Measuring up for the NCAA

April 11, 2000

Carol J. Schlueter

Say "NCAA," and most people think of Saturday football games, the basketball Final Four, the College World Series or even the occasional rules violation reported by the media. But there's another side to the National Collegiate Athletic Association that aims at helping institutions improve their management of athletics,a certification program that is required of all Division I programs.

Now Tulane is taking its turn in the certification process, which the university last completed in 1994. The NCAA requires each institution to perform an exhaustive self-study looking at every phase of athletics, with heavy involvement by campus leaders outside the athletics world. Certification began nationally in 1993 and the process takes place at each Division I institution every 10 years.

"People may think the NCAA is all about enforcement," said Richard A. Culbertson, public health faculty member and chair of the certification steering committee. "But when the certification process was adopted they were trying to create a positive tenor by creating opportunities for institutions to write a self-assessment and improve."
More than 60 people, most of them outside the athletics department and representing various constituencies in the Tulane community, will submit a written report to the NCAA early next year. The study will cover academic and fiscal integrity, governance, rules compliance, commitment to equity, student-athlete welfare and sportsmanship, says Megan J. Drucker, assistant athletics director for compliance, who serves on the steering committee for the study and is helping to staff the project.

"The committee's job is to look at those operating principles and be sure we are in compliance," Drucker says. The result should be an analysis from "outside athletics, looking in."

Culbertson is not a newcomer to this process. He was involved in the certification at his previous institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. President Scott Cowen named Culbertson special assistant to the president for NCAA self-certification late last year. He also is associate professor and interim chair in the Department of Health Systems Management at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Four subcommittees will study specific areas and submit written reports to the steering committee, which will compile the final report for Cowen and the NCAA. Those subcommittees include academic integrity, led by Dennis Kehoe, professor of classical languages; equity, welfare and sportsmanship, led by Samuel C. Ramer, associate professor of history; governance and compliance, led by Gary Roberts, Sumter Davis Marks Professor of Law, director of the Sports Law Program and faculty athletics representative for Tulane; and financial integrity, led by Ana Lopez, associate professor of communication.

Each area has a set of standards or operating principles by which all Division I members are evaluated. Tulane must look at each standard, demonstrate how the university meets it, or provide a plan with a timetable for meeting the standard. Once the university completes its study, an external team of reviewers will conduct a four-day evaluation visit.

The NCAA's Division I Committee on Athletics Certification will determine Tulane's certification status, ruling that the university is either certified, certified with conditions, or not certified. A "not certified" ruling could threaten eligibility for NCAA championships. Tulane's last certification report in 1994, overall very positive, included several areas where improvement was necessary, one being gender equity.

That report indicated that the university "is not currently in 'substantial conformity' with the proportionality component of gender equity." An improvement plan called for creating two additional women's sports teams. Tulane has established only one new sport, women's soccer, since the report.

"The gender issue is critical," Culbertson says. "Gender and finances are interrelated. To remedy it will require an expenditure of funds to establish additional women's sports."

Raising funds for various areas in athletics is a priority for new athletics director Rick Dickson, who is a member of the certification steering committee along with Cowen. Drucker says, "It's an exciting time. This gives us more hope for the future, to bring in more money and do things we'd like to do."

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