||36th NACDA Convention|
Salt Lake City, Utah
June 10-13, 2001
NAIA Breakout SESSION
Monday, June 11, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Good morning. We'd like to begin. We have some important issues today in our breakout sessions. My name is Bob Wilson. I'm the director of athletics at Vanguard University. We have switched the breakout sessions for today. The Character Initiative was to be at 10:00 a.m. and the Five-Year Eligibility at 11:00 a.m. Because of some commitments of the panel that will be speaking, we had to flip-flop that. Hopefully, everybody was planning on being at both of them, so switching will not be a major change.
Before we begin today, I would like to recognize Southwest Recreational Industries who is our audio-visual sponsor. This session today will be Five-Year Eligibility. Before we begin, I would like to open this session with a prayer.
Heavenly Father, we just thank you for this time. We thank you for the individuals in this room. We're so grateful for the opportunity to serve an association like the NAIA. We would like to honor you through our service as we grow as professionals in these seminars. We ask you to be with us in your name. Amen.
I would also like to tell you that the Champion of Character session will be done at 11:00 and the Business Meeting will be at 4:30. Tomorrow, we have a breakout session again at 10:00. Dutch Baughman will be speaking on issues related to being an athletics directors. Without further ado, I would like to introduce Dr. Carroll Land, the athletics director at Point Loma and he will, in turn, introduce the panel.
About 12 years ago, the people from Southern California, in an effort to sustain our image of occasionally coming up with something off the wall, made a proposal of five years of eligibility. That has come up for a vote at the NAIA annual meeting three times. It's been voted on twice. This past year, it was tabled to come up again in September. In the meantime, there has been a committee that has been working from the time of our last convention up to now and will continue working to this coming convention to try to explore both sides of the issue in greater depth. They will try to put the findings of those expirations before the membership through various methods utilizing the web site, printed opportunities and seminars. I asked Bob in September in Oregon if we might be able to have one of these sessions. I want to thank Bob and the committee for allowing us this opportunity to come before our membership in an initial presentation for the issue of five-year eligibility.
Before we begin, I would like to introduce other members of our committee who are with us in the audience today. Lee O'Donnell from St. Louis, Missouri is here. Lee has been one of our regulars. She has been a regular participant in this and has worked between sessions. Thank you very much. At the close, we'll open up the floor for questions and answers. Skip Lord, I would appreciate your standing up to be recognized. He, too, has been a regular member and working hard. Other members of the committee who are here are Howard Morris, Jeff Struckle, Wayne Poage and myself.
The opportunity to be on the cutting edge of legislative issues in any organization is a privilege, but more than that, it's a responsibility of membership. How do we, given the responsibility of being leaders, administrators on our individual campuses and coming together collectively for the betterment of the entire operations nationwide in each of our institutions is a tremendous responsibility. There are no easy issues. For each positive, there is easily found a negative. To sort all of this out and to finally arrive at conclusions that serve our student-athletes better is no simple process. Thus, a witness to major things that we have done across the years takes some time. They take the occasion routinely to look into them and to get beyond the emotions of the issues and get to the heart of the issues. Finally, to arrive at decisions we are able to live with. They become one of the things we preach to our students all of the time, a team. Though some of us might not have it that way, others would. When we finally arrive at the conclusions of what is best for our students, they should get on the same page and go forward.
This may or may not go. None of us know at this moment. The first time it was presented, it was almost a laughing matter, but as we dealt into it, there appeared to be more logic in it than at first glance. The second time in Oregon about seven years ago, at noon, I wouldn't have given it a snap of the fingers opportunity to pass. By the time we had exposure in an afternoon session and went to dinner, it was fairly close in the evening's balloting.
This is an opportunity for us to take an in-depth look and we have a great panel to help us to do that. I want to begin by asking Jeff, our national office liaison who has worked very hard. Jeff has had a very busy time in our history in getting ready to move our office and all of our operations. Jeff Struckle has been a yeoman in terms of helping us through the national office, coordinating conference calls, putting out printed materials and working to see to it that we have the opportunity to really explore this issue. Jeff, would you come up and bring us up to date on the committee's actions?
