Junior/Community Colleges Breakout
Community College Athletics in the Future
(Monday, June 10, 10:15 - 11:45 a.m.)
Good morning and welcome to this session dealing with "Community Colleges in the Future." As we've had a little taste of athletics in the future from Billy Payne and from Tom Hill, the theme of this morning's sessions is to deal with the issues of student-athletes in the future and what we are going to be experiencing as athletic leaders looking toward preparing our athletes for their future careers in life.
It's our pleasure to have two keynote speakers to talk about community colleges in the future. What will our institutions look like? What types of students will we have and how does athletics survive in the world of community colleges in the future?
David Pierce, the president of the AACC will be our first speaker dealing with the community colleges on a global sense, and then, Graham Smart, president of Pima Community College, dealing with some of the issues related to community colleges at Pima and the expectations of their athletes.
At the end of the session, we will have discussion between us as colleagues and dealing with community colleges and what we will be dealing with, in terms of people and the institutions we work at. Graham will be our first speaker.
Thank you. This morning when I woke up, I was really inspired and I thought about all of these people out jogging and doing all of these exercises. I had this urge to do it, so I just laid there until it went away. I got up and started practicing what I would do today. Since I have no past with athletics, I can only look at the future. I've only been in athletics over the past five years. I wanted to look at changes I see in diversity and technology and amounts of money available and accountability, as I see it, for athletes and athletic directors and all of intercollegiate athletics.
As you all know, Title IX was actually past in 1972. Very little happened with Title IX until about 1988 when the Civil Rights Restoration Act came to Congress. At that time, all of the colleges started to look at how to comply with Title IX. I'd never really read this until a couple of weeks ago. It's a complicated document. I was pleased to find out that Pima has been in compliance since before it was written. We started out with gender equity, at least.
It reminds me of a story I read the other day. A young boy came home from school and announced to his father that he was number two in his class. His dad asked him who was number one. Number one was won by a girl. His dad said, "Surely, Jack, you're not going to be beaten by a mere girl?" The young boy said, "You see, Dad, girls are not nearly as mere as they used to be." I think a lot of people working in public education and private education are finding out that's true.
Other things will add to the diversification of our population that we deal with. We already see it in the general populations of the colleges and that's in dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Affirmative Action. In the future, we're going to have to be addressing a lot more situations coming up as a result of the American Disabilities Act. Because as that unfolds and as more and more types of disabilities come to the forefront, you're going to find that a lot of athletes fit into those categories, especially those with various mental illnesses or learning disabilities. Physically, they're very fit, but we need to deal with some of the other things too.
I also think it gives us a greater opportunity, in our institutions, to look at better ways to do things and enriching our institutions as diversity begins to unfold. It could also bring some possible controversy if, in the future, we have to look at such things as transgenders teams. One of my assistants was typing this up for me and, as she read transgender teams, she asked, "Is that like guys going in drag?" I told her I didn't think so. That's not exactly what I meant.
Diversity to me, actually, transcends gender and ethnicity, sexual orientation, all of those things and gets down to the root of culture. Those are the things in dealing with diversity that are going to give us the biggest challenge for the next 10 to 20 or even 30 years. You can see our populations changing. In the Southwest, when I first went there about 20 years ago, were basically Hispanics and Anglo. Now, we're seeing quite a growing number in the African-American culture in Tucson. So, the implications in education are going to be considerable.
We see the increase in recruiting of international students. There's all kinds of philosophies in recruiting international students. Some colleges like to recruit international students to just be athletes. Other colleges, I'm afraid, do some recruiting of international students under the guise of the global community and enriching the curriculum. It's also a money maker. We have to be truthful, because if you're developing language institutes or international education programs, you really look at the bucks you can drag in from international students, especially in states where the budget is really tight.
In athletics, we need to really think seriously when you start changing the competitive edge by recruiting lots of international students. I mentioned this to a group yesterday. Our philosophy is to recruit locally and we recruit in our service area. This has served us well over the years. We've been very competitive in national athletics. Academics are always recognized around community colleges, but athletics sometimes doesn't get the notoriety it needs in a positive sense.
