NCAA Division III - Breakout
Collaborative Leadership Needed for the New Structure
(Tuesday, June 17, 9:30 - 10:45 a.m.)
Our theme for this breakout session is "Leadership" and the importance that communication plays in its effectiveness. This theme is particularly appropriate for athletics as we both enter a new millennium and take on a new governance structure. Yesterday, Merlin Olsen ended his talk by reminding us that the decisions have to be made to insure our athletics program serve our student-athletes and this rests on the shoulders of athletics directors and college presidents. It's appropriate that our session today focus on the collaborative relationship that needs to be developed between athletics administrators and college presidents so that decisions made under our new structure do serve our athletics program and our student-athletes well.
Our two speakers are key leaders in college athletics. Judith Sweet, director of athletics at the University of California-San Diego is someone we've known for years and has effectively led the NCAA as its president. Judith has developed and led the athletics program at California-San Diego into one of the most successful Division III programs. Judith always has been, and will continue to be, one of our most influential leaders.
Curtis McCray, president of Millikin University, is a chair-elect of the Division III Presidents' Council and will be extensively involved in decisions made about Division III athletics. He previously served on the Presidents' Commission for three years. President McCray also served as president of Cal State University-Long Beach and the University of North Florida where he fostered and supported strong athletics programs at both these institutions.
So, it's my pleasure to welcome and to thank Judith and Curtis for sharing their thoughts on collaborative leadership needed in our NCAA structure. Their plans are to share their thoughts and to open up for questions and interaction from the audience.
Thank you Louise. Good morning everyone. I really appreciate the opportunity to be with you in our collective efforts to look into our crystal ball and plan for the future. I want to thank President McCray for joining me in this morning's session. I had the good fortune of meeting him several years ago when he was president of the University of North Florida and I've been a fan of his ever since, so it's particularly an honor for me to share the podium with him. I hope my comments will set the stage for how we got to where we are and then President McCray can talk about where we go from here.
The one thing that has stood out during the many years that I've had the good fortune of being involved with the NCAA is, the only constant is change. The NCAA is constantly changing. As we move into a new structure, I think it's important for us to look back at what has taken place, particularly over the last 10 or 15 years when the presidents took on a greater leadership role. For some of you, you may not be aware that the presidents haven't always been involved at the level they currently are.
In the previous session, Hyrum Smith indicated that the older you are, the more principles you have. Well, I think I have several principles I would like to share with you in addition to the history. It was in the early 80s that athletics were described as being out of control. Not an uncommon theme. As a result, some of the higher education associations, particularly the American Council on Education, suggested the only way we could bring the enterprise back into control would be through the involvement and leadership of presidents. The leadership mechanism for the NCAA, at that time, was the NCAA Council. The council had just gone through a bit of a reorganization from divisional steering committees with a very small governing council to incorporating the steering committees into the 44 percent council that most of us are familiar with.
In 1983, the American Council on Education suggested that structure needed to include presidential decision making. Some of you will remember the controversy that surrounded what form that presidential involvement should take. One of the proposals from the American Council on Education was that all of the decisions should be made by the presidents and that the council would take a different role in the governance of the association. Much heated debate took place. Fortunately, because of the wise council and strong philosophical beliefs of a number of well respected chief executive officers, the American Council on Education proposal shifted to one of collaboration with the council. That was one of the significant things that took place in our history.
The Presidents' Commission was formed in 1984 and, for some of us, that seems like just yesterday. There were then two governing bodies, the Presidents' Commission and the council, but there was a very cooperative working relationship between those two groups. During my term as vice president for Division III in 1986-87, I had the good fortune of working very closely with the Division III presidents. It became very clear to me that they recognized the experts in athletics administration were not themselves, but rather the athletics administrators on their campuses. They recognized how important it was to listen to the athletics administrators. They recognized how important it was for them to be informed and they also recognized how important it was as the chief decision makers on each of their campuses to play a role in assisting athletics administrators. That attitude has prevailed in Division III. I feel we have been in a much more cooperative, collaborative position than our colleagues in Division I. I'm grateful for the attitudes and the results of the presidents' willingness to listen and to work with us.
The reason Louise and the other members of the Executive Committee of NACDA selected today's topic is because there were some obvious tensions that occurred at this past convention. There was a sense that maybe we weren't communicating as effectively as we should be. Maybe we weren't listening to each other as well as we should, but I think we're back on track. I know that we are with President McCray's leadership and his commitment to working with us. There is something each of us brings to the table and I sincerely believe that our working together, our cooperating, our communicating, our identifying common concerns, our collective efforts will bring about the kind of change that is healthy.