Thank you very much Carroll. I'd like to let you know how we got to the point where we are right now. As Carroll said, in September of last year, there was this proposal that is in front of you to change to a five-year season of competition. As the convention went on, we started noticing a few things. The proposal got tabled. It got tabled for three reasons. First and foremost, there was not any data that had been collected. There had been a rumor about the NCAA, where they were showing it took about 4.8 years to graduate, but we really didn't know what our NAIA numbers were. That was one reason. We wanted to collect more data about the subject. We also didn't feel our members were that well informed that we were going to be taking a vote. There were not a lot of college presidents that were at commission at that time. Members started to decrease as we got to voting time. We were just concerned that there could be a vote taken without the members having a chance to speak toward it. We went through many changes, very positive changes, at that convention. We did not want this to be the total focus on whether it was approved or denied. We tabled it for one year.
Carroll Land, who has said nice things about me working very hard, but I've been listening to a lot of people working hard. Carroll has also, as busy as he is, put in a lot of time and effort. This committee was created with faculty athletics representatives, chief executive officers, coaches and registrars. The committee was charged with three different areas. First and foremost, that there was a proposal that was going to be voted on at convention so that every institution would know this was coming up in September. They were also charged with encouraging discussions, not just institution by institution, but how conferences felt about this and how regions felt about this. The third part was to supply true, accurate data. What are our graduation rates? What are they amongst our student-athletes, our students on our own campuses? The committee has done a wonderful job in the first two as far as informing the membership and also encouraging discussion. The third part is what we're getting into right now. It's collecting the accurate data.
We've sent out a survey that most of you have seen that focused on what graduation rates were of our student-athletes. We narrowed the focus of what we're trying to look at as opposed to just coming up with an elaborate survey. This is to focus in on who our student-athletes were and who our transfers were. We have two statistical people working with us on this project. They have encouraged us not to present those numbers at this seminar because we are still encouraging member institutions to turn this information in. We have about 50 percent of our institutions that have responded to this survey. This is really fantastic. We have not made a major push to encourage institutions to follow up again. We still want them to come in. I think it shows how serious the membership is at least in looking at this proposal. We've sent out more of a philosophical survey that went to every AD, CEO and FAR on how they felt about the proposal about three weeks ago. They are beginning to come into us. We've had some great response to this as well.
As Carroll said, we have an interactive web site. I encourage you to go to that web site. There are sections in there where you can ask questions of the committee. You can submit stories about how your conference feels, how your institution feels. We want to be very neutral. We just want information to be provided so once institutions hit the door in St. Louis, they will be off and running and know pretty much what they're going do and how they'll vote on the subject.
I appreciate the panel up here today that's going to be talking. Again, I'd like to reinforce how hard this committee has worked. Sometimes you get on committees and everybody goes with the flow, if you will. This is truly a working committee and they will continue to work until convention time. It's not a matter of whether it's approved or disapproved, they want you to have as much information as possible.
I would like to give brief backgrounds for each of our panelists. Our first speaker will be Paul Berry. Paul is a nationwide athlete, coach and administrator. His education was at Biola University and Cal State University-Long Beach. Then, his experience has been at Cedarville College and Los Angeles Baptist College. He'd been coach and athletics director at George Fox College, athletics director and vice president for enrollment for Christian Heritage College. About six weeks ago, he went to Master's College as their athletics director. He's a good friend and a fair golfer. Paul, we appreciate your work. He's going to present arguments for passing of the five-year eligibility.
Thank you Carroll. The standard that we, as academic institutions, are being held to by the accredited associations, the Department of Education, our constituencies, our trustees is, are we providing quality education or are we doing what we say we're doing and are we graduating our students in a timely manner? That's what, as Jeff indicated, the Department of Education is getting very serious about those type of things. During my 30 years of involvement, I've not only been involved as an athletic director and coach, I've also been a registrar, a vice president of enrollment and I've seen a great evolution in higher education. We all remember the 120 credit hours that it used to take to graduate. Now, it's gone from 130 to 140 depending on your school and your major. The cost of higher education has skyrocketed. This leads to a reason that we really need to look at the fifth year. The NAIA eligibility standards are built on 12 units, 24 credit hours per year to stay eligible. At the end of four years, our student-athletes have 96 units and that only leaves them a year and one half to graduate. To graduate in four years now takes 16 to 18 units, plus usually summer school. We add to that the 25 or more hours that we, as athletic people, ask them to be involved in, now make it very difficult for our student-athletes to do what we're asking them to do. We want them to get a quality education, spend time in the classroom and to graduate on time.