We are creating a monument to all of our All-American athletes, of which we've got about 140 to date since the building of the college 25 years ago. It a tri level structure made out of concrete and brick. It has a monument in granite into which is etched the names of all of the coaches who have coached All-American athletes, the year and the sport they were in. It has been a positive statement to the campus that we value these students for their contributions to the college. If we had to pay for marketing like we get from winners such as our tennis team winning the national championship, we couldn't afford marketing like that. The front of every paper in town for days and days is great.
I'd like to share with you exactly what our diversity make up is right now in athletics. As of today, we have seven men's sports and six women's sports. Come July 1st, we'll have seven and seven. We're adding a women's soccer program which is going to be really popular in Tucson. We've got enough colleges in the state to have a good competitive base on which to operate now. If we look at our teams, 10 percent of our student-athletes are African-American, 39 percent are Anglo, two percent are Asian-American, 37 percent are Latino/Hispanic and two percent, native American. That almost exactly reflects the city of Tucson and Pima County. We're very fortunate in looking at that. Unfortunately, our faculty doesn't resemble the population like our students do. We've got a heavy Anglo faculty so far, but we're working hard at this.
At this point in athletics, we have 108 males and 70 females. That will change when we add the additional women's sport in the fall. On our coaching staff, we don't have any African-Americans. Fifty three percent are Anglo; three percent are Asian-American; 41 percent Latino/Hispanic; three percent, native American. So, we are undeserved in the African-American standpoint. As we start moving in to replace coaches, we're going to see what we can do to rectify that. As far as the administration in athletics goes, our athletic director is an Hispanic male. In the past, we've had two assistant athletic directors, both of whom are Anglo females. So, we are in pretty good shape when we look at those types of things.
I'd like to talk a little about the role of athletics in the delivery of education. I don't think a lot of people think of athletics as having a role. We want to try to change that and to change that, we have to place ownership on certain things. All of you work in two-year colleges and you know that faculty will tell you up front, that they own the curriculum. Well, the administration owns the scheduling. They may own the curriculum, but we own the scheduling. What we need to do is get athletics more involved. I fully intend to insist that every standing committee on the campus have a representative from athletics. That includes the curriculum committee because there's too many things that impact student-athletes not to have some representatives there. It'll be hard to do because our permanent staff in athletics consists of about five people. So, we'll have to have some coaches who are part-time employees on the committee, but I think it's very important. That will go from everything from curriculum to facilities to diversity.
I've almost stopped using paper as a means of communicating with the administrators because I think they all need to get involved in E-mail and Internet and Worldwide Web. A lot of people weren't believers, so last year I had some money that was available and I put it out on E-mail that it was available. Some of them didn't respond, so they didn't get any. It was a fast lesson and they went over to the computing center and learned how to do E-mail. That's important. This summer we're going to be offering courses for the administrators to get them on the Internet, surfing the Internet. For athletes, it's very good. I've noticed in a lot of the booths downstairs, your vendors have a lot of Internet addresses and you can save yourself time and money by surfing the net instead of making phone calls all of the time.
How many of you, as athletic directors, are administrators at your college? About half and half. It's important for the athletic director to be an administrator because of the decisions you have to make and the positions you need to have in the community. I don't know how you orchestrate that because when athletics moved to my campus, I was already an administrator. But, I think it's an important position and it's important to you to have that kind of role.
In the future, we've got to start providing our coaches with a lot more opportunities for professional educational development. It's hard to do when you've got a temporary staff, but there are ways to have seminars for them to keep them up-to-date on what's going on in education so that they can better advise their students. Even if you do have an advisor assigned to just the athletes, they'll still want to talk to their coach to get some opinions and assistance. It's important to involve them in orientations on how students register for the college. Most of our registrations are done online now and I don't think most of the coaches would necessarily know how the students would call up and get registered. We've got to do a lot of in service training in the future that we've not done before.
