The University Record, September 3, 1997

Athletic Department earns NCAA certification

NCAA certification, announced by the organization Aug. 21, means that the U-M is in 'substantial conformity' with the operating principles' of the NCAA. An NCAA peer review team reinforced findings of the U-M's own self-study committee, which included ensuring that student athletes have ample opportunity to pursue the academic course they choose and that financial transactions of booster and alumni organizations on behalf of the department are processed through the University. Photo by Bob Kalmbach, U-M vs MSU, Nov. 2, 1996.


By Julie Peterson
News and Information Services

The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has received certification from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The certification, announced by the NCAA Aug. 21, marks the end of a three-year review process that involved U-M faculty, students, staff, alumni, representatives of peer institutions and outside organizations.

The certification program was adopted by NCAA Division I institutions in 1993. The program's purpose is to "ensure integrity in the institution's athletics operations and to assist athletics departments in improving their programs," according to an NCAA statement. All 307 Division I members will undergo the process by the end of 1998.

To be certified "means that an institution has shown that it operates its athletics program in substantial conformity with operating principles adopted by the Division I membership."

"I am pleased to learn of our certification," said President Lee C. Bollinger. "During the closing interview with the review team, we were told that Michigan continues to set the high standard for others to follow. I believe we set a similarly high standard in the way in which we conducted this review."

"The Certification Committee examined our academic and financial integrity, governance and commitment to rules compliance, and commitment to equity. I view our successful certification as an affirmation of our integrity in and commitment to these key areas," said Athletic Director M. Joseph Roberson.

Roberson also noted that an important part of his agenda when appointed athletic director was to guide the University through the certification process. "I feel a deep satisfaction at having completed this portion of my mandate," he said.

The U-M's certification process began in October 1994 with the appointment of a 40-member steering committee to conduct a comprehensive self-study of the Athletics Department. The committee was chaired by Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations, and included broad campus and alumni representation. The committee issued an extensive report in 1996 that contained many recommendations for improvement and formed the basis of the NCAA certification findings.

Following the self-study, a team of reviewers from peer institutions visited campus in January to meet with members of the self-study committee and others. The peer group then reported back to the NCAA Committee on Athletics Certification, which rendered the final decision.

"This was a splendid effort, and I want to thank all of the more than 40 people who gave hundreds of hours of volunteer time toward its completion," Harrison said. "I especially want to recognize Percy Bates, whose experience at Michigan and with the NCAA was extraordinarily important, and Joe Roberson, who encouraged all of the administrators, coaches and athletes to be open and honest in reviewing the department."

Bates, professor of education, faculty athletics representative and a member of the self-study committee, said that the "members of the University community who participated in this process all indicated it was a very valuable experience for them, that it made them much more aware of issues related to student athletes and gave them a clearer picture of the role of athletics and academics in the University."

The peer-review team noted with favor that the Athletic Department had, on its own initiative, involved outside counsel in examining the department's program of compliance with NCAA rules.

The team also reinforced the findings of the University's self-study committee, highlighting several recommendations for improvement the U-M committee had included in its 1996 report:

 

Creating a compliance subcommittee of the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics, and assigning it the task of conducting future periodic evaluations of the rules compliance program.

 

Communicating consistently the importance of rules compliance as a central element in all of the department's personnel decisions.

 

Ensuring that all student athletes have the widest possible opportunities to enroll in the academic units of their choice.

 

Making certain that all financial transactions of booster and alumni organizations on behalf of the department are processed through the University, including creating and circulating a formal written policy and conducting annual audits.

 

Developing a single, comprehensive institutional plan for addressing both gender equity and opportunities for minorities in intercollegiate athletics, and providing evidence that these plans are formally adopted by the Board of Regents.

"The recommendations were not at all surprising to us because as part of the self-study, these are areas we had already identified as needing some modification. The team reinforced our own findings, and therefore we will continue to move forward and make the corrections in our program," Bates said. He noted that some members of the self-study committee have agreed to continue working as a follow-up group to carry out these and others recommendations made by the U-M committee.