Guidelines:  Institutional Governance and Intercollegiate Athletics

There guidelines were drafted at Penn State University in 2001 by Scott Kretchmar and George Bugyi, in order to provide schools with helpful models to improve governance of intercollegiate athletics.

Companion document: Guidelines:  NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative  (FAR)



While the NCAA Constitution does not require colleges or universities to have an athletics committees or boards, most institutions have them.  These boards typically have both advisory and legislative functions.  Depending on the blend of these responsibilities and the specific duties that have been delegated to them by the CEO of the institution, boards may play central and highly influential roles in athletic governance.  They establish policy, monitor compliance, and promote a strong academic climate for athleticsóalways with the understanding that the chief executive officer has final responsibility and authority for intercollegiate athletics. 


Athletics boards, along with the Faculty Athletics Representative, are supposed to play an important role in the overall checks and balances system designed to insure academic integrity and athletics rules compliance.  This intent is made clear by board membership requirements established by the NCAA.  According to Article 6 of the Constitution, each athletics board must include ìat least a majorityî of full-time academic administrators and regular faculty.  Where parliamentary procedures require more than a simple majority to enact policies, faculty and administrators ìshall be of sufficient number to constitute at least that majority.î 


Such guidelines help to keep the operation of intercollegiate athletics in line with the central educational mission of each campus.  Nevertheless, the effectiveness of athletic boards varies considerably from campus to campus.  Some provide a strong counterweight to the economic pressures on athletics, pressures that are particularly forceful at Division I institutions.  Others seem unable or unwilling to enact and enforce academic policies that would assure, for example, sound admissions decisions for student-athletes and standards for academic progress that are consistent with regulations used for the rest of the student body.   


The guidelines in this paper have been developed for the express purpose of strengthening faculty voice in the governance of intercollegiate athletics through athletic boards or committees. 


Using the Guidelines


The guidelines are intended to allow an institution to check its athletics governance board structure and function in an efficient way.  It is not designed to provide a comprehensive look at all potentially useful practices, nor does it reflect different needs that may be present at Division I, II, and III levels.  Readers will need to review the recommendations critically to determine which ones may be helpful for their institution or their particular circumstances. 


As was the case with the Guidelines for NCAA Faculty Athletics Representatives, different institutional traditions, personnel, missions, academic standards, league affiliations, and the like will influence what will work and what will not.  In general, however, it is suggested that the specific guidelines provided below reflect sound educational values and principles that are shared by all institutions, including those that belong to the NAIA and other intercollegiate organizations.


Principles that Inform the Guidelines


  1. Independence/integrity.  The athletics governance board is part of the checks and balances system for administering and overseeing the intercollegiate program.  It is essential that, both in appearance and in fact, members of the board have the best interests of the core academic mission of the institution at heart.  This leads to a number of policies that provide some distance between athletics and the operations of the board.  This principle supports the guidelines that a majority of board members be academic administrators or faculty members.  It also undergirds the recommendation that individuals of academic and/or administrative stature and integrity be selected for the board, and that the campus-wide faculty governance body has a say in who serves in this capacity.


  1. Consistency.  If a single guideline were given for athletic governance boards is might be this:  Academic policies and standards for student-athletes should be consistent with the regulations that apply to the student body at large.  This leads to a number of guidelines that affect the functions of athletics boards.  For instance, guidelines for establishing policies on admissions, normal progress, grade point average requirements and the like stem from this principle. 


  1. Sunshine. This may be one of the more difficult principles to follow.  Sunshine informs and enlightens but it also exposes.  Nevertheless, the ethical concept on which this principle is grounded is broadly accepted:  Always act in ways that you would be willing, in principle, to make public. 


  1. Integration.  If faculty are to take a more active role in monitoring intercollegiate athletes, they must be connected to athletics operations in some way or another. One connection is provided by regular and effective communication, including an open, two-way flow of information.  Athletics will not be integrated into the larger campus community so long as members of that community do not know what is going on in that program.  But it is also important that the athletics board not be isolated from other elements of faculty governance.  This leads to a number of recommendations that would connect the Faculty Senate or other faculty governance board to the athletics committee. 


  1. Uncertainty/fluidity.  Higher education and the intercollegiate athletics programs within it are both undergoing change.  Thirty years ago, many athletics units were housed in physical education or other departments and most coaches were on academic appointments.  Today, in most institutions, athletics resides (administratively and, often too, culturally) outside the academic mainstream, and few if any coaches hold academic rank.  Faculty governance of athletics must  change as the institutional landscape for intercollegiate sports continues to evolve. 