Our coaches and team members are going to have to be bigger community advocates. If we're going to participate and live in a community, we need to give something back. Right now, we're developing a new institute called the Fitness Leadership Institute. This is going to be springing out of the athletic department. Our athletic trainer is developing it now. We want to have that partner up with five of the school systems in Tucson and have family wellness centers. We want to have our Fitness Leadership Institute partner up with the family wellness centers and partner up with the Wellness Council of Tucson. The Wellness Council of Tucson sells memberships. We're not going to sell memberships. We're going to give it away as long as we can to help people out.
This will provide some fitness assistance to all of our employees and encourage the couch potatoes like myself to get out from behind their desks once in awhile. We have beautiful facilities just sitting there many hours of the day not being used. We have great cross-country trails all through the dessert. We want to develop these programs and make people get out.
On campus, we have a peer wellness center that our students run. It's a self help health advisory group that works with various community agencies to provide all types of referral services for our students if they need information on nutrition, AIDS or any other sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
I think you'll need to work closely with the high schools and the middle schools. This summer is very exciting because we'll have a league with four teams from middle schools, 12 teams from high schools and 12 teams from more of senior levels such as 18 year olds and above. It's working very well. We have the same thing going in baseball and volleyball and in men's basketball. We've tried to start a college for kids this summer. The only portion that was successful was the athletics portion. We waited too long for the rest of it and didn't get much activity taking place.
If we do those kinds of things, it will break down the barriers. When you deal with a town like Tucson, you've got a very large under served population of people. We have a large population of poor people. The jobless rate of people in Tucson is low, but the salary base is very low.
Athletic programs need to be involved with leisure education. As we all know, as we get more and more leisure time, we need to offer some alternatives. We've built these huge facilities and they need to be used. We've developed into a four-day college and nothing happens on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. That's because the administration gave up scheduling to the faculty and taking that back will be the Eighth Wonder of the world. We are going to try to start a weekend college that would serve a different group of people. We will then be able to use those facilities. My point is that we have of those facilities just sitting there and there's no reason why we can't develop ways in the future to help our population. Maybe it's against the laws in your state and we have to be very careful in Arizona because we can't compete in any way with private enterprises such as a health club. But, there are ways to use these facilities and create a healthier community.
I'd like to see us bring all of your coaches and staff into your computer centers and teach them how to surf the Internet. You can find out a lot of good information there that could help them with their students. It could help with students finding out information about other schools they want to transfer to in the future.
Budget and funding is another thing I see as a problem for the future because it's already a problem now. I mentioned yesterday we tried to fund up to about 98 percent of the athletic budget so it frees up our coaches to not have to worry about winning and going out and getting money. We do want them to win. If they can bring in money, we'd like that, but bringing in money is not the requirement. In the future, I'm afraid the picture is going to change somewhat because costs are rising, our purchasing power is dissipating rapidly and it looks like budgets are remaining stable.
Our enrollment has decreased over the past three years about five percent a year, so the legislature put us on notice this year and they put it in legislation that they've held us harmless over the last three years and if we don't show market growth during the next academic year, our funds will be cut in 1997 and 1998. I know a lot of colleges around the country have had to deal with this already. We never had to deal with this before and we're not excited about facing that. We've never had a layoff so, it will be a new experience for us.
As far as athletics generating revenues, I've talked to a few of you whose programs generate money for the college, but in a town like Tucson where you've got a university about a mile and a half away, we can't even do cost return revenue generation, so we don't expect that. In fact, we just recently started charging admission to some of our events. In the past, it was basketball only, but now, we're starting to charge admission to baseball and we'll look at soccer and other sports in the future.
As a result of that, I think if a college is going to have an athletic program, the administration needs to make a commitment for some consistent and progressive funding. If they can't do that, they need to make some strategies and determination of how they're going to phase out certain programs in order to afford the others. Not just phasing out athletics, let's face it. Some of our programs are archaic. They are ancient. They're useless and they need to be done away with and revitalized. There's a tendency to protect those things. We all need to take a good look at that and develop some new priorities on how we fund things. Everybody going and cutting deals with the administration isn't going to work anymore because there's nothing left to cut deals with.
