NCAA DIVISIONS I-AA, I-AAA, II, III AND NAIA
IMAGE ENHANCEMENT OF COLLEGE ATHLETICS
(Monday, June 10, 8:30 -9:15 a.m.)
Today's topic will be Image Enhancement of College Athletics. As the board gathered and we considered those things that were the greatest concern to us, one of the things that immediately came to our minds was the ideas of image enhancement. As we all know, intercollegiate athletics has been the subject of considerable scrutiny by members of the media. The positive values and the improvements in the conduct of intercollegiate athletics are frequently submerged by the negative stories related to college sports. We assembled a panel of experts to speak with you today about how colleges can accentuate the positive and minimize or eliminate the negative. In other words, how can we enhance the image of college athletics?
I'd like to introduce you to Chuck Neinas, who will begin. Chuck is the executive director of the College Football Association and he will give some opening remarks.
Thank you, Helen. As Helen said, in college athletics we're looking to accentuate the positive and, if not, eliminate the negative. Perhaps we can neutralize it. College athletics is not without its faults. But, it has so many positive values and virtues that are sometimes overlooked. All of you attending today would agree that we are engaged in what we consider to be a noble profession, that of administering intercollegiate athletics.
The College Football Association commissioned the Gallup Organization to conduct a poll on our behalf a year ago, trying to get a better indication as to what people were interested in college football and some of the perceptions they had. Thirty percent of the Gallup sample believed that drugs and illegal substances are the biggest problems facing college football today. Interestingly enough, another gallup survey conducted within the span of six-months after they did the one for us, when the public was asked the same question as to the biggest problem confronting America today, thirty percent said drugs and illegal substances. The NCAA News reported, just one week ago, that the NCAA conducted off-season drug season of college football players and of 4,383 that were tested, 18 tested positive.
The College Football Association also conducted a survey of its own members. We had 3,000 players complete a form anonymously from 54 different teams. We don't have the complete results, but I do have some of the preliminary findings. We fmd that 88 percent of those responding said going to college to get an education was their primary motivation, eight percent said they felt it was a stepping-stone to professional athletics, four-percent said, basically, it was their parents expectations, 84 percent said they were going to college even if they were not going to play football. Once entering college, 96 percent said they felt that obtaining a degree was important.
So, how can we help project a more positive image of college athletics? We're fortunate today to have three gentlemen who may help us provide some of the answers. Certainly, Herb Klein, who was the spokesman for President Nixon, has been on the hot spot before. Captain Sherman, who is involved in the formation of the Press Office for Desert Shield, and Kit Morris, who is the executive director of the Knight Commission. We appreciate their time and we look forward with interest to what they have to say. Helen will introduce the panelists.
Thank you, Chuck. I would like to introduce Herb Klein who is the vice president editor-in-chief of the Copley Newspapers. He has enjoyed a unique career as a newspaper man, broadcast officer, media consultant, a senior leader in the White House and has participated in five Presidential campaigns. He has recently written a book entitled, Making It Perfectly Clear, in which he recounts his experiences in the world of government and the press. Herb Klein.
Thank you very much. I am honored to have the opportunity to speak to such a distinguished gathering on a subject which I think is of major importance, not just in a short run, but in a long run. It's a subject that is encouraging to see you looking into it. I come to you as one who is an editor and been in the newspaper business or in the communication business at the White House most of my life, and I still take pride in having been the sports editor of the ~ at USC, chairman of the Holiday Bowl and a major participant in the Super Bowl in San Diego. I try to took at it as a fan and one who enjoys participating from that side of the fence as well as one who is deeply concerned about the future of athletics in our universities and colleges.
When you look at the situation, you find that it's become more a subject of discussion in these days because
there has been tmnsfonnation in college athletics overall. We're far from the days of the early Ivy League and we're far from the days when all athletes were looked upon as dumb. We hear much more discussion about either the problems or the achievements of athletes than we do about what happens in the selection of those who can pass the new rules you have in coming into the athletic picture on a scholarship.
From a point of the universities themselves, athletics and the image of athletics as an important spare beyond what it does for enhancing the interest of the alumni and the students. At my own university, USC, it is certainly ~ major part of our fund raising efforts, not just for athletics, but the funds for the overall university are in many way inspired by foundations and others which learn about that particular university through athletics. Therefore, it's of great importance that what we do is of excellence, not only in win and loss records, but how we conduct ourselves, how we select the athletes and where we go. Certainly, we're not among those who are perfect.
