Task force seeks better oversight and monitoring student-athletes

Posted August 11, 2011 5:51 p.m. EDT
Updated August 11, 2011 6:20 p.m. EDT

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp updated the UNC Board of Governors Thursday on the school's athletic programs. However, much of the discussion was focused on a list of recommendations to better oversee student athletes.

The UNC Task Force on Athletics and Academics was created in January, Thursday they presented a 16-page report to the UNC Board of Governors. The task force identified inherent risk factors to academic integrity among student athletes across the UNC System.

Based on the findings, the 13-member group believes its time for some changes. Winning at all costs is not the mantra. UNC System leaders say they're focused on playing by the rules - on and off the field.

“It’s easy to cheat, unfortunately, these days,” said chair of the task force Steve Ballard.

Ballard, East Carolina University's chancellor, believes cheating in the classroom is happening more now than ever before and that it is a wide-spread problem among student-athletes.

“The pressure for 5-star athletes is huge,” Ballard said. “Once you’ve got them in, you’re not going to waste the resources that you’ve spent. My gut tells me that rules are bent on a regular basis.”

The report recommends more oversight, better monitoring and tracking. It suggests having coaches pay be based partly on athlete performance - not just on the field, but in the classroom as well. The report also recommends higher standards and expectations for student athletes.

“The pressure to admit unprepared students in many cases appears to be increasing,” Ballard said. “Eligibility is not a sufficient expectation but leads to many of these issues we identified.”

Thorp is all too familiar with the academic challenges facing college sports. The university faces nine major NCAA violations, some involving student-athlete academic improprieties and fraud.

“These are important issues facing college athletics,” Thorp said. “College athletics is at a tough point right now and everybody around the country is aware of it.”

Also on Thursday, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors unanimously approved higher academic requirements for member schools in order to compete in postseason competitions. That came one day after top university leaders from across the country, including Thorp, met in Indianapolis for two days of meetings with NCAA President Mark Emmert.