Today’s meeting was the latest in a series of public meetings the Commission has held to examine serious challenges facing college sports including concerns of a corrupt recruiting environment in men’s basketball. Those concerns are at the center of the FBI investigation that led to last week’s convictions of former Adidas employees who provided money to families of high school basketball stars to steer the players to Adidas-sponsored Division I college teams.
USA Basketball, the National Federation of State High School Associations and NCAA Division II leaders provided a possible roadmap at this morning’s meeting for Division I schools on how to prepare and certify coaches. In light of ongoing scandals and serious health dangers in college sports, the Commission stressed that coaching is a profession and should be treated as one.
Dan Schuster, director of educational services at the National Federation of State High School Associations, said that his group’s message to coaches is: “You are a teacher first and a coach second.”
The Knight Commission reiterated its call today for the NCAA to develop minimal professional standards that coaches should be required to meet to ensure they are prepared to protect student-athletes’ health and safety and are prepared for their role as educators.
Tom Cantrell, head baseball coach at the University of North Georgia, said, “99.9 percent of my players don’t go on to the pros,” and that “the development of the person” should be a coach’s most important goal.
“If we fail at that, then we fail at everything,” he said.
The Knight Commission strongly supports significant NCAA reforms made in response to the basketball scandal. However, the Commission is also seeking additional, far-reaching reforms necessary to better align college athletics with its educational mission.
The NCAA adopted a Commission recommendation to reinstate annual, internal reporting of all athletically-related income received by athletics personnel from outside sources to their school. Yet that requirement addresses only internal reporting not public disclosure requirements. The Commission believes the reporting requirements for outside income from external sources, especially income from shoe and apparel companies, must be expanded to provide true transparency. The Commission urges action on its prior recommendations for reporting of outside income to the NCAA and the public.
The Commission also expressed its continuing strong support for the NCAA Board of Governors’ proposal to add independent directors, noting that they would bring fresh perspectives not only to major governance questions but to practical issues addressed today such as national Division I certification for coaches. The Commission urged the NCAA to select directors with a wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences as well as sensitivity to issues important to all three NCAA subdivisions.
Several recent NCAA reforms were originally introduced by or closely align with previous Knight Commission recommendations. In addition to the new policy on internal reporting of outside income and a proposal to add independent directors, the reforms include providing financial assistance for degree completion for former Division I basketball players.
Commission member David Robinson, a former college and NBA basketball star, said that professional standards for NCAA Division I men’s basketball coaches were “alarmingly low.”
“Coaches are often more important than any professor for a college athlete, and we were encouraged by what we heard today from USA Basketball, high school leaders and Division II about the steps they take to train coaches,” said Commission co-chair Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education. “Yet the truth is that Division I, which has far more financial resources, is far too lax about certification and licensing requirements for coaches. Division I leadership has to show the same level of commitment to coaching development.”
At today’s meeting, USA Basketball officials discussed how they require their national team coaches to receive certified education in athlete health and safety, including guidance aimed at preventing emotional and physical abuse by coaches.
Jay Demings, youth division director of USA Basketball, said the view “if you throw a whistle around your neck, all of a sudden you’re a coach,” is badly outdated.
At NCAA-certified basketball events for recruiting, youth basketball team coaches are required to have USA Basketball coaching licenses which require a background check and completion of three online courses including a “SafeSport” course. By contrast, the NCAA does not require Division I coaches to have a coaching license, undergo a background check or complete similar training. More than 26,000 youth basketball coaches were certified through the USA Basketball program last year.
While the Knight Commission recognizes that some coaches associations, colleges and conferences provide high-quality professional development programs for coaches, it believes the NCAA must develop basic standards that every Division I coach must be certified as meeting to work at the Division I level.
“Division I should follow Division II’s lead in this area,” said Knight Commission co-chair Carol Cartwright, president emeritus at Kent State University and Bowling Green State University. “The world of college sports is often overwhelmed by headlines on the pay-to-play scandal and other controversies. But it’s important to set a foundation for getting the values right for programs—and establishing a better culture for training coaches is the right place to start to benefit all student-athletes.”
The Commission also heard presentations from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and NCAA leaders on efforts to improve oversight for athletics at the board and presidential levels. The Commission recommended that every Division I Board and President review university-reported data on the NCAA’s Institutional Performance Program. The Commission heard a presentation on this important but underutilized NCAA database, which helps schools to assess their athletics departments performance in key areas like academics, gender equity, and diversity.
At its meeting today, the Commission formally endorsed the AGB’s new statement on Governing Boards’ Responsibilities for Intercollegiate Athletics.
Knight Foundation CEO Alberto Ibargüen and Knight Commission Co-Chairs Cartwright and Duncan recently announced five new Knight Commission members – Eric J. Barron, Pamela J. Bernard, Michael M. Crow, Jacques McClendon, and Jill Pilgrim. The Commission thanked members who completed their terms of service: Jack DeGioia, a member since October 2006, and Myron Rolle, a member since September 2014.
The Knight Commission was formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 to promote reforms that support and strengthen the educational mission of college sports. Over the years, the NCAA has adopted a number of the Commission’s recommendations, including the rule that requires teams to be on track to graduate at least 50 percent of their players to be eligible for postseason competition. The Commission’s Athletic and Academic Spending Database provides financial data for more than 220 public Division I institutions, creating greater financial transparency on athletics spending.
Photo courtesy USA Basketball