University trustees should review coaches’ contracts and learn the business of college sports to get a better grip on their athletics departments, according to a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics report released Tuesday.
The boards that govern universities must set policy for sports programs in everything from academics to compliance with NCAA rules and make sure they are enforced, the report said.
“If boards do not act to ensure an appropriate balance between athletics and academics in our higher education institutions, policy makers or others will do it for us,” according to the commission, composed of 19 university and university system presidents, trustees, former athletes and journalists dedicated to reforming college sports.
The study was released during a Knight Commission meeting in Washington D.C. on the same day that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison for abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period.
The project on board responsibilities was conducted during an eight-week period in the spring of 2012, just before a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh condemned Penn State administrators for not taking action quickly enough to stop Sandusky.
“It was, instead, a painful reminder that all boards need to be well informed and must clearly establish the appropriate role of athletics in relation to the core values and academic mission of their institutions,” the report said. “When the board fails to provide effective oversight or ask the questions that hold the president of the institution accountable, the consequences can be enormous.”
The authors of the Knight Commission study, John T. Casteen III, president emeritus at the University of Virginia, and Richard D. Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, interviewed 143 presidents, 15 university system heads, nine system board chairs and 25 chairmen.
According to the survey, 27 percent of university presidents don’t consult their boards on major policy issues coming before the athletic conference’s governing body; 14 percent said the president doesn’t approve the salaries of athletics director and coaches; and 26 percent said the board doesn’t have sufficient information on income and expenses for each revenue-generating sport.
“Powerful interests that benefit financially from big-time sports, as well as fans and booster clubs with emotional investments, can distort the clarity of mind required for effective governance,” according to the report.
“While we urge boards to delegate the administration of their sports programs to their chief executive, boards must still become aware of the issues and engage actively and appropriately in policy considerations.”