The Forum | Trusteeship

Trustees, not the NCAA, must ensure academic integrity in college athletics

August 10, 2015 by Armand B. Alacbay

A 2015 poll by Monmouth University found that barely a quarter of Americans feel that “colleges with big-time sports programs maintain the right balance between academics and athletics.” Recent stories of academic misconduct in the athletic programs of the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas only serve to fuel public concern.

Last month, the NCAA announced plans to revise its policies on academic integrity—its first such changes in over 20 years. Its current proposal, over two years in the making, would broaden the definition of “impermissible academic assistance” to prohibit schools from providing student-athletes any academic resource “not generally available” to other students—a ham-fisted bureaucratic provision, breathtaking in its elasticity, that may ultimately serve only to deny student-athletes access to academic support services.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the NCAA is more concerned with addressing public perception of preferential treatment of athletes than it is protecting the academic interests of students. The 22 national higher education leaders who signed Governance for a New Era recognized that trustees, not athletic groups, must take the lead in ensuring the educational integrity of their institutions: “It is critical for trustees actively to oversee their intercollegiate athletics programs, rather than allow outside organizations such as the NCAA and athletic conferences to dictate governance prerogatives. Trustees cannot and should not expect participants in this multibillion-dollar industry to police themselves.”

Best Practices in Athletic Oversight”—part of ACTA’s Higher Ed Now web series—provides trustees with practical guidance in this area, along with proven strategies that work. Introduced by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and led by University System of Maryland Regent and former U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, this video outlines the steps trustees can take to ensure that their boards are fulfilling their fiduciary duties to students and taxpayers.


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