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Athletic study under way for certification

By Jean Eversole

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 31 - May 22, 1997

Virginia Tech has begun a campus-wide effort to study its athletics program in an effort to gain certification by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The effort is a joint self study with the NCAA Committee on Athletics Certification and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges (SACS/COC). The study will examine financial integrity, academic integrity, gender and racial equity, and rules compliance. The NCAA requires all member institutions to undergo the certification process.

A steering committee, chaired by Raymond Smoot Jr., vice president for finance and treasurer, is responsible for the study. Four subcommittees representing the four areas listed above have already begun collecting data for the study. The steering committee and subcommittees are composed of various members of the faculty, staff, and students, as well as Athletic Department personnel.

The four subcommittee chairs are Arthur J. Keown, Pamplin professor of finance (Academic Integrity); Janet M. Johnson, dean, College of Human Resources and Education (Gender and Racial Equity); Lenwood D. McCoy, University Controller (Fiscal Integrity); and Bennet G. Cassell, professor, Department of Dairy Science (Rules Compliance).

To conduct the study, the subcommittees will complete a self-study instrument prepared by the NCAA. The instrument is designed to collect data and to elicit an evaluation of the athletics department and plans for improvement where necessary. Each subcommittee will write a first draft of a report by July 15. A final draft composed of the four subcommittee reports is expected in October, 1997.

In March 1997, two representatives from the NCAA traveled to Virginia Tech for a one-day orientation visit with the committee and its subcommittees. Athletics certification is a relatively new concept. At its 1993 convention, as part of its reform agenda, the NCAA passed a resolution requiring that all member institutions undergo the certification process within five years. The NCAA certification program has set standards that the athletics programs of member institutions must meet to become certified. Each school must also examine how the activities of its athletics program relate to the school's mission and purpose.

Once Virginia Tech has completed its study, peers from other colleges and universities, as well as officials from the Atlantic 10 Conference, will visit the campus to evaluate the study's findings. They will report the results of their evaluation to the NCAA Committee on Athletics Certification, which will determine Virginia Tech's certification status, and announce the decision publicly.

There are three categories of certification: certified, certified with conditions, and not certified. Member institutions will have an opportunity to correct deficiencies. The NCAA can impose sanctions on member institutions that fail to conduct a comprehensive self study or that fail to correct problems identified by the study. A final decision on Virginia Tech's certification status is not expected until August 1998. The NCAA is a membership organization of colleges and universities that participate in intercollegiate athletics. Membership is voluntary.