It's not a surprise that change sometimes creates anxiety in all of us. The fear of the unknown, but as long as we subscribe to the theory of no surprises, being informative, working together, I sincerely believe that moving to the new structure is going to be a healthy situation for us. It's going to be a productive one and I do believe that athletics administrators and university chief executive officers are the best team that we can have that will be in the best interest in the student-athletes on our campuses and higher education.
This morning's session will allow for our general comments and then my real hope is that at the end of the presentations, we have an opportunity to have a dialogue with all of you. The time is really right. It's important. We haven't gotten firmly entrenched in a certain set of operating principles. We haven't gotten locked into certain commitments. This is the time for you to share with us and with the members of the Management Council who are here today what the important concerns are, or what things you think need to happen in the future. I look forward to that opportunity for discussion with you. Thank you.
Thanks Judy. Good morning. It's a pleasure to share the podium with Judy Sweet. I have great respect for the ideal athletics directorship that she sets and it's one that I think many of us could emulate. She brings the very best management skills to her task. It's good to share the past with her, as well. The brief picture she gives you of how we've gotten to where we are, I share. I worry a little when I see my athletics director at a NACDA meeting in Las Vegas. I worry even more when I see my financial director at a meeting in Las Vegas. Thank God that's not the case today. You meet in many fine places and this is a good place to have come.
Marco Island next year will be even more interesting because we will have some months of the new council and the new structure under our belts. We are, today, simply beginning the process. Next week, I'll be in a last meeting of the old Presidents' Commission that was put into effect in 1984, looking forward then, to the formation of the new group which is called the Presidents' Council of Division III.
Judy's hope that we are here today to listen, to help and to seek out, is mine. In fact, the days ahead will be made primarily of communication. The new Presidents' Council will be a device intended to draw together, to comprehend, to understand where we're coming from to give us a sense of new direction. I would say to you today that I urge you to get your message across. One of the things I discovered, both as a commission member when I was at Long Beach and, more recently, as a commission member of Division III at Millikin University, is that when there is an issue, people send a lot of letters to members of the commission and now the council. I would urge you, in addition to that, to use other devices by which to lobby your issue. Those of us in positions like mine, of responsibility, don't mind being lobbied. It's one of the ways in which we are guided. There are other ways to do that, but I
would hope you would find means by which to contact me and use this personal interaction as a way to let your issue be known.
I would say to you as well, that in the years that I was both on the Division I and Division III Commissions, I have found presidents seeking partnership with their athletics directors. I don't think I've met a single president who isn't desirous of working out both at the collective level and at the individual level, a good relationship. Certainly, the chair of your commission, and Bridget and I have had an excellent working relationship for the last two years and I can't imagine that it's not going to continue here. You have multiple devices by which to begin to let your issues be known and understood by those of us who will serve you on the commission as well. I urge you to make a strong link between the administration of the NCAA, the administration of your institution, the athletics administrators of the NCAA and your own athletics administration in your own institution. Keep those links together.
I can tell you that in my 16 years as a college president, there is nothing as valuable for a president as having good, full information from those who are in charge. Utilize the effective means of legislation in the NCAA. We aren't all clear on how that's going to work, but it will evolve. We'll find our way to it. Utilize the effective means for lobby. Lobby is not a dirty word. It's a good way to get things done. Lobby is how the political body functions and we are, to that extent, a political body. Maximize your ideas. Get them together. Give them some power and find a structure and means by which to give them life. I'm sure we, on the council, are going to welcome that.
I would say to you as well, that presidents, by and large, in my experience, are very good listeners. They don't get to be presidents without being good listeners. If you, as a college administrator, remember that, you know the thing you have to do
is to give your president an opportunity to listen. On your own campus, make sure your president understands where you are on a particular athletic issue. Let him know, particularly if that issue is going to be formed into legislation. It's the best way to let the NCAA, as an organization, particularly at the Division III level, understand how the membership feels about an issue. I urge you to utilize the fact that presidents are, by and large, good listeners. There may be exceptions, but my experience indicates that most presidents get where they do because they listen well.
I would also say to you that at the collective level, the Council of Presidents want to listen, as well. We will provide ourselves and you with a structure that will make it possible for you to talk to us. Utilize that. Take advantage of the opportunity to work together. Use the association to carry forward the good ideas you have.
