform was discussed but not enacted.

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