Trustees’ National Group Advances College Sports Reform Effort

Best practices’ for college and university boards outlined in new guidelines from Association of Governing Boards of Universities and College

NEW ORLEANS (March 24, 2004) — The excitement of March Madness should not distract higher education leaders from their responsibility to help the nation’s colleges and universities moderate the glorification of athletic achievement and commercialism that too often come at the expense of the traditional academic mission. That message forms the heart of a new document, “The AGB Statement on Board Responsibilities for Intercollegiate Athletics,” which offers best practices to guide governing boards in supporting presidents and chancellors in fulfilling their responsibility to ensure the integrity of their institutions.

The Board of Directors of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges will consider officially adopting the statement at its meeting on Sunday, March 28, during the association’s annual National Conference on Trusteeship in New Orleans. The draft statement—if approved—would represent the formal response of the AGB board to the June 2001 report of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. That commission called on governing boards to work cooperatively with their chief executives to examine the place of sports in the nation’s colleges and universities. The new AGB statement is the product of more than a year of consultation with trustees, academic chief executives, athletics directors, coaches, administrators, faculty members, and media representatives.

Though the document applies most directly and urgently to institutions with major basketball and football programs, the AGB board believes it also will be useful to boards and academic leaders at smaller colleges that compete in a range of sports, conferences, and NCAA divisions.

“The continuing efforts of several faculty groups, a coalition of campus presidents, and a group of former student-athletes represent a growing critical mass of people and institutions calling for changes,” the AGB draft statement reads. “Coupled with increased calls for board accountability on the part of state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, the confluence of these efforts suggests the time has come for meaningful reform, nationally and at the campus level.”

As prominent citizen volunteers, trustees and regents steer clear of day-to-day management of campus affairs, focusing instead on long-term strategy and policy in cooperation with their institution’s president. This statement addresses the board’s responsibilities relative to such topics as general oversight, presidential authority, athletics department mission, fiscal responsibility, academics and student-athlete welfare, compliance, personnel, and communications.

Specifically, the statement suggests boards should support the president’s leadership, examine the impact of sports on campus culture and student well-being, and satisfy themselves that athletic and academic leaders have set appropriate standards of accountability and benchmarks to help evaluate success. The document lists questions board members might ask campus officials and presents arguments for and against establishing a separate committee on athletics.

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is a national membership organization that seeks to strengthen the institution of citizen trusteeship and help ensure the quality, success, and independence of American colleges and universities. Its members include nearly 35,000 trustees and regents, presidents and chancellors, and senior administrators affiliated with 1,800 college and university campuses of all types—independent and public, general and specialized, as well as foundation boards affiliated with public colleges and universities.


To comment on the AGB statement and the intercollegiate athletics reform movement, AGB Board Chair John D. Walda, a director of the Indiana University Foundation and the former board chair of Indiana University, and AGB President Richard T. (Tom) Ingram will be available to reporters by telephone conference call on Monday, March 29, at 10:30 A.M. CST.  Participating reporters should dial toll-free 1-800/231-9012 (or 719-457-2617) and use confirmation code 214705 for the call on “College athletics reform.” The operator will explain how each caller can join a queue to ask questions. The final version of the document will appear on the AGB Web site,, on Monday morning, March 29. An embargoed advance draft of the statement is available to reporters upon request.