Finally, I would say that with regards to the Presidents' Council, the new organization that's coming in August, none of them that I know of in the membership want to micro manage. Probably on your own campus, your own president doesn't want to micro manage. Certainly, at the NCAA level, we don't want to do that either. We believe that, as Judy indicated in her opening remarks, the appropriate place for issues to be raised and resolved with regard to college athletics is at the level of the athletics director. Nevertheless, the president is there and if you utilize that communications link, giving your president a role to play in the large policy issues at your institution and at the NCAA, I think you'll find the president doing that. While there may be exceptions by and large, I think that's how it will work.
We're new to the structure. None of us fully understands it. We haven't even used the structure yet. So, there probably will be some errors. Let's find our way to an appropriate device to make it possible for Division III athletics directors and all of the vast numbers of students and coaches and others that they represent, to be realized through the policy that the presidents will set. Now, the presidents have been very clear in the last several months with regard to Division III they want us to make sure that we keep our fundamental principles in front of us. Just to remind you, we have focused heavily on the last several months on the students as athletes. We've not focused on championships. We've not focused on dollars or other issues, although those are all important, but we've reasserted the value of the student as athlete because we feel that's the principal value that matters in Division III.
As long as you, as athletics directors, keep that principle up in front, remind your presidents that you care about that, as well, you're going to find presidents eager and willing listeners and find the formulation of policy to Division III to act in your own interest.
We have very good times ahead. The changes we made were responsive to a changing world. I think they will work well for the future. I have great faith in this organization and I think Division III, especially, has a very rich future in front of it.
From the Floor:
Questions were inaudible.
I would like to make a couple of comments, having been a part of the growth of the championship program. We really need your help. The Management Council and the Presidents' Council need your best thinking. There are some differences between individual sports and team sports that make it easier to come up with some ratios that work in team sports. It's more difficult to do that in the individual sports, but difficult doesn't mean it can't be done.
I would suggest you give some thought also to the differences in the various individual sports. You have some individual sports that have team championships and you have other individual sports where you only have individuals competing and they're not competing as a team. I think we can do better and I believe the commitment is there to look at all sports and try to come up with an equitable way of treating them.
The question was asked because we've federated, in effect, the three divisions to some degree have split off, certainly compared to prior federation. It's probable that federation or splitting will continue. Certainly in the public mind, there's been no split yet, but for us in the organization, I have a hunch that to the degree Division III continues to recognize its fundamental principle, that is, I take it to be the emphasis to be on the student as athlete, to understand that the athletics experience is an enhancement of the general education of the student, that makes that student far more capable of dealing with the world. As long as we hold to that principle, I think the ideological separation between us and, certainly Division I, maybe even Division II, will continue. As Division I continues to go down the slippery slope which they appear to be going down toward some kind of compensation for athletics, that separation will be enhanced.
It is my belief, and I don't wish Division I ill here, but it is my belief that difference between Division III and Division I will emerge eventually in the public mind as a very strong difference and one that we should cling to. I suspect that in the ensuing months and in the next few years, we're going to find ourselves discussing a lot, how we maintain that distinction, that is, that piece that gives us some dignity, and certainly provides that to our students. That is a difficult and abstract concept as opposed to specific things like compensation, but nevertheless, I believe at the heart of what we are as a division. To a degree that we cling to that ideal, I think will be known and recognized as really distinctive. I believe that's where we're headed.
We have this financial connection to Division I and we always have to remember that. The funding of championships comes pouring out of the money raised by Division I. There will always be some kind of relationship between us and Division I and we're going to have to deal with that. The principal issue, the idea that we insist on being high-minded about this is a good thing. While we may fail occasionally, the fact that we pay attention to student as athlete, to me, is important and will continue to be for the next several years.
I'd like to make some comments. It's real easy for the committees in trying to look at the big picture and trying to anticipate what the concerns of the membership are, to overlook some things because every committee, no matter how diligent they are and I believe that every committee is diligent in taking on their responsibilities, can't identify every individual situation and concern. Hopefully, all of you won't feel like your words aren't going to be heard because they only pertain to your particular situation, because there may be others who are in a similar situation and haven't had an opportunity or haven't taken the opportunity to express what their concerns are, or what their questions are, or what things they think would make the whole process better. If we do communicate, it goes back to that word again. If we communicate, if we listen, if we work together, we are going to be in the very best position possible. Please don't hesitate, even if you think it's going to be received as complaining, it's not. It's healthy. It's important.
I want to thank Judith and Curtis for doing this today. I know both of them are on the way to other commitments, but we appreciate their being here with us.