On Tuesday, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges presented a report — “Trust, Accountability, and Integrity: Board Responsibilities for Intercollegiate Athletics” — outlining recommendations for the future of the relationship between intercollegiate athletics programs and the schools that house them.
The opening line of a press release connected to the report’s release noted: “In the wake of the Penn State debacle, many intercollegiate athletic departments are operating and acting more like businesses rather than the arms of non-profit institutions that they are.”
But it’s important to note that the project was not, in fact, triggered by that “Penn State debacle” — and while it might be slightly misleading to connect the recommendations to Penn State, there is validity in using the case that continues to unfold in our backyard as a call to take a closer look at intercollegiate athletics across the nation.
These recommendations were prepared by a team of researchers who had been examining college sports long before Jerry Sandusky was ever charged. According to a summary of the report, available on the Knight Commission website, those behind this project surveyed officials at Division I schools regarding the implementation of recommendations issued in 2009 and “other governance issues related to college sports.” This report includes a breadth of analysis and recommendations, rooted in research — not triggered by scandal.
The report, for example, found that while many schools host youth programs, only about half of institutions have policies addressing the protection of children. And other recommendations are directed not only to university officials or athletics staff, but also to the NCAA — for example, urging the institution to “include in its manual clear statements recognizing the ultimate responsibilities of governing boards for intercollegiate athletics.”
Penn State should undoubtedly take care to review this report as a set of recommendations that would have been worth considering even outside of the Sandusky case.
While it could be easy to dismiss this as the latest set of recommendations coming from a group of officials claiming to have the answers for how to reform college sports, the findings released this week do deserve a closer look — at Penn State and elsewhere.