If you don't have the respect and the support of the American public, you're going to be much more vulnerable to action by Congressmen who want to make a reputation. Currently, you see the IRS trying to get more and more into the collection of funds from bowls and universities themselves. You encourage government to take a bigger har when the hand they should be taking is one of support in scholarships, research and support in funds which can help build greater universities and greater programs.
The Gallup Poll is interesting and it shows that there is major support for universities among our fans. I noted that it said that the highest number was in the south where there are fewer professional teams, and the least was in the northeast where there is greater concentration on professional teams, so, there is a relationship in between.
When you look at image I think you have to say that it starts from within. What's the image of your team, yo athletes on the university campus itself! Are they part of the regular student activities? Are they people who are leaders within the community? Are they ones who are isolated and kept apart in a separate program? I believe yOl have to start from within and you have to start with athletes who are willing to be a part of the entire university community. Beyond that, you need to go out and be involved in the community itself to some degree. Maybe the most important word in looking at image is perception. Image doesn't necessarily mean the fact It means how do people perceive where you're coming from and where you're developing your programs.
I listened to dIe figures and dIe polls from Chuck and it's probably true, but most people who are watc football believe dlat dIe star of dIe game will turn out to be a pro. As you know so well, dlat isn't necess We hope dlat dIe star of dIe game may be a pro, but more a pro in leading business and industry or odler dIe world itself.
There are genuine dangers today on the reputation of athletics. Drugs is a problem which is perhaps exaggeratl and the emphasis on random tests is something that is due and should be done in a more scientific matte than it is now. If you looked ahead, because of the fact that athletics are in the forefront of one whole section of the newspaper, one whole portion of your nightly television, when something goes wrong, it will get greater emphasis than what happens in the history department
I think a growing problem is date rape. Date rape is not necessarily growing on the campuses, but it certainly growing in the suits. When an athlete, innocent or not, is going to get far more attention than the average student who is majoring in history, it's one of those things you have to face. You have to be aware of it and I don't thin] there is an easy answer.
When you look at those who have come out of athletics, we have the Hall of Fame. Perhaps we need to do more in emphasizing that Coming down this morning, I was .interested in looking at the two senior public officers who came out of athletics programs. One is Senator Bill Bradley and the Secretary of HUD, Jack Kemp.
When you look at image, you might start with the President of the United States. I dare say, that probably 41 50 percent of the effort in the programs and the time that the President takes, is really involved in image. How d he project a program? How does he get support for his programs? When a President prepares for a press
conference, he spends a day or a day and one-half of his week preparing so he'll know the answers from all departments. In the highest rank of this country , President, image is important for success. Perhaps image needs have more of the attention of the presidents of the universities themselves. Too often, your group is separated by athletics versus academics when there needs to be a greater meshing of the two. There needs to be a greater inter in the president's participation to watch carefully when you see the growing efforts in the NCAA to get more
presidential participation. The presidents need to take a major role, not only when things are going well and you , winning in basketball or football, but also be willing to step into it and take the front row when things to wrong.
I have always told the presidents that I've known that when things get tough, don't back away. It's also one c the points of advice that most presidents avoid. Jimmy Carter said he would have a press conference every week. He backed away when things got tough. You can apply the same to Richard Nixon or to anyone up to George B1
who still has a number of press conferences today. It's the key to success along the way that when things are in a bad way, there should be a relationship in a direct fashion between the president of the university, the public and the athletic department itself.
We need to do more with intercollegiate athletics in emphasizing the successes that we've had. At our own games, we frequently introduce great heroes of the past in football. We should also introduce a prominent alumnus. Someone who is a role model in the school of business or in the school of architecture. Someone who could be hailed as a representative of the success of the university. Sometimes, it's a former athlete or sometimes, it's someone who has graduated overall. The problem of graduation is serious for athletics programs, but it's serious for all departments within our universities.
I was at a meeting of the Board of Trustees at USC last week and heard a discussion by the new president of the university. He met with a prominent newspaper in the area to try to gain a greater understanding. As I sat around the meeting, I listened to prominent businessmen who are members of the Board ask the president why he did that One of them said he was a leader in the Olympics in Los Angeles and he said that anytime he went to the newspaper he found he didn't get positive results. Others were critical because they felt the papers would be unfair, no matter what It's true, there is a lot of criticism, both in the newspapers and in television. Television is looking for more sensationalism than newspapers today, but they are both part of it.
You're not going to resolve that by backing away. Too many who are in the athletic end of the program know the sports writers well. They live and die by the words that they might read on a particular day. I'm not always happy with what my own sportswriters write. The fact is that there should be a better understanding between those of you who are senior leaders and the athletic departments and those who are general managers, editors or publishers of the newspapers and broadcast industry itself.