We need to encourage our foundations to get more active. I don't know how your foundations function, but ours only raises scholarships and we try to convince them that there are a lot of other things out there that the foundation could be doing for us. Especially in a college with a large athletic program and a large cultural arts program, you need endowments and you need to encourage your foundations to do that. We need to turn those opportunities over to our marketing directors and have them work the community to see what we can do. In a town like Tucson, Arizona, there's no reason why we shouldn't be rolling in the bucks because it's a very wealthy city.
We need to spend more time in athletics. We've done this on the academic side of building partnerships with business, because we've got something to market to them, but I don't think it would be inappropriate to have athletics form partnerships with certain businesses as long as we can keep the ethical standards high and not compromise what it is we're trying to do. I alluded to the fact that we need to work with the school systems. We need to do partnerships with other organizations that are thinking about building things. We're working on a partnership with the Tucson police and fire departments to build a joint academy between the college and the police and fire departments. Plus, I told you about an endeavor in developing fitness and sports sciences with our athletics and our Tucson Sports Authority, hospital and the university and Pima to form one big educational entity.
We don't have a booster's organization now, so we're in the process of trying to develop one. That's another way we're going to have to lean on in the future to help us fund the things we need to do. The last resort would be to begin charging fees like some of the high schools do. They charge the athletes to play sports. That would not yield to what we would like to have happen. If we had some knowledge about the future of our legislation or regulations, it would certainly help. But, there's no way to predict that. We need to continue to be proactive, keep our eyes wide open and try to stay lean like cross country runners and we'll be fine.
Notice how he led me in with this phrase, "be lean like cross country runners." Thanks old buddy. I am going to try to paint a picture, as I see it, of the environment we're working in and the dynamics of things taking place and unfolding and then try to make some projections, expectations and hopes of what I think will evolve in the future.
Let me start out by commenting that change is here, transformation is here and that's an important part of our environment in a very general sense. The universities are undergoing change and, in some respects, will undergo greater change in the future than even community colleges. That is because we have been very sensitive to change in the past. We are much more flexible and much more responsive than our university colleagues and so, I don't think there's that much difference in the future than what we've been in the past in terms of responding to change. Universities have not been as responsive to change, and yet, I think there's no alternative that they do become more responsive. They are going to have some interesting times to go through.
Athletics is embedded within our institutions and within our communities and within our states and nation. As this change occurs, athletics cannot escape the change itself. Title IX has been mentioned and other changes that have come upon us in recent years. Those kinds of trends will continue.
I was once an athletics reformer. Notice, I said once. I have worked in California, Illinois, Iowa, across several states. When I first went to Iowa as the president of North Iowa in Mason City, we had a full blown, comprehensive athletic program. Comprehensive at the time. Basically, it was all male football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, etc. You've heard of the name Ellsworth, Southeastern and Burlington. Some of you might even have heard of Centerville back in the foggy past, Iowa Central. Those are all names that, at one point, were synonymous with very powerful community college athletics. Some of them still are synonymous with that.
The culture I went into at Mason City was not the same culture that existed at those institutions. It was a culture of attempting to stay focused locally and to try to relate to the local schools, etc., etc. After about one year of observing the situation, I decided what was needed in Iowa was change. I will never forget the day we were in the president's meeting, I made a motion that we form a Presidents Committee to study athletics in Iowa. Boy, did I get surprised. It didn't get three votes to even study it. I did my homework and came back one year later and made the same motion. This time it passed by one vote. In order to reward me for my progressive thought, I was designated as chair of this reform task force. That set me on a course of about two years of the most stressful time I've ever had. I was probably the most hated person in the state for that period of time. I was spit on and cursed at. You can imagine what happened.
