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Who is responsible for the governance of intercollegiate athletics? This is an easy question, for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to answer. The answer is, quite simply, the institution. NCAA rules, regulations, and constitution require "institutional control" of intercollegiate athletics. In fact, the most ambiguous and most severe violation an institution's athletics program may suffer is a finding of lack of institutional control.

The basic concept of institutional control is one that places oversight of athletics outside the athletic department. At Tennessee, academic certification is the responsibility of the Faculty Athletics Representative (initial) and the Registrar (continuing). Certification of financial aid is the responsibility of the Director of Financial Aid. Admission decisions are made by the Director of Admissions. Given this structure, one would assume the institution is in control of the areas relating to all students, not just the special population of student-athletes.

In addition to student-athlete factors, controls are placed on booster clubs (all are associations directed by the university alumni affairs department) finances, such as summer camps, which must be "owned" by the university not a coach. Again, it appears that the University of Tennessee controls both its men's and women's athletic departments.

Public perception says colleges and universities border on abuse in exploitation of student-athletes. Using their athletic ability for financial gain, allowing them to major in eligibility, and forgetting them after four years of competition. While this may have been accurate at one time, it is less so today. The facts are student-athletes must meet tougher academic requirements than the general student body; those with proven economic need have access to federal, state, and NCAA grants; and student-athletes graduate at a higher rate, in a five-year cycle, than the general student body.

The issues of concern, today remain issues of integrity. Is there manipulation of grade change or course substitution which allows student-athlete to require him/her to receive mandatory advising from an academic unit when the advisor does not know NCAA regulations? The academic issues are clearly questions of institutional control or responsibility, but how does the institution insure against John Q Public overpaying a student worker just because he/she is also an athlete?

Athletic departments do not expect or intend to be viewed as "separate" or "apart" from the university community at large. Student-athletes are a special population within the student body; as are student-musicians, student-actors, student-government officers, etc. The student-athlete, in all probability, chose his or her school based on the opportunity to participate on the football, basketball, baseball--team. For most, earning a degree is a byproduct of athletic participation, a byproduct whose value is often understood only at the end of a sports career. In my opinion, an institution's academic integrity increases the value of that degree and it is the responsibility of the institution to insure there is no manipulation of academic requirements. As a part of the institution, it is the responsibility of the athletic department to instill the concept of earning the grade just as you must earn the starting position.

Balancing the academic and athletic scales must be a priority. Student-athletes will meet the challenge because they understand the discipline necessary for success. Education is the heart of institutions of higher learning. Bobby Knight has been quoted as saying: "If the athletic department did not exist, there would still be a university, if the university did not exist, there would be no athletic department." At the same time, one may ask, how many students were first introduced to the university because they viewed an intercollegiate athletic contest televised from campus or read an article about a student-athlete wearing a jersey with the school's name across the front? How about hearing the words,"I have made up my mind and I don't ever expect to look back, I'm staying at the University of Tennessee," what does that say about the value of developing leadership, social skills, earning a degree, improving one's self rather than one's financial statement?

The issues that exist in intercollegiate athletics did not began at this level. The issues we deal with exist because society allows those with above average athletic ability to be placed on a pedestal. Middle school and high school teachers allow them to slide by academically and then the NCAA steps in and changes the expectations. The system must begin prior to college for appropriate governance of athletics to become a reality.

Time permitting, the panelists will respond to the following questions prepared by Dr. Kathy Bohstedt, Head of the Philosophy Department at UTK.

Copyright DONNA THOMAS, M.S.

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Last updated: July 22, 1997