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Report Describes Challenges for Faculty in Monitoring Athletics

Many colleges have clarified the responsibilities of faculty athletics representatives in recent years, a step that some observers say could provide professors with increased authority in monitoring academic integrity in big-time athletic departments.

That is among the key findings in a report, released on Tuesday by the NCAA, that paints a detailed picture of faculty reps and provides fresh insight into several neglected areas of study, including the world of “special admits” and athlete clustering.

The report, “Roles, Responsibilities, and Perspectives of NCAA Faculty Athletics Representatives,” is based on a 2011 survey of some 650 faculty reps across all three NCAA divisions. More than half of all NCAA faculty reps responded, a significant improvement over a previous study, in 2005.

For years, many NCAA colleges have denied having special admissions policies for athletes. But more than half of the surveyed faculty reps in the Football Bowl Subdivision say their institutions admit players who do not meet standard admissions requirements, while some 70 percent say their institutions have a process for considering such students.

Most colleges maintain their own criteria for admissions rather than defaulting to NCAA minimums, the report says. But 30 percent of Division I faculty reps note that any athlete who meets the minimum NCAA academic standard is considered admissible to their institutions.

Nearly two-thirds of faculty athletics reps at the bowl-subdivision, or FBS, level believe that athletes cluster in certain majors on their campuses, often because of scheduling conflicts with their sports and NCAA progress-toward-degree requirements that limit their ability to study certain disciplines.

And nearly one in five FBS faculty reps would prefer that first-year athletes not be allowed to compete in their sport, the survey found.

Faculty members were also asked to describe how they feel about ethical issues in the game. On the whole, faculty reps believe that coaches behave ethically, but they don’t feel that way about all coaches. Fewer than half of FBS reps strongly believe that coaches have students’ best interests in mind, while less than 40 percent feel strongly that coaches listen to their players.

The report details a handful of positive developments for the field, which has taken its knocks. Fewer than one-third of FBS faculty athletics representatives had written position descriptions as recently as 1996. Fifteen years later, some 85 percent did, the survey found.

Many also report being more satisfied than in the past with the amount of release time they receive for their duties, which eat up more than 16 hours a week for many Division I faculty reps. And many say they are happy with their pay (still, 30 percent of Division I reps are not compensated).

Their ranks also do not reflect the diversity in athletics departments. While an increasing number of women have taken on the role of faculty athletics representative in recent years, about 90 percent of representatives in each division describe themselves as white.

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