You need to have an understanding about where the media comes from overall, not just where they come from when they write a sports column. Sports writers are important and they need to be worked with. Columnists are also important and we should not back away from either one of them when we think things are going wrong. That's the wrong way to get at it You need to have more of a relationship with the entire media in order for you to understand how to move ahead in the programs you have.
Image, or the perception of your college or university, is important to every aspect of your university today. It's important to the recruiting of students. It's important to the recruiting of athletes and to the raising of funds for all parts of the university. It's important to gain any research grants. It's important to building the feeling that colleges and universities today are producing quality. If it's important enough for the President of the United States to spend that time, it's important enough for you to put more time into this program. You need a product which is first class. You can't sell faucets in today's market. You need a record of achievement in producing students who have gone out to become leaders and have a loyalty to your university or college so that you can build that all the way through.
Finally, you need role models who come out of all of your programs. People you're willing to showcase because that's a part of personality image today. Thank you.
Thank you very much. At this time, I would like to introduce to you Captain Michael Sherman, who is the Information Officer of the U.S. Navy. He's now located in Los Angeles. He established the Press Office for Desert Shield and has considerable experience in dealing with the media. Captain Sherman.
CAPTAIN MICHAEL SHERMAN:
Herb Klein and I are still talking, so it couldn't have been that bad. I'm not from the U.S. Naval Academy. I learned gorilla warfare at San Francisco State College. I'd like to think that I was invited here because I was also a sports editor for the Sun and Flare weekly newspaper in Saudi Arabia when I was 19-years old.
I'm one of 200 Navy Public Affairs Officers that exist within your United States Navy. We are, in fact, public relations practioners. We are supposedly experts in our trade, our profession and location. Most of us have master's in Public Relations, Journalism and/or Public Affairs.
One of the things I would advise athletic directors immediately is that there is no way to stand behind the scenes anymore and let a story play out You simply have to become totally pro-active in today's market The crisis situations do not go away. I can throw out Tarkanian, Stanford University and, on the positive side, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. That all triggers something in our minds as to something that may have happened in colleges some years past
Today's audiences in the United States respect, expect and demand professionalism from their leadership in government, the military and in the leadership in a scholastic institution. This is especially true for scholastic institutions because there is a special stewardship that they have provided to you for their children. Regardless of what ethical or moral standards they have placed upon the children in their homes, they expect you to take those kids and bring them above that. Anything they've done in their lives should be excused because you've got them now and they expect you to take care of them and to do the best by them. The analogy rings true especially in the military. You may not have taught him how to balance a checkbook or deal with credit problems, leadership, authority figures, how to make his bed, and when to brush his teeth. Believe me, I've had to teach kids how to brush their teeth. It's a special stewardship that both you and I have and it's especially true when families and students are spending great sums of money to send their kids to college. So, they expect something back from that outlay.
The journalists today have unique technology that we witnessed in Saudi Arabia and you witnessed on a daily basis. They have satellite dishes and microwaves so that anything that happens appears live at five. It appears very quickly and more often than not it is, at least in the first blush, not necessarily accurate. The Olympics are also able, because of the revenues they generate, to have live coverage. The coverage for NBC cost one and one-half million dollars a week for Desert Storm. They do have a lot of money in the Olympics. For example, there were 9,400 sports journalists registered for the '84 Olympics in Los Angeles. I heard today that there were something like 17 countries represented covering the NBA Playoffs in Los Angeles last night. God knows how many American journalists are registered paying $2,500 a ticket to get in to sit with Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon. I'd pay $2,500 to sit with at least one of those two people, but I'm a sailor afterall.
You've got the capability to be reported on. You've got an audience out there that expects you to rise above and to instill within them exceptional morals and ethics more so than they have done so in the family environment
You've got a young group of men and women who are not yet completely formed, whether it's spiritually, mentally, or physically.
One of the things that we like to point out to young leaders who come into the Navy is to expect the young people they're charged with to make mistakes. It's like a pyramid and when you're young, you're allowed to make a lot of mistakes, you're expected to make a lot of mistakes. As you get older, the pyramid gets smaller and smaller. Indeed, some of those mistakes end up as criminal offenses in some instances. You can expect young people to make mistakes. They make horrendous ones in judgement. We see it in our families with our own kids. We see it in colleges and other institutions like the military .
