Best Practices for Academic Integrity in Athletics Often Not Used

The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) recently announced the results of a national survey about the extent that major colleges are implementing best practices to integrate athletics into the educational mission of universities. The best practices were developed by COIA as a result of concerns about the impact that problems in college sports are impacting academic standards and values. COIA’s press release announcing the results is below:

Best practices for academic integrity in athletics often not used

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Most universities with big-time sports programs have not used all the tools at their disposal to protect academic integrity and improve transparency and accountability of intercollegiate athletics on their campuses, according to a national survey conducted by the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) and researchers at Pennsylvania State University.

Concerned with the mounting problems facing college sports and their impact on academic standards and values, COIA developed best practices to more fully integrate athletics into the educational mission of universities.

Its best practices include: adopting policies that ensure that student-athletes are held to the same academic standards as non-athletes and are mainstreamed into the academic life of their universities; faculty exercising direct oversight of academic matters related to student-athletes; and making athletic budgets more transparent while aligning them with the mission and values of the academic institution.

COIA, an alliance of university faculty senates founded in 2002 to provide a faculty voice in the national discussion about the future of intercollegiate sports, consulted with the NCAA and other national groups to develop its best practices, which were published in Framing the Future: Reforming Intercollegiate Athletics in 2007.

Researchers at the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, housed in the College of Communications at Penn State, surveyed schools participating in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2009 to determine the extent to which they implement COIA’s best practices. The results appear in the current issue of the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, along with detailed case studies of six universities that most fully implemented those best practices.

The COIA/Penn State survey found that only a minority of faculty governance bodies at FBS schools monitor the academic qualifications of student-athletes admitted to the universities, their choice of majors and courses, terminations of athletic scholarships, and other important academic matters. One-third of the faculty senates did not review the academic progress of student-athletes.

Few faculty governance leaders were consulted before major athletics decisions, such as construction projects or the transfer of funds from the academic budget to athletics, according to the study.

The recent spate of athletic scandals has intensified the national debate about whether individual universities have sufficient leverage to effectively tackle the problems or whether a national solution — through the NCAA or government regulation — might be necessary.

“While the problems facing athletics are far greater than any university can solve individually, there still is plenty that faculty can do to protect academic integrity at the campus level,” said John S. Nichols, COIA co-chair and one of the Penn State investigators. “The faculty are the guardians of academic values and standards and should not forfeit their responsibility regarding intercollegiate athletics.”

The Penn State researchers took a closer look at the six universities that scored the highest in the survey and found that all six have established structures for faculty oversight of intercollegiate athletics.

At several of the schools, top faculty leaders were directly involved with the campus athletics board, which has regulatory authority over academic standards in the athletics program at most universities. Those interviewed for case studies at the six universities stressed, in particular, the importance of having oversight committees to regularly evaluate the admissions standards and academic progress of student-athletes.

The six universities are the University of Houston, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, Oklahoma State University, University of South Carolina, and Southern Methodist University.

“COIA’s best practices are not a recipe for automatic success,” said Thomas F. Corrigan, lead Penn State researcher for the case studies. “But the six schools that we studied do have established mechanisms for greater transparency and accountability in their athletic programs.”

At some of these universities, the oversight structures and evaluation procedures were introduced after the athletic program had been sanctioned by the NCAA for rules violations or in response to troubled periods in athletic-academic relationship at their campuses.

“The faculty seem to take a greater role in monitoring athletics after scandals jeopardize the academic reputation of their institution and COIA’s best practices provide a framework for faculty oversight,” said Corrigan.