I think the fifth year provides, first of all, spreading out the requirements so that they can spend adequate time in the classroom. It gives flexibility for the smaller schools to be able to not have to change requirements or to have special study courses so students can get their requirements or keep students from missing many classes from athletics involvement. The smaller colleges who don't have the opportunity to provide as many offerings really suffer in that area. Another area, especially for the religious church-related schools, is the transfer of students in. Many of us added a number of extra units. Many times, it's at least another semester of Bible or religion classes that students have to take. Economically, that provides a problem too. We provide good scholarships for some of our sports and other sports aren't provided for very much at all. Again, the majority of our student-athletes still need to foot quite a bit of the costs.
The Department of Education believes it's very difficult to graduate in four years. The graduation reports I've been filling out as a registrar over the last four or five years have gone from four-year graduation rates to six-year graduation rates. There is a way to track how many of your students left your school and transferred if you have the time, it's difficult but you can track that. The national average for graduates across the border is over four years. It's closer to five years.
If I would ask each one of you what is the mission of your athletics program, most of you would say it is to use athletics involvement as an integral part of the educational process of your student-athletes. The five-year eligibility rule will go a long way in helping you meet that mission. First of all, your student-athletes will have more opportunity to have quality time in the classroom and secondly, it will give the students the economic help to stay in school and graduate. Thank you.
Thank you Paul. I would encourage you, if you have questions for any panel member or committee member, write them down. If any of you did not see on your way in, we have a roster sheet and a copy of the five-year eligibility proposal. Please pick one up.
Howard Morris is our next presenter. Like Paul, he and I have been long-time friends and have crossed paths many times in the NAIA as we have dealt with the opportunities of competition and with the responsibilities of leadership. Howard, I appreciate all that you have done and you long involvement in the NAIA. Howard's education took place in Oregon where he has continued to work throughout many years in a number of capacities. He's worked at Oregon State University where he got his master's degree. He was at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He's coached many sports, wrestling, football, and baseball in the Cascade Collegiate Conference. He was at the Oregon Institute of Technology in the southern section of Oregon. He's a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Linfield College Hall of Fame, another great NAIA institution. He's been Coach of the Year numerous times in several sports in District 2. He has been the president of the Wrestling Coaches Association. He organized and worked for the NAIA National Wrestling Cultural Exchange Program. He's been on some 40 NAIA committees nationally and locally, and has spent a lifetime working for the betterment of the NAIA. He's involved in a number of community-related activities, working with the YMCA Board of Directors, Kiwanis Clubs, Babe Ruth League, with kids wrestling programs, summer sports camps, Little League and is a member of the United Methodist Church. He is currently the commissioner of the Cascade Intercollegiate Conference.
Howard will also present arguments in favor of the five-year eligibility.
Thank you Carroll. As Carroll and Jeff mentioned, this issue has surfaced on several occasions previously. Our conference, in the past, has been opposed to the previous five-year eligibility proposals and I, enthusiastically, opposed the past proposals. As Carroll mentioned, we did feel that it was far off the wall. In fact, we didn't even discuss the issue.
At this time, the majority of our schools, if we were to vote today, still probably would not support the issue. The current proposal is being considered by some that are still on the fence and, in fact, support the proposal and hope we still have an open mind. After years of listening to our southern colleagues and maybe because I live in southern Oregon, a little of California rubs off on me, carefully looking at what's happening on our campuses and the content of this current proposal, I support the current proposal. If, in fact, the majority of our students are taking more than four years to graduate, we should do what is fair and just for our student-athletes.
It is said the proposal sends the wrong message. It's my opinion that we are sending a very positive message with this proposal, a message that we are compassionate and wish to treat our student-athletes fairly and justly. It's a message that we wish to bring our programs into the mainstream of campus activity. It's a message that we, as professional educators, will accept the premise that all intercollegiate athletics provides our student-athletes with educational experiences that they take with them the rest of the lives. A coach is truly a teacher in the courts and playing fields of their classroom.
Students are taking longer to graduate. The reasons are both student and institutionally induced. Some curriculums have been extended; social, family and financial pressures; increased fees; decreased class offerings due to budget restrictions, all are some of the reasons. Whatever the reasons, our institutions are committed to assisting these students in their graduation progress and providing students with positive educational experiences. We should also be committed to extending their financial assistance until graduation. Surveys verify the extension of time to graduate, why shouldn't the students have access to the educational opportunities during their fifth year? Other students have access to other campus programs during the fifth year.
