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True Measure of College Athletic Dept. Success

After watching “my” Gators last night and then talking to people today it seems that winning another National Championship has created the perception that Florida has the “best” athletic program in the country. I am not one to argue with that because I think it might be an accurate statement. But, by what measurement can we declare “the best”?

To the general public, it seems that football and men’s basketball success are the markers of a good athletic department.  But, can you have it all? Football and basketball success, a great experience for student-athletes, a lot of sport participation opportunities, and quality programs for all student-athletes?

According to the NACDA website, The Directors’ Cup is presented annually to the best overall collegiate athletics programs in the country in Division I, II, III, and NAIA. In the Dec 24th, 2008 NACDA Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Standings Florida was 20th. Of course that is before football and there is still a long season in front of the Gators. But, in 2007-08, Stanford won for the 14th straight year. The Directors’ Cup rankings take into account national place finish in a variety of sports, so the lack of a year in and year out powerhouse football team certainly has not hurt Stanford. Should the best program be required to be good in a lot of sports?

Sports Illustrated used  a different method to proclaim who had the best overall athletic program and Arizona State was crowned the 2007-08 champ with Stanford in 2nd place. Florida tied for 7th with USC. The SI scoring system put emphasis on ” national titles, top 30 finishes and conference championships” in 22 selected sports according to the website. So, are those the only criteria for success?

Jeremy Foley, the Florida Director of Athletics, was the Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal National Athletic Director of the Year in 2006. Should the quality of the Athletic Director play into a “best” ranking? Mr. Foley earned his Master’s Degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University in 1976, so most of us at Ohio think he walks on water. But, then again every year it looks like he just might.

What about the experience of the student-athlete. I think that this component is directly tied to the quality of administrators who create the student-athlete experience. Wouldn’t it be great to figure out a system that took into account a variety of components to truly establish which program is the “best”. Until then, I consider Florida the best, but I suppose everyone is entitled to his/her opinion on this one.

January 9, 2009 - Posted by | College Sports Business, Uncategorized | ,


  1. As long as Florida is better than The Ohio State, I am cool with your ranking!!!

    Comment by ridpath696 | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. Florida does seem to make a darn good argument for most athletic success in recent years. However, one aspect of a “best” athletic department that is not mentioned here, but certainly makes Stanford’s accomplishments even more noteworthy, is academic success of the student-athletes. I would be interested to see how some type of academic measuring stick may influence these rankings…who might be at the top then?

    Comment by Rob Norris | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  3. Excellent point. How can the Prof forget academic success?

    Now you have peaked my interest. Besides APR, not sure what else could be used to measure academic success of student-athletes at this point. After looking quickly at Florida and Stanford’s APR (http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=329), it is clear that Stanford is pretty amazing here. Since it is reported sport by sport it is a little difficult to get a lot of info. Neither school is on the penalty list (http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=335), but a few others are that are considered to have strong overall programs.

    Comment by Heather Lawrence | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  4. Yes but is the APR a true measuring stick when we don’t know what courses these kids are taking, who are the professors, etc.? If 75% of a football and basketball team is majoring in poultry science because according to a player they were told to major in it to be able to play and he “didn’t want to know nothing about them chickens” a true measurement of academic success or is it just a facade?

    Hard to say in many cases, but remember Auburn had a top 5 APR before the story broke about the misuse and fraud with independent study courses. So the APR there was extremely misleading. And does anyone think there is really going to be substantial penalties?? I guess time will tell, but I have my doubts. The last Knight Commission meeting I attended, several attendees expressed doubts that the penalties would actually happen and that legislation or exceptions would happen.

    We need to find a way to get behind the curtain. For more info see http://www.thedrakegroup.org

    Comment by ridpath696 | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  5. I can certainly agree that the APR is not perfect and I respect and understand the position Doc R discusses here, but I believe APR has moved academics in the right direction overall.

    I think there would be (and will be in the future) stories like Auburn with or without the APR and with or without disclosure. If nothing else, history shows us that if someone really wants to break the rules, NCAA or otherwise – he or she will figure out a way to do it. That is not to say that “we” shouldn’t always be looking for a better way and the Drake Group has proposed some interesting ideas in this area.

