The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reported in the 2009 - 2010 academic year that 444, 007 student athletes participated in college athletics. Currently, those athletes make up 18,000 teams among 1,200 colleges and universities at three different institutional levels (divisions I, II, and III). Since the 1989 - 1990 academic year, colleges and universities have seen dramatic spikes in participation rates. Male athletic team numbers have had net gains of 510 teams and female athletics teams have dramatically increased by 2,703 over the same 20 year span (National Collegiate Athletic Association Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report, 2010).
Prior to the formation of the NCAA there were multiple areas of trouble concerning college students taking part in athletic events. Violations among student athletes ran rampant in the early part of the 20th century with various reports of point shaving scandals, academic dishonesty, and blatant violations of school codes of conduct. College and university presidents tried in vain to control these conduction violations but attempted so with menial success (Thelin, 2004).
By the late 1940's policies were created by specific institutions across America during this time period to urge all colleges and universities to enforce "sanity codes" of athletic student conduct. However, this soon became very problematic for two reasons. The first, many institutions refused intrusion from an outside group in their institutional policies. Second, many institutions were seeing the growing benefit of popular sports teams. Therefore they refused any outside policy which would have adversely affected the increase in revenue to their athletic programs (Thelin, 2004).
Up to the mid-20th century the NCAA's main concerns had been solely in the interest of organizing and promoting athletic championships. As a final attempt to regulate student athlete conduct on a national level, the NCAA was given new regulatory powers to control and manage sports policies on college campuses (Thelin, 2004). By 1952, the NCAA had centralized and began developing policies which handled student conduct, the emerging realm of sports television, and proper representation of student athletes on and off the field. Over the course of the next half-decade the reach of the NCAA would grow to cover more defined eligibility standards and rules regarding amateur athletic status (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
Position and Role in the Policy Process
Educational policies at colleges and universities governed by the NCAA are directly influenced by its rules and regulations. One of the primary roles of the NCAA is to ensure that athletic programs are a vital part of the institutional system. This same level of responsibility also ensures that the student athlete become an integrated part of the student body. Therefore in the policy making process institutions of higher education must also keep in mind the physical and mental well being of their student athletes and member institutions must follow the standards of the guidelines set forth by the NCAA (Northern Michigan University, 2012).
The role of the NCAA is multi-faceted. Aside from their primary concern of athlete well-being they are also charged with the responsibility to provide functions governing admissions and recruiting of student athletes, academic integrity, athletic practice requirements, financial aid (including unauthorized booster payments), proper management of academic records, and time allocated away from activities related to the athletic event the student partakes time in. Under the current structure of the NCAA there is not a sanctioned position for each of the 1,200 institutions it governs. However, they urge all member institutions to allocate positions from administrators, faculty, or staff to work with student athletes to ensure these benchmarks are met in an effective manner. This also includes that student athletes to take responsibility for their own actions and understand that they are at a heightened position of status on their college campus (Northern Michigan University, 2012).
It is also encouraged that institutions take on the responsibility of self governance and control and infractions or discrepancies in audits of athletic programs be reported immediately to the NCAA. In many of its publications the NCAA even provides guidelines for institutional control. The philosophy of institutional self governance being that if policies on campus influenced by the NCAA work to not only monitor and identify violations in academics, recruitment, conduct or otherwise but that in-house management at colleges and universities will also help to deter future violations either by participating athletes, coaches, administrators, or outside persons affiliated with a specific athletic team (University of Illinois, 2012).
Means and Methods Used to Influence Higher Education Policy
The NCAA utilizes various factors to influence higher education policy. Part of this function is providing educational resources and guidelines for institutions to understand the responsibilities regarding on-campus athletics including academic, recruiting, and the use of performance enhancing drugs. Resources also provide guidance for student and faculty advisors, administrators, and coaches which help to provide an on-campus environment conducive to student learning. Information is also available to the general public and non-athlete students. Research on the dangers of sports gambling and the traditional negative consequences associated with betting are publicly available. (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
Another function of the NCAA is transparent reporting of trends and issues surrounding athletics on a year by year basis. Research from the NCAA provides data on specific topics related to colleges and universities including: graduation and persistence rates on a college by college and sport by sport basis, gender and race ratios, and profit and expense margins for each of the three divisions. Press releases are also available which highlight recent policy changes and major institutional violations which have been evaluated by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
For example, in recent months there has been a developing case involving the institutional control of Pennsylvania State University. The NCAA has provided detailed and outlined information about the investigation, third party details from a document known as the Freeh Report and determining factors and reasoning for the sanctions they imposed upon the institution. In addition media guides and publications are available for institutions and the public to educate themselves on the actions of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
The NCAA not only provides legislative needs for its governed institutions; it also provides executive and judicial functions as well. Part of the influence of the NCAA is its ability to investigate possible violations of its rules, bring charges against associated college and universities, provide due process hearings and appeals to institutions, and ultimately impose and enforce penalties for violations depending on the severity of the infraction. Again, just as self-governance is used to deter future violations, NCAA sanctions are used in the same way to provide a future collegiate environment where one institution has no unfair advantage. In this capacity, the NCAA is fully able to manage its student athletes and influence the policies of their parent institutions (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
Recent Contributions to the Policy Process
. Although the NCAA provides various functions to influence educational policy including penalties, sanctions, and so on, they still provide championships for their specific sports programs - one of its original functions. Over the last few decades one of the major contributions to the policy process in this time frame has been the implementation and organization of Title IX athletics and championship programs for women's sports. Part of this process also includes the implementation and enforcement of rules pertaining to proportionality of institutional expenditures, opportunities, and resources for female student athletes (Smith, 2000).