Our institutions take the student's money, use them for FTE to enhance enrollment figures, particularly the state schools for funding, but deny them access to a viable educational experience. With the five-year proposal, the NAIA has an opportunity to provide legislation that will have a very positive affect on the student-athlete. We have the chance to do what is fair and just. The NAIA, over the years, has been a leader in intercollegiate athletics innovations. First to provide national competition for the small colleges; first to embrace national competition for the colleges of color; first to embrace women's programs; first to legislate normal progress toward graduation; first to embrace character issues. All of that impacted and has been instrumental in the developmental progress of our organization. We can, again, open a door that can change intercollegiate athletics. I encourage the membership to be open-minded in their deliberations.
You've all received copies in the mail or you have access to web sites that have provided you with information. They have provided you with 10 reasons to approve, 10 reasons oppose. I hope you've taken the opportunity to read those carefully, discuss them and ask questions about them on campus. I point out that these reasons for and against are suppositions. We really won't know their validity until they are tried.
For what it's worth, I'd like to respond to at least some of the top 10 reasons. I'll give you my one-liners.
Number one, if the NAIA is truly interested in helping student-athletes academically, shouldn't the NAIA be looking to adopt policies that encourage student-athletes to graduate in four years as opposed to five? In my opinion, the answer is probably yes. We should be trying to encourage our students to graduate in four years. As previously mentioned, we are not doing it.
Number two, the proposal may increase cost for member-institutions depending on how they handle financial aid provided to the student-athletes. It's my opinion that it might for the initial year, but then probably not after.
Number three; the addition of the fifth season may give the appearance of lessening academic standards. To me, this is entirely how we release the information and how we handle the situation. If we stressed positives of the proposal, I don't see where it's going to hurt our image.
NAIA institutions with postgraduate programs may have an advantage over those members that do not. It's possible that some institutions that have graduate programs may keep a few more students around, but I think all will find an increase of the fifth year participant.
For NAIA members that have enrollment limits either for the institution or sports programs, the fifth season of competition could reduce recruitment opportunities. I see this, again, as an issue for the first year.
Other athletics associations may not schedule NAIA institutions because they allow student-athletes five years of participation. This may be different throughout the country, the sectors of the country. In our area, the NCAA schools are not jumping to schedule us in the first place. They have not the need as they might have in other parts of the country. If there is a need to schedule, in my opinion, they will schedule you. I don't envision the five-year proposal making our program so dominating that things are going to change on the field. If they're scheduling you now, I think they'll continue to schedule you.
Coaches may be inclined to pressure student-athletes to participate for a fifth season even if the student-athlete intends to graduate in less time. It's my opinion that it's being done now by red shirting. I feel the issue may provide us with a decrease in the number.
Some NAIA institutions currently market themselves as institutions where students will graduate in four years. This would negatively impact those institutions. This is one that if, in fact, they are graduating their students in four years, they will continue to market themselves as such and probably would vote against the proposal.
The institutions cannot provide financial aid for student-athletes for more than four years. This could be a financial burden that either the student-athlete or the parents would have to address. It's my feeling that this institution should be committed to helping the student until the student graduates.
Institutions that have mandated four, five or six year bachelor programs could either be adversely affected or being perceived as having an advantage over those institutions that do not. An institutionally induced extension, in my opinion. It may have more fifth year participants, enough to make a school dominant? Probably not.
Important and most encouraging are the discussions and the interests we have created with the proposal. We're all learning a great deal about others and ourselves. We all are benefiting from the exercise. Again, the NAIA has the opportunity to lead the way in providing legislation that will enhance our student-athlete. Let's give it a try. Thank you.
Thank you Howard. Our next speaker will be Al Bortke, the athletics director at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. He will be speaking on reasons to oppose the five-year eligibility. It's been my privilege to know Al for a long time. I'd like to acquaint you with a little bit of his background. His educational work took place at Valley City State University, postgraduate work at the University of North Dakota, Mankato State and Southwest State University. He's been the athletics director for 27 years at the University of Mary. He's coached basketball for some 16 years. He's been a member of their faculty in teaching physical education. He's participated in a number of committees for the NAIA and worked very hard for us to be a better organization. Some of his local and civic group contributions include being on the board of Special Olympics, both locally and statewide, and a member of a committee for one of only 19 states throughout the United States on the International Special Olympics Committee. He conducts basketball camps during the summer for native Americans. He has coached a number of native Americans and all have graduated from school. He's been the NAIA Athletics Director of the Year several times. This year, he is the NACDA Administrator of the Year and will be participating at noon in the special luncheon recognizing that. It's been my privilege to be on the CAA with Al. He's a very astute thinker. He expresses himself very well, has an open mind and hears both sides of issues before he draws conclusions. Al, thank you very much for being willing to speak today.