I had some goals when I started out. In the end, it was a very successful project. We were successful in reducing the out of state limitation in football from 22 to 21. That still holds. We were successful in reducing the out of state limitation in basketball from eight to seven. In order to balance it out after the task force study, they increased the out of state cap in baseball from 11 to 13. That was my taste of reform. I retired. They never again heard from me. We just played our sports program at Mason City and tried to do our thing. Whatever motivation I had within me to change the world was completely washed up at that point.
Let me share with you some of the environmental factors I see now that I think will ultimately play a major role in the shape of the future of community college athletics. Within the university community, the NCAA, one of the trends is the fact that the presidents are now much more in control of NCAA athletics. That was capped at the reform changes that were put in place at their convention in Dallas. Ultimately, I believe that will have a major impact, and a positive impact, on athletics at the university level. Not all of you may agree with that. Certainly, not all of the athletic directors and coaches will agree with that, but I do think that long term, it will be a positive direction. At least, it will be a different direction and I think we can all agree on that.
The eligibility requirements, the Prop 48 plus the Prop 16 or 19, whatever it is, that's been put in place, plus the amendments that were adopted at the recent Dallas convention, also are a part of this step in the direction of raising the qualification and raising the quality and public image of athletics at the university level. For us, as I mentioned the other day, we have the modified junior red shirt rule in effect now, and if we are careful and take it seriously, we can live with what we now have in place. It would have been preferable not to have had it, but it is something that we can live with. We cannot live with anything above where we are right now. Not because we don't want our students to be good students and to excel as students, but for the simple reason that we still don't have, we're still not where we should be with the universities as far as articulation and transferred courses are concerned. Our student-athletes are at the greatest disadvantage for transfer of any of our students. They do not have the ability to plan ahead like our regular students do. It makes it very difficult when you add to that the difficulty of transferring courses anyway. You add over that the fact that they can't plan ahead. They don't know where they're going to get scholarship offers from, etc. At this 35 percent level is about the break point of where can live, and live reasonably with it.
Those other requirements that were put in place, the limitation on summer school courses, the limitation on the number of credits that have to be earned at an institution awarding the associate degree, the correspondence course was not passed. Those are not unreasonable requirements. If your focus is in the right direction, if we're thinking correctly about what our athletic programs are about, those requirements are not, at all, unreasonable requirements. We should be able to live with them. But, they do take things in a direction that, again, raises the level of standards and tightens up.
Graduation completion is now on the radar screen, is in the conversation of people at the university level, the NCAA level and it's a part of this overall trend. Conference eligibility. I read recently about the new Big Eight which will be the new Big 12, I'm not sure what they'll call themselves. They went through a process where the presidents had come together to raise some level of standards within the new conference. Tom Osborn interjected himself into it and was able to beat them back. The story described it that they were trying to come up to the same standards that some of the other conferences had set and so, while I did not fully understand all of the details of the article, I did get the gist of it. Again, it's a matter of time. It fits with all of the other trends I'm mentioning here.
Increased emphasis on supporting our student-athletes, providing tutors for them and the increased enforcement on the part of the NCAA and even the death sentence which has now been given one time. I think SMU had it. It you take the common composites of all of those trends, you see that over the last decade or so, there's been a tremendous change taking place at the university level. That will have an impact on us.
Within our own sector, there has been an increased influence at the NJCAA on the part of the presidents. It's nowhere near like the increased influence at the NCAA, but it has increased and positive changes have occurred because of that. We now have four presidents that are members of the board and they have been very assertive in their attempts to induce change and reform. Some of those things have come about and occurred. I believe that trend will continue. I would hope the day would come when our presidents would have some type of more formal structure for relating to the NJCAA, such as a presidents commission type of structure. Perhaps that will come, I don't know. Until that time, we do have more influence of presidents at the board level. Of course, in California, the presidents do have an enormous influence now. I don't know the exact structure they have, but it's some type of board or commission out there that has a great deal of influence over the athletic policy of the California community colleges. The fact the NJCAA divided into two divisions was a positive step that is consistent with these other changes that have taken place. That did not exist back in the days when I was president of a college, but I see it as a positive step.