Aside from a rapid increase in female sports on college campuses (2,703 teams in the last 20 years) the NCAA has also created a gender equity taskforce which has helped to provide guidance in female sports. One of the major policies influenced by this measure is the creation of emerging sports. Essentially, an emerging sport is one which provides additional athletic opportunities for female students so that an institution can maintain gender equity regulations under Title IX regulations. Although these sports may not meet the minimum requirements to have an NCAA sanctioned championship event they do provide a function of equity through the institution (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
Another contribution to the policy process is the increased awareness by the NCAA concerning the issue of diversity in administrative roles of athletic programs. Over the last fifteen years the NCAA has provided programming and guidance to its governing institutions to expand the applicant pool for minority and female prospects. Since the 1995 - 1996 academic year there have been noticeable increases in administrative and coaching roles of minorities. Minority athletic directors have increased by 2.8%, Assistant athletic directors by 3.9%, and coaches in football and basketball by 6.9% (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
Aside from quantitative data which shows an influx in minority coaches and administrators, the NCAA also reports that many of the diversity reports and programs they have implemented have not only increased the amount of minority presence in sports personnel but it also shifts the mentality of the institution. Now more than at any point in the past, institutions are making a consorted effort to include diversity measures in the hiring process. They are also utilizing reports from the NCAA as a resource for further transparency in future policies (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
Over the course of the last 25 years there has been a significant increase in the amount of televised college athletic events, especially in the sports of football and basketball. In turn this popularity has led to an increased market for new revenue streams which come from lucrative television contracts (Smith, 2000). For example, the University of Notre Dame signed a five year, 26 million dollar dead with National Broadcasting Company (NBC) for access to their football games (Associated Press, 2008). The University of Texas set the record in 2011 after penning a 20-year 300 million dollar contract for ESPN to have exclusive rights to their athletic events (Haurwitz & Maher, 2011). Television has become so lucrative in sporting events it even makes up 82.1 % of the NCAA's revenue - 680 million dollars (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2011).
The issue with the massive growth in televised sporting events and its connection to funding programs is two-fold. First, revenue producing sports such as football or basketball have in recent years had to help fund programs from non-revenue generating sports. This increased pressure to distribute funding has led to major tension among athletic programs and their student athletes (Smith, 2000).
Many of these revenue generating sports consist of student athletes who are of diverse backgrounds. Therefore the issue of equity and exploitation has been raised to the NCAA. Many of these students are only allowed a certain stipend for living expenses. And many NCAA critics feel that these student athletes deserve more for their efforts- especially with record breaking contract deals with major cable networks. Many of these college student athletes also feel that they are being pushed in academic programs which are conducive to their sports schedules, and much of their lives outside of the sport are controlled by outside forces (Miller, 2011).
Second, the race for lucrative contracts among college and universities can be an incredibly competitive process. The problem with this mentality is that many schools will try to find ways to give themselves an unfair advantage over their rival institutions. As the administrative and regulating body of over 1,200 institutions this can be problematic for the NCAA (Smith, 2000).
In many cases the NCAA has developed news rules and regulations to help combat institutional actions which give them unethical advantages over other institutions. However, with increased emphasis on equity among all sports and the rapid growth of college athletics over the last few decades, this has led to limited resources for the NCAA to regulate it's three divisions (Smith, 2000). Therefore the increased revenue is a two-edged sword. Yes, it provides new streams of funding to some schools. However, this increased pressure to generate money has led to strain on the student athlete, multiple forms of cheating, Title IX equity issues, and increased criticism on the NCAA's capability to govern and implement effective policies.
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