As you know, during the Vietnam War, we had a terrible drug problem. We fmally said there would not be a drug problem. We went into extensive programs. We went into extensive drug rehabilitation. We said the young kids who get involved in drugs will have another chance. They turn themselves in and we will turn them around. We're not going to just throw them out back into society with a problem. We're going to take care of them and that problem. We, the Navy, have been the most successful institution in terms of drug rehabilitation and counseling in the world today. We've been very successful because we didn't sit back and ignore a problem or by whitewashing a problem, but by coming out very quickly and admitting that we have a problem and we're going to flX it.
Another example of being pro-active is last year before Desert Storm, the Navy experienced a dramatic and huge safety problem. We had the guns on the battleship blow up. We had airplanes falling out of the sky. Instead of ignoring it and saying that it will go away, the public affairs director, my boss, sat down with the chief of operations and said, "What are we going to do about this?" The entire U.S. Navy sat back for one day, 24-hours, took a deep breath, reviewed our safety regulations within the squadrons and divisions and then went back to work. Obviously,
we didn't stop patrolling the Seven Seas, but anybody that could stopped, sat back, took a deep breath and went back to business. We did get back to our normal safety regulations. We did it pro-actively. We told everyone we were going to do it. Each time a command or a squadron has a problem, we do go to a safety stand down.
You'll find as athletic directors that you have a special relationship with your presidents, your dean and your coaches, but you damn well better have a very close, trusting, comprehensive working relationship with your public relations director. If you don't, you're going to have many problems. You'll find that the minute something breaks, a scandal or a problem, the media will be on it Justifiably so, they are your checks and balances, just as they are mine. That's their job to report the news. When they do that, oftentimes, because of the immediacy of the news, there will be mistakes made.
Let me tell you, it takes days to correct an inaccurate report in the news media and when it is corrected, it's back on page D-14 and not on page A-I. It behooves you all to make sure that if you have a problem brewing, make sure your public relations director knows about it. Make sure that he or she is called in to the initial meeting and that some sort of a plan be formulated. Don't ask the public relations director to flX your problem. Let the media know that you have a problem. You will have problems you can't mention. I'm sure you have legal advisors advise you on that. But, you've got to tell them something and you've got to be forthright and as honest as possible. That's pro-active public relations.
You should have plans for dle good times. You should also have plans for dle bad times. Crisis public relations plans should be in existence at each one of your institutions for any scandal that might break. How well you work, how honest you are and how candid you are widl dle news media will obviously be dle gauge or dle key to your success in dealing widl dle news media. Make sure your public relations people are knowledgeable.
You can sometimes put spins on dlings. I would not try to do dlat. I would stay forthright, honest and candid. Get dle information out as quickly as possible and get it out yourself. Don't hold it for dlat fIrst phone call. There are relationships built between dle public relations people and dle news media in your state and dlose are dle people you should reach. Explain to dlem what is going on and be as honest as possible. Thank you.
Thank you. Our third panelist is Kit Morris who is a staff officer with the Knight Commission. As most of you know, the Knight Commission has been going for about two-years. Prior to that, Kit was in athletic administration on three different campuses.
First of all, I would like to thank the panelists for the opportunity to appear here with such distinguished co- panelists. Our topic today, Image Enhancement, reminds me of a story I heard not too long ago which shows just how quickly images can shift It seems that this fellow was being arraigned for having killed a California condor, which as all of you know, is a rare and endangered species. As this environmental criminal was brought before a magistrate, he gave this as justification for the act. He said, "Your Honor, I'm a widower, a single parent of seven children. Six-months ago, I was laid off from my job and I've been determined not to accept any kind of governmental assistance. I've supported my family through this crisis by doing odd jobs and occasionally having to hunt for food. My kids hadn't eaten for two days when I killed that condor. I cleaned it, cooked it and served it to my family for dinner and I have no regrets." The judge looked at him and with a tear in his eye, dismissed his case- In just an instant, a person had gone from environmental villain to family hero. As he was leaving the court room, the judge said, "I would like to ask you just one question out of curiosity before you go. What, in the world does California condor taste like?" The fellow said, "Well, it's between spotted owl and bald eagle."
Images can change quickly, very quickly. As you know, on March 19, me Knight Commission released its report after more man a year of study. I'm able to tell you that our report has received an overwhelming, positive response from the media and from the general public, especially those who care very deeply and who are most concerned about college athletics and higher education. The Commission has been gratified by me positive response and attested to by thousands of newspaper articles, television and radio, and a number of letters. Some people, perhaps some of you
here today, have expressed the opinion, eimer publically or privately, mat the problems in college amletics have been over-blown by reporters with an ax to grind or an award to win, by me Knight Commission, or by someone else.
