On November 1st I posted a link to the recent report released by the Knight Commission, having just finished reading it today, here are my thoughts regarding the lack of leadership shown by university presidents.

This recent study consisted of interviews done of presidents at Football Bowl Subdivision schools (the top 120 football & athletic schools in the country) regarding reform in collegiate athletics. 95 out of 120 presidents participated in the first phase, and 67 participated in further follow up interviews – thus its a fairly accurate assessment of what university presidents feel is going wrong or right within intercollegiate athletics.

The title of this blog refers to “you could be a better leader”, and that’s what I feel most of these university presidents need to learn. Many of the presidents who were interviewed do not believe all is well with respect to the educational experience of student athletes. The concerns center around two issues: the cultural impact of athletics on the institution and the effect of athletics on the educational experience of the individual student athlete.

Selected quotes –

“There’s too much identification of a university with non-academic aspects, distracting from values of higher education and from desirable values in society.”

“We’re in a situation right now in which the athletic association has more money and disposable money than it has ever had. On the academic side there is less flexibility at any time since World War II. This creates very disparate cultures. Athletics can spend and do whatever it wants to do, and the academic core of the campus, which is operating under much greater constraints, sees that. The rationalization of those two cultures is one of the most difficult things we face.”

“We’re drifting away from the intent of intercollegiate athletics, which is to give students a chance to compete in athletics in college and get a good education. We’re undermining the public’s confidence in the integrity of intercollegiate sports.”

My point of view – I don’t disagree with ANY of their comments. I wholeheartedly thank God that they actually had the guts to say it. BUT they’re the ones driving the car!!! There are many back seat drivers, but they’re the ones with their hands on the steering wheel and feet on the pedal. If you cant handle the kitchen get out!!! If you want to reform collegiate athletics, do it in your own house first! The original knights commission has been out since 1993. To echo Michael Cross (Princeton Associate AD) – “While athletics is certainly a contributor to this shift, it is hardly the sole one. The values of higher education are increasingly bottom-line oriented. And as the resources for higher education become increasingly scare and tuition moves ever higher, non-academic concerns that focus on revenue generation, branding and marketing shape the academy in ways not previously seen.”

As a university president, I cannot even begin to imagine the problems and challenges you face on a day to day basis. But the fact remains, you’re in charge of your own house. If you don’t like the way collegiate athletics is facilitated, then change your own modus operandi first and do business with those that agree with you.