    Aren’t penalties being served right now during this academic year? Not sure if historical penalties have kicked in, but contemporaneous penalties have been applied and served the past couple years at schools. If you are a basketball coach going without one scholarship, you probably think it is substantial so it depends what lens you look through as to if the current system leverages substantial penalties.

    APR certainly deserves its own post and I’m sure one of us will do it soon and hopefully it will generate some good discussion. Until then, what about the vast majority of student-athletes, faculty, and administrators who do things the right way? I feel like they are overshadowed by the small percent making bad choices.

    As we discuss how to measure Athletic Dept. Success, I think that APR should be part of the equation until there is a better system/measurement available, but certainly recognize that it is a far from perfect measure that has been manipulated in some instances.

    Comment by Heather Lawrence | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  6. It would be much tougher to have an Auburn situation with disclosure because it can’t be hidden–so while things still can happen, they will be drastically minimized with disclosures and certainly other measures.

    The penalties–what do exist are pretty toothless–but I am amazed that anyone can suffer any negative repercussions with loopholes that the APR has i.e. the catch all squad size adjustment. Still–a school in the SW that starts with Arizona told its staff that “this will not happen again” ( when they received penalties in football. Does that mean they are going to recruit better, focus more on academics, etc–not according to the staff. The responsibility and threat of losing their jobs is now on the academic advisors–Sad.

    Most that work in college athletics are good but as I have said before the system and model that is present now forces good people to do bad things and bad people to do worse things. No doubt there are some great people doing good or at least trying to, but the model doesn’t enable them to make change, thus they continue the perpetual facade.

    Does the APR make a difference–I am not convinced. We have really just overcomplicated it and put another layer of deceit on the pile. If we really cared about academic integrity we would have disclosure, a 2.0 GPA requirement, a five year scholarship, a one year residency requirement, the ability for one to go pro when desired, the ability to go to any graduate school once eligibility is completed, etc. IMHO–the APR is just an excuse and a cover and doesn’t get to the real issues especially when initial eligibility standards have been watered down and the ability to have access to an education is severely limited by an absolutely ludicrous continuing eligibility measure that is nothing more than another way to control the athlete.

    I don’t see the APR doing anymore than that–but I am open to debate 🙂

    Comment by ridpath696 | January 13, 2009 | Reply

  7. Great article by the Chair of COIA, Nathan Tublitz. Mike Rose–I want your comments on this 🙂
    “It’s time to give academics top priority From scheduling to funding, UO officials’ efforts favor athletics above all else”

    Comment by ridpath696 | January 13, 2009 | Reply

  8. OK, Doc R, I understand what Dr. Tublitz is saying about priorities but I think a key misundertanding is perpetuated by assuming that athletics does not fufill a large part of the University as stated in the mission statement.

    What does it take to support the ‘creation and transfer of knowledge’ as defined in the context of research universities?

    Dr. Tublitz would likely focus on faculty, staff, GAs, labs, classroom facilities, communication and information technology, and he may even get around to mentioning students and student life issues — the physical and human resources needed to do the job. These things are central to the mission as defined by the statement in his mind. But a wider understanding of the role of colleges and universities needs to take into consideration how higher education (HE) is funded and how HE is held accountable or assessed. These two twin necessary evils are how the things Dr. Tublitz considers central are acquired and maintained.

    Sports are rarely given their just deserts when it comes to the context and outreach (think beyond community service to community building and rallying – even if not for the most pro-social of causes) provided the college or university. Obviously, the level of “fandom” created in the institution by the athletic department has several variables (size of department, area non-collegiate sport competition, focus and level of college competition). Also the channeling of that “fandom” into a specific force to accomplish some thing (like acquire additional state funding or support a particular academic objective) has been relatively ignored as an area of study. But there is no doubt that people have heard of The Ohio State University, Auburn University, University of Florida and the University of Oregon in no small part due to their athletic teams. They hear about those teams more often then they would hear about the school’s biology department, even if the Ducks never played a down, or scored a hoop or a run, hosted a National Championship or wore a swoosh.