You've all heard the expression before, image is reality. I don't always agree with that statement. I will tell you that the general public thinks that we in college athletics have some problems. That perception alone means that we do have some problems. As you know, we're hearing from members of Congress who seem to believe that we have some problems. Once they reach this kind of governmental involvement, we really do have some problems. Even if you believe that everything in college athletics is perfect, and I doubt that any of you here do think that, please admit that we all have a problem in how to restore our reputation.
I heard a very interesting story from an executive from a fast food company that has been wrestling with a major image problem. You've seen the company advertising campaign, "Sometimes you've got to break the rules." By reputation, fast food companies are considered to be rigged. I'm sure many of you recall the old Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi: no hamburger, cheeseburger. When you go into fast food franchises, there's usually one way to do it. This company over the years had built this reputation on letting you have it your way. So, they developed this advertising campaign about breaking the rules of the rigged tradition of the fast food operations. Unfortunately, the campaign was taken out of context, misunderstood by the public and some of their employees came in late with
the excuse, "You know, sometimes, you gotta break the rules." In surveys of public opinion, this company's favorable rating went from nearly 70-percent down to a low of 20-percent This executive told me that the two-year old campaign has been scrapped and beginning just two weeks ago, Burger King was inviting customers to have it your way.
Is there a lesson here for college athletics? I think so. This Burger King executive explained when you talk among yourselves too much, which the people who had conceived this campaign had done, you begin to hear what you want to hear. In this case, we were no longer communicating with our public. Could it be that we in college athletics have been talking among ourselves too much? Are we no longer communicating with our public?
What is the essential image that we want to project? That basic question is answered in chapter three of the Knight Commission's Report, entitled, Putting Principles Into Action. There are 10 very straightforward, simple, easily understood principles that you can use on your campuses, in your conferences and within the NCAA, that if adopted and accepted, will send a strong message about the value of college athletics and about its important role in American higher education.
I've been with the Knight Commission 21-months and I'd like to share with you some of the things I've learned. First, the Knight Commission believes that college athletics programs are an integral part, not only of our campuses, but of the education process itself. As Mr. Harris said earlier today, "so do you." Ninety-one percent of the ADs in this country agreed with that. In fact, it was in this spirit that the Knight Commission released this report
Regardless of what you may have heard somewhere, the Knight Commission did not indulge in any fmger pointing. It was asked to produce a positive agenda for the health of college sports in the future, not to assess blame on any individual or groups or programs for problems that have existed in the past. Let us start by agreeing that an of us here are committed to producing a strong and positive future for college athletics, and especially for college athletes, who are the most important people involved in this field.
Coaches and athletic directors were the only ones who rated ADs positively on controlling excesses in college athletics. The Knight Commission sees this as a bum rap. In both the Harris Poll and the extensive surveying we did and in testimony before our Commission, sixteen athletic directors and senior women administrators distinguished yourselves as educators who were advocates of positive reform, as individuals who were supportive of presidential leadership and as people who were sensitive to the academic concerns on our campuses. You were also sympathetic to the challenges facing student-athletes.
As I wrote recently to one of the officers of NACDA, you're the folks in the white hats. You're the good guys. This isn't a debating society, so I'm not going to argue about whether or not big-time college sports is technically out of control. What the Knight Commission said was, at the huge majority of NCAA institutions, virtually an young people participate in athletic contests without any evidence of scandal or academic abuse. However, the problems that we do have are too big to ignore and we need to deal with them in a straightforward manner. The Knight Commission thinks that you, as ADs, are important. That's why we invited so many to testify at our hearings. These hearings have become a model for interaction and are now used by the Presidents Commission with athletic directors, which holds a positive hope for the future.
We think that you're key in the world of athletics. That's why the Commission's report made clear to believe that in so many ways, you are the individuals at the crossroads that have the responsibility to keep athletics clean and to make sure that our institutions educational values take precedence. As the report said, "It's up to you to put the muscle on the skeleton." And to provide the effective, day-to-day oversight in management of our programs. The fact is that reasonable reform of college athletics is impossible without your involvement
As a former member of a fraternity of athletic directors, I know what it's like to be in your shoes. It's like standing at the bottom of a waterfall, trying to swallow it. It's a tough job. As one of our commission members said, "You're the person who's out there on point, always advancing, always moving ahead." I believe we're in agreement here on what really counts. We believe in our system of higher education and we believe in college
sports. First, and above all, we believe in the young people who take part in these programs. It's by design, and certainly not by accident, that the Knight Commission report was entitled, "Keeping Faith With The Student Athlete." This is the most important aspect of our college sports operation and, ultimately, keeping faith with the student-athlete is the key to image enhancement As the Report observed, if we can get that right, everything else will fall into place. Thank you.