Thank you. Certainly, I'm not an expert on telling some outstanding reasons why we would oppose the five-year eligibility. First of all, I want you to know that I am a convert. When discussion on the five-year eligibility started, I felt very easily that I could vote for and support the five-year eligibility. However, as I started listening to the pros and cons as they related to our school and as I have met many times in discussion with this with our president, Sr. Thomas Welder and our five vice presidents, it clearly came to light that five-year eligibility was not good for the University of Mary. So, I speak on that behalf.
At a recent meeting of our conference, DAC-10, presidents have directed our conference commissioner to carry a "no" vote. Recent studies, when we began looking at this, show that it does take more than four years in most situations. More than 45 percent of private schools have a little better graduation rate in a less time than maybe the public schools, not a great deal. But, if we did subtract the red shirts we have, that would be better.
Certainly at the University of Mary, we have students who do not graduate in four years. Certainly, we do have student-athletes that do not graduate in four years and for numerous reasons. We do have a red shirt policy in the NAIA. Quite often, that freshman will be red shirted or, when I was a coach, I wanted them to play on the JV program that first year to see what their strengths and weaknesses were. I would red shirt the athlete that sophomore year.
We have junior college transfers in our program and, to be honest with you, the junior college kids we get out of California simply cannot graduate in four years. Our school simply does not accept some of the credits they bring in and we know it's going to take them more than four years.
Our women athletes that are in our nursing program, if they transfer in from a junior college, whether it be in state or out of state, we know those female graduates are not going to graduate with our program in four years. It's going to take them four and one-half or five years. So, we do have student-athletes that do not graduate in four years.
However, the University of Mary has a published statement that we have every intention of honoring our parents of the students who come to our university by seeing that they will get their four year degree in four years if it's at all possible. We have a published statement that says if a student takes one major and one minor and if that students meets with their academic advisor twice a semester, if they do not graduate in four years, the University of Mary will carry that scholarship for that extra semester. That statement is a very powerful statement in the ears of our parents. We talk about our academics. We talk about the programs we have. We advise them if they want to go into something vocational not to come to our school because we don't have it. Again, that statement is very powerful, as they say. How long is it going to take them to get their degree?
As a private institution, our mission states to serve the needs of the people in our region. We believe the needs are to complete a four-year degree, graduate and be employed within those four years. Our school is on a four-four-one plan. We have May term and two summer sessions. We even have a few female athletes that will come in, go two terms, May term and two summer sessions; two terms, May term, two summer sessions, two terms, and get their degree in elementary education within three years. Simply, to save the cost of more than $13,000 at our school and to get employed and be in the working field two years earlier.
We feel the NAIA needs to realize that perhaps more than 80 percent of our membership are private institutions, institutions that have a higher cost to attend than a state institution. Our costs at the University of Mary are approximately $13,200, $8,800 tuition. We have a seven-day contract for board, which will run about $2,000 and the room will run about $1,700 plus the expenses of books. It could cost the parent of a fifth year athlete, and we know the athletes are going to want to do it, $13,000 plus a $25,000 contract that they're going to get that fifth year when they could be employed. Our kids coming out of computer information systems are making $40 to $45,000 right off the bat.
Our school administration feels that five-year eligibility would tremendously hurt the University of Mary for some of the following reasons. I'm going to follow what my great leader Howard just said. Number one, we feel coaches will want to recruit junior college athletes and so would I. I would like to get an athlete who has already played for two years, already proven their skills, honed up on their skills, increased their skills and increased their ability by being a starter. I'd have him for three additional years. I'd have more maturity. They would be bigger, stronger and faster. What would happen to those freshmen? If our coaches at Mary went out and recruited those junior college kids very heavily, what would happen to a freshman? Are they going to come to a school when they know that if they do make the team, unless they are a super athlete, that maybe they're going to sit for three years before they get a chance to be on that varsity for that fourth and fifth year? At our school, we have 17 varsity teams and seven JV teams. We'd like to have two more JV teams except for the fact where we're situated and not many schools offer women's soccer. We don't have a JV team because we don't have anyone to play.
A year ago, at the University of Mary, we had 497 athletes on eligibility sheets. Of course, we did have red shirts in our programs not on those eligibility sheets.
