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Report Proposes 28 Ideas for Improving College Sports

A new report that comes in response to scandals at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill could provide a road map for college-sports leaders hoping to strengthen ties between academics and athletics.

The report, which was released on Tuesday, details 28 ideas for shoring up such areas as governance, finance, and admissions as they relate to big-time sports. Among other things, the document proposes clearer lines of responsibility throughout the athletic department, stricter controls on outside influences, and greater limits on the hours that students spend on sports.

We’ve seen some of the ideas before, including a proposed academic “year of readiness” for students with poor academic preparation, something long supported by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics. (Previous proposals for an academic redshirt year have included all first-year students, an idea that has faced much resistance.)

But several of the report’s ideas were more innovative, including a suggestion to cap spending in certain big-time sports (most likely football and basketball).

According to a panel that produced the report—whose members included Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities; Jim Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference; and Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics—case law has not dealt with a total cap on team operating expenses. They say legal experts believe the preservation of athletics programs would serve as a “pro-competitive” justification for such a measure.

I found it notable that the report makes repeated mention of coaches and the importance of ensuring that they understand their proper role. (This week, I reported on the frayed relationships between big-time football coaches and medical staffs.)

Of the 28 proposals, at least three refer specifically to coaches:

6. Insure that the unit that provides academic support services for student/athletes operates without any undue influence by athletics officials and staff, including coaching staff.

10. Establish standards and expectations relating to the medical services provided student/athletes that specify, at a minimum, that coaches a) have no hiring or other supervisory role with regard to medical or athletic training staff who work with their own teams, and b) may not attempt to influence any member of the medical or athletic training staff regarding the medical treatment of a student-athlete.

27. UNC-Chapel Hill and/or the Atlantic Coast Conference should develop a mandatory education program for coaches. Ideally such a program would serve as a national model.

Such a program, the report says, should require coaches to have a “broad knowledge of the university’s academic, research, and public-service missions, with an emphasis on understanding the degree requirements and academic time demands.”

The program should also teach coaches about ethical issues in their profession, promote athletes’ physical and emotional safety, and provide coaches with an understanding of campus resources on student-life issues.

“Coaches have vast influence on the students under their tutelage,” the report says, “and the potential for them to play a positive role cannot be overstated.”

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