Guidelines:  (1) Board Charge and Composition


q       Has clearly established functions and responsibilities that are acknowledged by the CEO of the institution

q       Has both advisory and legislative functions

q       Has legislative functions that have a substantial effect on academic integrity.  These may include the following:  admissions policies, standards for normal progress and good academic standing (GPA), and limits for missed class time for competition.

q       Includes faculty and academic administrators who are highly respected by peers for their research, teaching, service, or administrative work outside intercollegiate athletics

q       Includes the institutionís Faculty Athletics Representative as a voting or ex-officio member

q       Includes the Athletics Director and other athletically-related personnel (e.g., Senior Womenís Administrator, Director of Admissions, Head of the Student-Athlete Advisement Center) as ex-officio members

q       Has a specified relationship to the regular faculty governance body (hereafter FGB).*  This relationship may be established in one or more of the following ways, listed (in general) from weaker to stronger connections:

        A member of the board is designated as the official liaison to the FGB.

        A specified number of board members must also be members of the FGB.

        A specified number of board members are appointed or elected by the FGB.

        The board is required to send all legislation that affects the academic well-being of student-athletes through the FGB.

        The board is required to provide regular informational reports to the FGB, minimally on an annual basis

        The board is a standing subcommittee of the FGB.


*The FGB is often called a Faculty Senate, Faculty Assembly, or Faculty Organization, though it may go by other names on various campuses.  Whatever it is called, this is the group that has legislative and advisory functions related to curricular and other academic matters as well as the overall intellectual climate on campus. 


Guidelines:  (2) Board Functions


q       Reviews data on admissions decisions, including progress and graduation success rates by admission category

q       Promotes admissions policies that are consistent with admissions policies outside intercollegiate athletics

q       Reviews data on normal progress and grade point averages

q       Establishes policy for normal progress and grade point average that meets minimal NCAA and any conference requirements

q       Establishes policy for normal progress and grade point average that exceeds NCAA and conference requirements, where this is consistent with the institutionís standards for other students

q       Reviews information on all athletic schedules

q       Establishes policy for excused absences and maximum amount of missed class time for athletic competition

q       Certifies the academic eligibility of students of athletic grants-in-aid

q       Reviews major requests for waiver of any institutional athletics policies

q       Delegates responsibilities for review of minor requests for waiver of institutional athletics policies to the Faculty Athletics Representative

q       Develops a method to determine needs, interests, and concerns of student-athletes

q       Reports activities, on at least an annual basis, to the FGB


Guidelines:  (3) Board Communications/accountability


q    Communicates information beyond won-loss records (and other athletic achievements) to the broader campus community and specifically to the FGB

q       Shares information, within boundaries established by institutional policy* and Federal regulations, on such matters as the following:+

            --the number of Presidential or special admits

            --a comparison of the number special admits for athletes and

similar admissions for other reasons (e.g., unusual musical talents)

                                    --an analysis of the academic success (including graduate rate) for

all special admits in comparison to other student-athletes and the entire student body

--a longitudinal analysis of student athlete graduation rates in

comparison to the entire student body

--information on the grade point averages of student-athletes in

comparison to the entire student body

--information on the distribution of majors selected by student-

athletes in comparison to the entire student body

--information on academic honors (e.g., academic All-America)

won by student-athletes

q       Coordinates informational reports to the FGB, given by the Chair of the Board and/or the Faculty Athletics Representative

q       Encourages informational reports to the FGB by the Director of Athletics


*Some colleges and universities, for instance, have policies that prohibit the publication of employee salaries or limit information that can be shared on institutional budgets.


+It is expected that schools will vary considerably on their willingness to share some of the information listed here.  Where athletic operations traditionally have been more closed, it may be impractical to move quickly to a different policy.  However, these guidelines are presented here as worthy ideals under the principle of ìsunshine.î





AAUP Committee Report.  (January/February, 1990).  "The role of faculty in the governance of college athletics:  A report of the special committee

on athletics."  Academe, 43-47.


NOTE:  See also, AAUP Committee Report (Academe, January/February 2003):  The Faculty Role in the Reform of Intercollegiate Athletics: Principles and Recommended Practices


Duderstadt, James J.  (2000).  Intercollegiate athletics and the American university:  A presidentís perspective. Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan.


Gerdy, John R. (Summer, 1992).  Faculty and collegiate athletics reform:  Seizing the moment.  Educational Record, 73 (3), 45-49. 


Gerdy, John R. (ed.). (2000).  Sports in school:  The future of an institution.  New York: Teachers College Press.


Newman, Richard E.,  Miller, Michael, & Bartee, Jane G.  (2000).  "Faculty Involvement in Intercollegiate Athletic Governance."  Unpublished document.  ERIC, ED 438 767.


Smith, Ronald A.  (1983).  Preludes to the NCAA:  Early failures of faculty intercollegiate athletic control.  Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 54(4), 372-382.


Sperber, Murray.  (2000).  Beer and circus:  How big-time college sports is crippling undergraduate education.  New York:  Henry Holt.




Knight Commission.  (Highly visible national group involved in athletic reform.)



The Drake Group  (Faculty organization devoted to athletic reform)



Sample of websites for athletic governance policies:


            Penn State:  (general Faculty Senate Policies/Structure)

                       (67-00 rule on athletics)