Secondly, we have a great concern about part-time coaches. We rely heavily on part-time coaches. Many of them are student coaches who have not been able to graduate, they've used up their four years of eligibility. If they've done it legitimately not to graduate, we'll carry their scholarship. For example, if you're a football player, we'll carry your scholarship during the fall semester. If you're a baseball player, we'll carry your scholarship the fall semester. In return, those athletes, men and women, are required to coach. If we know that they are not going to coach, we simply put them in communications or some area that will be their livelihood. We have a great concern about losing coaches if we have five-year eligibility where they can play for five years. Certainly, we know and are confident, by having that on your resume is great for our students that do graduate.
Thirdly, we say if the NAIA is truly interested in helping the student-athlete academically, should we not be looking at policies to encourage student-athletes to graduate in four years? Yes, we can. Perhaps we should consider the 12 credit limit to 16 or even 18. At Mary, we have a rule, our students do not carry only 12 hours. I know there's a coaching game. I look at them and actually get that kid into class. They've got 16 hours, they're carrying them. About three weeks before the drop time, they drop that class. They get by the 12. We know that if you're going to carry 12 hours each semester you're there, we're channeling those people into defeat in trying to obtain their degree in four years.
If five-year eligibility does pass, then the University of Mary, according to our president, will seek additional sponsors to come to NAIA with the initiative that rule be moved from 12 to 16 or plus.
We feel that the fifth year of eligibility does give an appearance of lessening academic standards. Howard addressed that and addressed that very well. Our vice president of academic affairs, who also has athletics under her umbrella, had directed me to meet with every division chair individually and to meet with them as a group, all program directors and had me speak at a corporate faculty meeting on five-year eligibility. I was asked by at least four division chairs, are we becoming a jock shop, because we belong to the NAIA? I really resented this. As I presented this to the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees, the chairman of the Board of Trustees simply said, "We need to be prepared," whatever that means.
As I said before, we have enrollment limits that we can accept for our teams. In our football program we expect 120 to 125 to 130 athletes. In soccer, we ask them to have between 25 and 30, both men and women. In basketball we want 32 kids on the eligibility roster, 15 will play varsity and 17 for JV. In track this year, we had 57 women and 56 men for a total of 113 athletes. Coaches must reach those numbers. Those numbers include a mandatory number of freshmen they must bring in. Of the 120 to 130 football players, 50 of them have to be freshmen. In basketball, both men and women are expected to bring in 10 freshmen. In cross country and track and field, both men and women, each have to bring in 30 freshmen. In wrestling, we expect our coach to bring in eight freshmen. Softball, volleyball and baseball are expected to bring in 15 freshmen each year. Women and men's soccer need to bring in 10 freshmen, tennis, five. That's 210 freshmen we demand our coaches bring in for enrollment driven purposes at the University of Mary.
We talked about concerns of other schools and other associations scheduling us. I agree with Howard, they are going to schedule us anyway. The private institutions that have to drive their enrollment through athletics and have the JV programs are a concern I have. That is, if we're going to be able to schedule junior colleges to play our JV teams when they know that perhaps a kid we got from them is not going to play that third year on the varsity level. A coach will say you're going to play JV ball to learn our system.
Will coaches pressure athletes? I don't think they're going to have to because if you talk to the male athlete, they will be able to stay. They want to try to extend their career because it does give them one more year for the pros to look at them. Very few of our female athletes will want that last year, in our situation anyway.
We are an institution with a graduate program. This may have an advantage. Right now, if we register a student-athlete and they cannot graduate in four years, our parents are very happy if they can be in postgraduate schools if we can get them into a masters level somewhere along the line. If they don't, they're not that happy.
At our administration and faculty discussions, we seriously looked at all of those 10 perceived reasons why we should vote this in and then tried to find the reason why we should do it. We feel that private institutions, the majority of our members are private, have a little better graduation rate. The University of Mary does market itself to the fact that you can get a degree in four years. Today, we know that marketing is the key. We say, secondly, if students are involved in other forms of extra curricular activities, they're not limited to four years, which there are not.
The NAIA letters stand for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, not activities. I've been involved with the NAIA for numerous years. Never to my knowledge has the NAIA sponsored, directed or been in any position of administering other extra curricular activities such as music, drama and debate. Let's continue with the NAIA being concerned about the two AAs, academics and athletics programs. Let's not play an apple or orange game. I see our band director, when he has a major concert at Christmas, hop in and play some instrument. The choir director will sing along with them. If we're going to legislate, I had a 6'9" assistant coach. If I could have played him the last 10 minutes, I'd still be coaching. That's ridiculous, of course.