Another factor with community college athletics that needs to be mentioned is cost. I think that increasingly costs will be a factor in our choices and in our decisions. It's a sword that cuts both ways. It gives us an incentive to do things that are generally negative in terms of trying to generate revenue. At the same time, it increasingly becomes a factor in the decisions we make in terms of how we manage our athletic programs.
Looking at the community colleges themselves, some of the pieces that are out there in the environment I think our worth mentioning. Our status is one of them. If we could only wave a wand and start looking at ourselves in the mirror in a more positive light. Sometimes the greatest burden we carry is a self induced burden about where we sit in the world and what our status is in the world. If we could only look at ourselves as doing a great job, making a great contribution, being the most important institutions in the country in terms of maintaining this Democratic society that we have. The fact that we're okay as well as everybody else is okay. If we could only get to that point, it would change our own behavior to some degree. Perhaps we wouldn't feel quite so driven to produce students that excel at a Division I institution or that one in a thousand or two thousand that ultimately go on and make it in the NBA or the NFL. In some programs, we are heavily driven in that direction. In part, it is because we see it as enhancing the status of our institutions. If we had a better self confidence, a
better self concept or image of ourselves, that wouldn't be so intense.
There's a general financial trend within our colleges that is downward. Long term, it will have an important impact on our programs. Our colleges are now educating students at a level that is significantly below what it was 15 years ago, almost in terms of actual dollars and definitely in terms of real dollars. Our average cost of educating a full time equivalent student today across the nation is about $3,500. You compare that to your typical public university, it's probably upstream to that into the $7-9,000 range. You go on to your independent university or college and you get up anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000 per year. You can see we are very frugal and very cost driven.
Within the totality of higher education, we are receiving about two percentage points of the typical state's general fund as compared to 15 years ago, and that includes the universities and community colleges. Within that, typically, community colleges have also been fair even negatively to the point where they don't have the same proportion of the higher education share they once had.
All of that put together has put enormous pressure on community colleges. That cannot help but have an impact on our athletic programs. I have heard and read recently of states where they are trying to put pressure on paying the cost of coaches. Even in states where you have to pay for the direct cost of the athletic equipment and expenses out of the student activity fund, the states have still permitted the extra pay for coaches, or the portion of their load, be taken from the general fund. I have heard of situations recently where that is being questioned and challenged. If our situation overall doesn't change, we could see more of that and that will put pressure on our programs in the future.
The general thrust of our colleges in terms of the slogan of our association is something we have pushed throughout the land in the last decade since we issued our report. In 1988, the Report of the Future's Commission recommending that sort of be our clarion call. In general, the colleges have picked up on this pretty well. More and more, it is the driving force behind us looking at who we are, what we are and what our mission is.
Athletics, ultimately, will have no choice but to view itself within that light. What does that mean? Does it mean we continue, in some cases, to stay focused on the more narrow purpose of athletics, or do we focus ourselves in more broadly, more generally what athletics will do to help build communities through people, i.e., through citizenship development, through service learning and through other types of contributions.
One final point I'll make in the environment description is the tremendous difference between states. Graham was describing some of the situation in Arizona, but we have states who simply don't have athletics. We have other states that have restrictions and others have a fairly liberal kind of environment to work within. That creates a tremendous challenge in terms of whom we are and what we are as community colleges. It keeps us from developing consistent approaches, consistent identities, consistent policies and it's very different than what we have in the university world. The universities, while they're not all exactly punched out with the same cookie cutter, they do have more homogeneity in terms of the policies they work within than we do within community colleges. Again, it's because of our governance differences. Our governance differences from state to state are very great. We have great differences in the way we are put together, the way we're financed, the way we're funded, our missions and our philosophies. That has an influence on community college athletics. I don't know all the play out on those differences and influences.
