The University Record, January 31, 2000

Goss briefs Assembly members on athletics issues

By Theresa Maddix

“When we look at our common mission, for the faculty, administrators and Athletic Department, we find we’re all here to prepare the students for life,” Athletic Director Tom Goss told members of the Senate Assembly at their meeting Jan. 24. The Athletic Department, he noted, is working to instill in student athletes the core values of accountability and responsibility, compassion and respect, teamwork and a competitive spirit.

Goss meets with different student athletes twice a month for two-hour dinners to hear firsthand their “issues of concern” and to ask them such questions as “ ‘What would you change if you were athletic director for a day?’ ”

Athletes’ educational success is a serious issue for Goss. In basketball, he fought to have the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) pass a policy of freshman ineligibility. The NCAA, made up of more than 900 educational institutions, voted the issue down, even after reviewing a study showing a 33 percent graduation rate for basketball players.

“It’s interesting how it [the NCAA] has allowed the finances of athletes to control the academics at universities.”

The NCAA did, however, set up a mandatory “bridge program” for basketball players, to help them become acclimated at a school before playing sports. “Frankly I believe all our athletes need a bridge-type program before getting into their sports,” Goss said.

Goss also is “concerned about a championship playoff for football and the impact on class time, the impact it will have on a student’s life here at Michigan.” The arrangement would cause games to be played at the same time as exams are going on at the University.

“There are rumors that for a football playoff they may be considering between $3 billion and $4 billion. The issue is who would participate and who would take part in that distribution of those type of dollars.”

There already is a playoff system set up for Division II and Division III, and Goss reported that the majority of NCAA schools support playoffs for Division I.

“Sports, in general, is over a $300 billion enterprise.” The finances involved can cause confusion, Goss said, “about what our role is as educators.”

Goss said that work remains to be done with respect to women’s athletics. “Gender equity has been one or our primary goals, and pretty decent progress has been made.” On a proportionality basis, women’s athletics now are within 1 percent of the student population at the U-M, a better rate than at any of the other Big Ten institutions.

Touching on finances, Goss indicated the U-M Athletic Department is one of a select few in the NCAA that is self-supporting. “Probably about five are self-supporting, and only around 20 schools are not in the red.

“There are very few areas that new revenue can come from, but cost has continued to go up. We have to be more responsible in terms of managing costs. For the past 10 years we looked at 8–9 percent increases in operating expenses. We are managing our costs this year with a 2–3 percent increase, which is a paradigm shift.”

Goss also assured the Assembly that the Athletic Department “has made a conscious decision to try to make sure there are no faculty on any waiting list for football tickets.” Currently there are 500 faculty members on a wait list because of the increased demand by students for tickets.

Merle Foss, longtime professor of kinesiology, made a general statement to Goss and the Assembly regarding athletics.

“When I came here I knew it could be tricky to have a room full of athletes,” Foss said. “I want you to know that in my time here, no coach ever approached me and no athlete ever came to me asking for special favors.

“Over this long period of time—and I think it’s shifted, I think it’s better now—we did have a funneling/channeling program into physical education, kinesiology, sports management, communications, where people were channeled into those majors when they arrived. Our unit is not interested in having that be a continued practice. We feel all units should take an equal hand in taking on the student athletes,” Foss said.

Goss noted that, “of our 700 athletes, around 220 are in kinesiology, about 230 are in LS&A and around 75 are in engineering. The others are spread through the rest of the colleges. We are working to integrate more with the whole University.”