You say allowing a fifth year may encourage athletes to remain in school and graduate. We certainly hope they would elevate our graduation rate and certainly, we're all for that. Let me ask you this? If you were a coach and one of your players came to you and said he was going to graduate this year, is that player going to see quality playing time or is our coaching staff going with a kid who will be there the fourth and fifth year?
We say it may encourage postgraduate classes. In a very quick and very unscientific survey of the NAIA schools in our regions and regions around us, we found that most institutions that do offer postgraduate classes, those classes are either offered from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. or from 6:00 p.m. on. In football, you know, our athletes are tied up. You know our basketball games are not at 2:00 p.m. so they're not going to be able to attend those classes anyway. Most of those classes come very heavily in the summer time.
NAIA members will no longer be concerned of fighting for hardships. We have never been denied a hardship request in all the years I've been at the University of Mary. It simply means for me to organize a quick meeting with the student-athlete, their coach, the athletics trainer, get the papers filled out, get the proper dates on which they participated. Then, get that back to our athletics training office and they are responsible to get it to the medical profession. If we have been sent back one because of insufficient information, it simply means I've screwed up or our trainer let some doctor checkmark a box instead of initial a box.
Red shirting would not be an issue and you're right. I do believe the parents will be totally taken out of red shirting. We have red shirts at the University of Mary. We have red shirt limitations of our programs. Football can have no more than six red shirts. Men and women's basketball can have no more than one red shirt. There are none in track. There's one in volleyball, one in baseball and softball, one in wrestling, one in each of the two soccer programs and none in tennis. That is about 12 red shirts allowed. Of 497 athletes we have, that would be approximately .025 red shirts in our program.
We don't feel that the fifth year demonstrates to the public that the NAIA is a highly progressive athletic association of academic integrity. Character initiative does that for us. We really need to push character initiative. Will it attract other students if they know they can come to Mary and stay for five years? Certainly. Our academic people are concerned that we may turn down people simply because of their ACT. It may start dropping down. We may find that we're taking kids in with an 18 ACT. Proponents say that five-year eligibility is another way for the NAIA to clearly differentiate themselves from other associations. I ask for how long? Isn't this a race of who goes first or who defeats us first, us, the good guys or the other guys across the road? We feel it might be very negative for us to pass this.
All of us talk about victories and encourage and give our coaches and athletes an opportunity to be successful. We simply pride ourselves in telling our coaches the greatest victory you're going to have is at graduation day when your kids walk across that stage. To us, it's even greater if we can see them do that in four years. Thank you.
In the interest of time, I'm going to alter our lineup a bit. It's a privilege for me to bring one of our students, Cheryl Eckroth, to this meeting. Cheryl participated in the fall in our workshop in Oregon for student-athletes, then came back to our campus and wanted to get further involved and enrolled in a directed study course for an administrative internship. The timing was that we were dealing with a fifth year of eligibility. She has done a lot of literature research. She has been in touch with each member of our committee, worked on the web site for us and all of our communications internally. I asked her to do a culminating paper on the student's perspective as she graduated this year. She's been a basketball player for us, a major in our department and an outstanding student. Cheryl.
Thank you. Much of what I wrote in this paper has already been spoken about, so I'll just sum it up. I think why Dr. Land asked me to write this paper was because of my perspective as a student first and secondly, as an athlete. My personal experience has given me a unique perspective on the subject.
When I entered college at the age of 17, my objectives were simple; decide on a career path, earn a degree and make some friends. I had no intentions of playing college basketball at the time because it seemed too lofty of a goal. For two years, I commuted to school taking the maximum number of units I could afford to avoid taking out massive loans. During those two years I never stopped playing basketball. If the gym was open, I was probably there. Mentally and physically, I grew as a basketball player. As my skills increased, so did my confidence. So much so, that during my junior year in college I mustered up enough nerve to ask for a tryout as a freshman walk-on. At age 17, I wasn't ready for the jump to college basketball. I lacked the skill and overall physical strength to play at that level. Had I tried out and been cut as a true freshman, I probably wouldn't have tried out again and would have missed out on the great experiences and all of the advantages of playing a collegiate sport.
