UNC’s Jan Boxill & Jim Dean Talk Athletics/Academics

CHAPEL HILL – Jan Boxill, UNC’s Faculty Chair, said Wednesday that significant progress has been made in achieving “balance” between athletics and academics at the University. In the wake of scandals that continue to haunt Carolina, the pressure is on to make changes and prevent future indiscretions.

“We can be a model for other Division I athletic programs,” Boxill said. “That doesn’t mean that we will reach complete agreement among the faculty as no policy will.”

In mid-July, Boxill was accused by the Raleigh News and Observer of a cover-up regarding information about UNC’s athletic program

Boxill told WCHL News that she was cast in a negative light by the N&O for trying to help the University’s image during tumultuous times with the NCAA, the media, and even the public. UNC faculty issued a statement supporting Boxill after the article was published.

Photo by Dan Sears

Photo by Dan Sears

While addressing a committee of the Board Trustees Wednesday, Boxill said that the work of the Faculty Council’s athletics focus group had been tedious, but that it was on a path toward progress.

Efforts have been on-going across campus to strengthen relationships between academics and athletics. The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes was reorganized and now reports to Dean’s office.

Earlier this month, the Rawlings Panel issued a report on the role of athletics in campus life. It was commissioned by former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp.

Boxill said that report was discussed by the Faculty Council on September 13 and will be dissected more thoroughly next month.

Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean both assumed their respective positions this summer. Boxill said this has given her a fresh perspective on Carolina’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Their visible presence and willingness to learn from all of us has presented opportunities for the faculty to find solutions to our old and new problems,” Boxill said.

Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham, Folt, and Dean together formed the Student Athlete Academic Working Group in August.

Dean said Wednesday that the three leaders were not making just a “casual effort” to improve the connection between athletics and academics

“And this group, because of the nature of the people who are on the group, is not a group that will be making recommendations,” Dean said “There is no one for us to make recommendations to. We will be making changes.”

UNC Provost-elect Jim Dean

UNC Provost-elect Jim Dean

He added that he, Folt, and Cunningham were going through “everything that has to do with student athletes with a fine-toothed comb.”


Rawlings Panel: At the ‘Tipping Point’

CHAPEL HILL—The Rawlings panel on the role of athletics on campus life advocated Tuesday for a more balanced approach and encouraged UNC to take a leadership position nationwide, championing responsible spending and greater transparency on all athletics expenses.

Click here to read the full report.

***Listen to the full panel announcement here***

The panel, chaired by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, was asked by previous Chancellor Holden Thorp to make recommendations for UNC-Chapel Hill as well as other universities nationwide on how to combat the growing issue in higher education.

“We thought that we should come up with a series of serious and substantial recommendations to help the University in its quest for conducting a program that it feels really good about,” Rawlings says.

James Delany, longtime commissioner of the Big Ten Conference and Carolina alumnus, says a clear chain of command in leadership is necessary to deal with the relationship between academics and athletics at universities.

“There must be lines to delineate the assignment of responsibility and authority so that as a result, institutional control can be established and maintained,” Delany says.

Executive Director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Amy Perko says UNC must strive for greater transparency and practice more responsible spending in order to achieve a healthy balance between the sport and academic realms on campus.

A mandatory education program for coaches in the ACC was offered up by the panel as well. Perko says she thinks a more formal approach will help the coaches get on board with the educational missions at their universities.

“Coaches are under great pressure to win and are increasingly viewed as being separated from the educational missions of their universities. […] We believe coaches will welcome this suggested formal investment in their professional development as educators,” Perko says.

Ultimately, Rawlings says he feels that UNC and other schools must act now to save the integrity of higher education. He says we have reached the “tipping point.”


Pay For Play In College Sports Gaining Momentum

CHAPEL HILL – The idea of paying collegiate athletes—it’s an idea that used to seem outrageous but may be a reality in the near future.

ESPN Broadcaster and Duke basketball alum Jay Bilas spoke at UNC last week during a college athletics roundtable discussion commissioned by Chancellor Holden Thorp. Bilas says that the concept of amateurism in college sports doesn’t work anymore and things need to change.

“College sports is professional. The only thing amateur about it is the structure and the leadership, and that the players don’t get anything,” Bilas said. “We’re not running this like the business it is. This is a multi-billion dollar business and we’re not running it the right way.”

Bilas speaks to panel

The NCAA reports its projected revenue for 2012-13 is to be just under $800 million dollars, with $702 million coming from the Association’s new rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting.

“I have considered it for a long time to be immoral to restrict athletes from getting more than just a scholarship when we don’t have a reason for doing so,” Bilas said. “It’s a conceptual problem and I think it’s a moral problem.”

Bilas says paying college players would be expenses incidental to a multi-billion dollar industry.

“Money is not the issue with regard to athletes, because we’ve got professional athletes that are playing and we don’t see major problems,” Bilas said. “The problem is the restriction we have keeping athletes from receiving money.”

He says a pay-for-play model needs to be instituted because Division I men’s basketball and football are professional enterprises.

He also argues that it’s not right that college athletes can’t cash-in on endorsements, saying they have a right to support themselves and their families.

Bilas cited the example of 4-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin.

She accepted an athletics scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley. To keep her NCAA eligibility, she can’t receive any endorsements. Bilas says it’s not right that she has to lose out on millions of dollars in potential income.

Additionally, the court’s attention is focused on former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s law suit against the NCAA for using his likenesses for profit with out compensation.

The fall-out of the lawsuit could be tremendous, though it wouldn’t be immediate. We could see retro-active payments of former and current student athletes and the larger implication of throwing out the old college athletics business model all together. Game-makers, like EA Sports, could get out of the college business completely if they have to start paying royalties to athletes.

“Think about it this way: the athlete is the only person in the university community that is restricted from compensation beyond expenses—the only person,” Bilas said.

The harsh restrictions placed on college athletes, Bilas explained, have caused too many dealings with unauthorized agents too go “under the table.” He says the NCAA should lift the restrictions and bring transparency back to the process.

“It has created an underground economy. It has created scandals that really don’t need to be scandals.”

And UNC has felt the blow of scandals over past two years, all beginning with a tweet by former UNC football player Marvin Austin. The tweet drew attention to Austin’s lavish lifestyle—and ultimately an NCAA investigation of the university’s football program. This subsequently surfaced “irregularities” in the African and Afro-American Studies Department.

“The NCAA has been in crisis mode since 1906 when it was founded,” Bilas said. “It was founded in scandal. It has continued in scandal and will stay in scandal unless there’s change in the way the rules are structured and the way that the governance is structured.”

Chapelboro.com’s Art Chansky has covered college sports since 1970. He agrees with Bilas that it’s not just “amateur” sports any more and things need to be rectified.

Chansky speaks to panel
“Well there’s no question that there are big changes coming in college athletics,” Chansky said. “It’s already started with the realignment and eventually I believe it’ll be one super-division of the NCAA that will re-write its own rule book.”Chansky says there are many issues, though, that may come about if players are paid. Will the non-profit NCAA lose it tax its exemption? What about workers’ compensation?“And I think it will start maybe on an experimental level,” Chansky said. “I would like to see the ACC take the front position on that and test out a certain pay-for-play scale.”

Bilas posed the question: “How would we pay the wrestler versus the star quarterback? Should we provide the men and the women the same thing?” His answer was a free-market system.

Though NCAA president Mark Emmert has adamantly argued against paying players, the topic is not going away. As Chansky said, the climate of college athletics has already begun to change.

Bilas, Holden Thorp, Bubba Cunnigham, Woody Durham (back to camera)