Looking ahead, what are some of the hopes and projections that I would have for the future? First, let me say that I dream sometimes of the day when we could somehow get together in terms of our athletic governance. It is sometimes a frustration for me that we have California, which has a fine operation. In fact, I'm very impressed with California's operation. We have Oregon and Washington that do their own thing up there, and then we have the rest of the country within the NJCAA. Someday, I hope we can figure out a way that we can have a national community college governance situation. One where there is a solid, healthy governance put in place with a proper role for the presidents and a healthy role for everyone else to respect everyone else's contribution and position within athletics. That is something I would personally like to see. Perhaps it will never happen, but it's still a dream I have. I hope at some point, without that merger, the presidents would have a stronger role within the NJCAA somewhat comparable to what they now have in California.
I believe the finance of athletics and the overall finance of community colleges is perhaps our Achilles heel. It drives us in two directions simultaneously. Sometimes we feel driven to put programs in place that will generate revenue and that, in turn, drives us into doing things that are on the edge and that are somewhat risky and, ultimately, have the potential of a negative payoff. On the other hand, it's understanding. There's certain sympathy to trying to solve that problem. I see it as an enormous boulder sitting in the middle of the road that most states have to contend within some way and, frankly, in the foreseeable future, I don't see it getting any easier or any better.
As I mentioned yesterday, I think we will be going into a period of increased pressure, extraordinary pressure from the universities with regard to all of the eligibility business. The addition and enrichment of Prop 48 will cut out
about 25 percent of those who used to be eligible to participate immediately. Combined with the increased and tightened requirements that were adopted in January in Dallas, combined with all of the other general environmental conditions we're working within, lead me to believe we are going to be in that kind of a period.
I do think, however, it will swing back. In other words, I think there will be a period of time when there's an attempt made to maintain the level of competition by bending and breaking as many rules as they can possibly find to break. Ultimately, all of these other, more positive trends will kick in and will drive what I see as a very different athletic culture that we will be working in. It will take some time. Some people may have to retire and fade out of existence, but ultimately, I'm very optimistic we will have a much healthier athletic situation at the university level, and therefore, at the community college level if we can deal with the financial situation.
Integrity. I think we will struggle for a while, but we will strengthen our integrity in athletics. Fortunately, most of our programs have integrity. It is a minority that I think is on the edge. We all need to do what part we can to contribute to strengthening the integrity up and down the line. I can't think of any single thing that would help us more than strengthening the integrity of our athletic management programs, decisions and practices we sometimes get involved in. The problems are not all driven by the athletic personnel. Many times, the breakdown in integrity comes from some place else and I understand that. I'm not putting the finger on anyone in the room here, I'm making a generic statement about a minority of the community colleges in general. A very small minority makes life very tough on the majority, without any question.
I hope the day will come when a few programs will stop thinking of themselves as vocational programs. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard the argument that our athletic programs are really just vocational programs preparing the student-athletes for the NBA or the NFL. I hope that we, someday, get past that. Again, that small minority that thinks in those terms and that, instead, we look at our athletic programs as contributing to our communities as building citizens for our communities, building people who will be leaders within our communities, who will have the sense of what it means to invest themselves, their time and to support our communities' institutions and initiatives to raise the overall quality of life for all. That is where our athletic programs should be. We have an enormous opportunity to tilt things in that direction if we can just grab it and take it.
In closing, let me say community college athletics are here to stay. They will undergo change as our society undergoes change and somewhat in tandem with the change that will be and is going on with the universities. We have opportunities to direct and influence that change. We could take that change in a most positive direction and set community college athletics on a course that would raise the status and the standing for all and make contributions that are not now being made. It will take leadership. It will take people with courage. It will take people who are willing to step out and say some unpopular things and make some unpopular decisions and run against the course of what the general trend is. But, it' there. It's there for those who are prepared to step forward and cause it to happen. I hope that this organization can be a major player in that leadership direction.
Again, thanks for this opportunity to share with you and I look forward to some conversation.