In terms of the level of competition, there is a big jump from high school sports to college sports. In high school sports, there are standout players who are named team captain and most valuable player. In college, teams are made up primarily of captains and MVPs. Many athletes have difficulty in adjusting to the intensity of collegiate competition in their first year. The current practice of red shirting a lot of student-athletes is to gain experience by practicing with a team without participating in competition maintaining four more years of eligibility. While red shirting is commonly used for maintaining eligibility, any coach will tell you that the best way to gain experience is to play in real game situations.
Even if playing times comes with a minute to go and your team is leading by 20, a practice scrimmage does not compare to playing a real game.
Schools are giving scholarships to red shirt athletes who cannot compete. Under the five-year proposal, student-athletes could use that fifth year to gain experience and to build confidence. Opponents of the five-year of eligibility proposal argue that it will increase the scholarship burden for schools. However, since many coaches give scholarships to red shirt athletes and for athletes who have run out of eligibility, the five-year proposal will not increase schools' financial obligations to student-athletes. Eliminating scholarships for student-athletes that can no longer compete can help ward off potential problems and animosities among teammates that often occur.
During my experience, a junior college transfer student who only had two years of eligibility was promised three years of aid to complete her degree. As difficult as it is for transfer students to graduate in four years, most coaches would rather give that money to a student-athlete who can compete and, in turn, help his or her sports program. An exception would be the student coach working for the scholarship. With five years of eligibility, these problems would be eliminated.
Opponents of the five-year proposal argue that one more year of competition could increase the student-athlete's chance of getting injured. If this were the case, college athletics should be eliminated all together because, with all physical activity, there's an associated risk of injury. Proponents of the proposal see injuries as a reason to endorse the fifth year of competition. With current rules of eligibility and injury red shirting, an athlete who is injured only part of the year may choose to sit out an entire season to preserve his or her eligibility. Under the five-year proposal, however, there would be no red shirting so students could return to competition when they are physically able. Each student-athlete would be given five years to compete. There would be no confusion and fewer gray areas. This, in turn, would greatly reduce the amount of paperwork for coaches and eligibility advisors.
Ideally, both administrators and parents want students to graduate in four years. After all, it would save money and make room for incoming students. The fact is, however, that many students, not just student-athletes, cannot handle five or six classes per semester. For students who have part-time jobs or participate in intercollegiate athletics, it can be difficult to maintain a good grade point average, excel in extracurricular activities and find time to take part in the social aspect of college. The fifth year of eligibility would allow student-athletes to take a course load they could handle. For students that can't finish their undergraduate work in four years, the fifth year of eligibility would allow them to take work toward a double major, a teaching credential or a master's degree. Opponents see the proposal as placing too high an emphasis on athletics and disregarding academics. On the contrary, an extra year would allow students to take classes they wouldn't otherwise have the time or the money to take. Coaches and academic advisors must help student-athletes plan their schedules to insure that they will complete their degrees in four or five years. This would help to avoid student-athletes stringing out their careers.
I spent five years in college. During three of those years, I was fortunate enough to play college basketball. That fifth year of school allowed me to finish my major requirements, work toward my teaching credential and take some electives I might not have otherwise been able to. I don't believe that all students should spend five years in college. However, if a student-athlete can use that extra year to further his or her education, I fully endorse it. Past studies have shown that less than half of student populations are able to graduate in four years. If students need five years, why not let them compete during that extra year? Thank you.
Thank you Cheryl, for that student perspective. Wayne, we're going to squeeze you a little bit. Wayne reminds me a little bit of my career in that we came, we liked it and we stayed. His whole career has been at Dallas Baptist. Most all of you have seen evidence and examples of his leadership in many ways. I won't elaborate there, but he's made a great contribution to the southwest region and to us nationally. He's going to address some of the complications for dual members.
I'll be brief. I told Al, let's forget five-year eligibility, let's run now for political office. Everything is complicated for dual members. You are to follow the strictest rule available. Sometimes, in eligibility, if you have students who are eligible in the NAIA, but ineligible in the NCAA, they are ineligible and vice versa. If this passed, if you're a dual member, you would not be allowed to utilize the fifth year of competition. That's about all I have to say.
In closing, I would like to thank the panel for its work, for your presentations. They give us a great launching into public exposure and dealing with the area. I would like the panel to stand and anyone in the audience on the committee to stand. I want you to have some interaction with them and to express your thoughts to them. Remember to use the web site and send your thoughts to any member of the committee. I have received a number of them and have responded. Thank you very much for being here.