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Updated 10:00 AM February 2, 2009




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Assembly recommends changes in bowl game, advising policies

The University Senate Assembly on Jan. 26 passed a motion urging a change in academic advising for student-athletes. Introduced by statistics Professor Ed Rothman, the motion calls on the advising units of the schools and colleges where a student-athlete is enrolled to monitor and assess the student's academic standing and make recommendations to the provost regarding the student's eligibility to participate in NCAA athletics. The provost ultimately is responsible for eligibility determinations.

Following passage of the Rothman motion, the assembly passed another submitted by physics Professor Keith Riles, a member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, urging an end to the practice of reimbursing Academic Performance Committee (APC) members for expenses associated with attending bowl games. The APC is made up of all faculty members who serve on the University's Advisory Board for Intercollegiate Athletics (ABIA). The committee monitors the academic well-being of student-athletes and reviews individual cases of those few student-athletes who meet NCAA academic standards for eligibility to play, including minimum grade point average, but who do not meet the University's 2.0 GPA requirement. After close consideration of each case, APC makes an eligibility recommendation to the provost.

Both motions were developed in response to the provost's July 2007 invitation to the assembly to give input on an advisory memo from the University Auditor regarding the potential of a possible conflict of interest.

In the most recent Big 10 peer review of University Athletics in 2003-04, concern was raised about the possibility of a potential conflict of interest that might be drawn by the 30-plus year practice of reimbursing bowl game travel expenses for APC members. Like all ABIA members, APC members are part of the Athletic Department's official bowl party, as sanctioned by Big 10 policy, and their costs are reimbursed from NCAA bowl travel allotments.

In 2005 the provost put in place a management plan to ensure that no actual conflict of interest would arise, and the regents amended their bylaws to give the provost, rather than APC, sole authority to determine eligibility. The provost is not part of the Athletic Department's bowl party.

In 2007 the Academic Success Program (ASP) in the Department of Athletics adopted a dual-report structure to the provost and the athletic director, rather than the athletic director alone. In anticipation of this change, the provost requested an audit of the ASP.

In July 2007 the audit reported a sound program marked by staff dedication, excellent academic support to students and student success. It also identified a number of administrative procedures that required improvement, all of which were completed within weeks of the audit.

In her separate July 18, 2007, advisory memo, the auditor alerted the provost and the athletic director to the same possibility of a potential conflict of interest and suggested management review of the policy. The provost invited Senate Assembly input on the memo; and, upon completion of further review, determined that the management plan, put in place two years prior, was succeeding in limiting the potential for conflict.

The Senate Assembly in November 2008 appointed an Athletic Advising Committee, chaired by Rothman, who presented the committee's report to the assembly Jan. 26. The recommendations include a seven-point approach to improve academic support procedures and services. No formal action has been taken by the senate on the AAC recommendations.

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