“Time to Take College Presidents Out of Sports?”

An Associated Press report chronicled recent instances where sports have created “enormous problems” for several presidents of major research institutions and the opinion of outgoing University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp that “presidents should step aside and let athletic directors handle the job.” The article noted the Knight Commission’s role in establishing the idea of presidential control for college sports:

“The idea of presidential control in athletics took hold with the recommendations of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in the early 1990s.

The commission was created by what was then the Knight Foundation in 1989, after a string of college sports scandals created a sense that athletic departments had gotten out of control and threatened schools’ academic integrity. The commission noted in one report that 57 of the 106 schools then competing at the highest level of sports had been penalized by the NCAA in the 1980s, along with reports of athletes taking courses like “recreational leisure.”

Putting the school president at the center of reform efforts was a key part of what the commission advocated.

“The Knight Commission’s message remains that presidential responsibility for all elements of university life doesn’t stop at the entry of its stadiums, arenas and playing fields.” Amy Perko, the current executive director of the Knight Commission said in a statement Tuesday.
“As long as college sports are part of the academic enterprise, it’s the president’s job to ensure that its sports programs reflect the university values.”

The article also stated: “Welch Suggs Jr., a former associate director for the Knight Commission, said the problem is more about determining the role of college athletics than a question of whether the presidential-control model is flawed.

“‘If it’s to be a big-time American spectacle, like the NFL or Major League Baseball, then no way,’ said Suggs, now an associate professor of journalism at the University of Georgia. ‘It makes absolutely no sense for academic leaders to be in charge of it. But if you want it to be a part of higher education and a function of the collegiate experience, someone has to make sure people in athletics know they’re part of the educational process and not just a commercial business.'”

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