SEC Commissioner Mike Slive
May 6, 2003
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Faculty from Southeastern Conference schools concluded a two-day meeting Friday by overwhelmingly agreeing to become the third league to endorse academic reforms for collegiate athletics.
The Big Ten and Pac-10 were the first to endorse reform efforts of presidents and chancellors of Bowl Championship Series conferences last fall.
The SEC faculty didn't stop there.
They agreed faculty should have a "significant" role in overseeing athletic departments' activities, policies and even personnel decisions. They formed a group to meet again next year and also asked the NCAA and SEC to study scheduling and the impact on students and academics.
"This far exceeds my expectations," said Vanderbilt professor Virginia Shepherd, who helped organize what's believed to be the first such meeting of faculty from each SEC school.
"The first time you get faculty reps together from this many institutions and throw them in a room together and say come to a consensus on something, there will be a lot of discussion and a lot of debate. We did indeed do that. We came to consensus on a number of issues."
They agreed to share information on how each school governs academics to find the best practices, and they will send two representatives to the meeting of the student-athlete advisory council in October in Birmingham.
They recommended scheduling be based on academics around tests and classes rather than on revenues from television contracts.
John Mason, an accounting professor and president of the University of Alabama faculty senate, said the faculty had to get involved because the issue is academics. He hopes the SEC has as big an impact academically as it has athletically.
"There's never a guarantee. The only guarantee is that if we do nothing, we won't help," he said.
Some faculty from SEC schools who have been very critical of collegiate athletics did not attend, but Shepherd said there were people present who want to alter the system drastically. She said they reached an estimated 99 percent agreement on their recommendations.
"The voices being heard from the presidents to the faculty to governing boards is that we need reform," she said. "We want to retain athletics, and we want the best academic situation and options for student-athletes."
The biggest challenge will come over the next few months.
An NCAA committee headed by Vanderbilt athletic director Todd Turner is devising a system to accurately measure students' progress toward a degree and suggest how to reward and punish schools for how well they implement reforms already approved. They include higher standards for incoming freshmen and credit hour minimums needed to be eligible for postseason competition.
NCAA president Myles Brand said the reward/punishment plan will put teeth into all the current and future reforms. He appealed for support from the SEC faculty, saying they must seize this moment to truly fix academic problems in athletics.
"I think we can complete the reform movement. I'm optimistic. If we can't do it in the next three to five years, it probably won't happen. We'll have used up our opportunity," he said.
The NCAA's current method of measuring graduation rates only counts those who enter college and do not leave with a degree. No allowance is made for players who leave early for the pros or transfer to another school.