    Sorry Dr. Tublitz, but I don’t think you could meet your mission as well as you do with the Ducks, and of course Phil Knight.

    Comment by packymoran | January 13, 2009 | Reply

  9. I feel especially able to respond to this post as I went to the institution where Dr. Tublitz has the privilege to work. I understand his complaint about moving commencement, but he overlooks the economic impact such an event will have in a state that is according to one local lobbyist is “broker than broke.” It might be true that the salaries of head coaches have become out of hand, but that being said most of the person’s salary he talked about is provided through bonuses and paid off through sponsors or ticket sales, only about $250,000 comes from the athletic department budget.

    Dr. Tublitz talks about the overall budget of his department, and I understand this. Being a science major at the UO I felt the same pains that Dr. Tublitz expresses. What he forgets to mention is the new multibillion dollar nanotechnology lab that was built underground on campus. He also fails to mention the Lundquist College of Business Building, which was provided by donations from business alumni. It seems like Dr. Tublitz just doesn’t like the fact that his students don’t give back to their department the way other students do.

    I agree with Packy in terms of sports fitting into the mission of the university. The university has seen an explosion of out of state students since the increase the athletic department’s success about 10 years ago. I also don’t think that Dr. Tublitz arguments regarding scheduling hold much weight minus the academics of the football team, which already misses less class than any other athletic team at UO. These are college students, who are adults that can make their own decisions. The university is not responsible for policing their study habits or the amount of time they choose to spend at home with their parents. If Dr. Tublitz were really concerned with academic intergerity he would be looking at the amount of time non-revenue sport athletes spend out of class.

    Finally, as my sports business professor at Oregon once noted, “The difference between academic units and the athletic department, is people receive some type of tangible reward for donating to the athletic department.” Unless a person receives some type of intrinsic value for donating to a university, they will demand some type of extrinsic reward as compensation for their donation. Until athletics is willing to give up some football and basketball tickets and allow university development to sell them, athletics will always have an upper hand in fund raising due to the extrinsic reward of being able to purchase a tangible commodity.

    Comment by Mike Rose | January 13, 2009 | Reply

  10. A couple things for you both–yes people have heard of these universities–but there is no research that says it contributes to the ROI other than a short term spike in admissions, gifts, etc. and any growth in revenue goes to athletics and they cannot manage it well. There has been a ton of research that the fandom doesn’t translate into that (Sack, Staurowsky, Gerdy, Zimbalist). Plus much of that fandom is from people who have never attended a class at the school. So is knowing about the swoosh–truly beneficial or are we just selling soap?

    Oregon and a few others are anomalies–most institutions cannot pay their coach through private funds–nor frankly should they because it gives the Phil Knights of the world way too much control.Personally no coach is worth a million dollars and no coach should get paid more than his boss. There is no market force I am aware of where middle management makes 6-8 times more than the CEO. So the market force argument is moot regardless of where the money comes from.

    I would like to see empirical proof if Oregon’s football success is even a major reason more out of state students went to UO (it may very well be)–as national research shows it is not a major reason students attend a particular college, and student attendance at athletic events at all major schools is decreasing not increasing.

    Sports can fulfill its mission, but not as a tax exempt for profit enterprise with no real interest in providing access to an education for the participants. In essence, we are violating our contract with the athletes. As for the athletes being adults–by age they are, but until we treat them as adults, letting them choose their own major, walk to class on their own, being responsible for their actions, etc.–then we should not classify them this way and pretend they are allowed to make their own decisions because in many cases they cannot.

    I do agree that the track meet could be held and there are situations where alternatives can be looked at. I haven’t been to Eugene in awhile but I would think there are some alternate sites where they could hold graduation this one time. I also agree that football is the easiest team to manage academically and people do not see what the non-revenue sports are going through. Baseball and softball should be shortened (Nathan was, and rightly so, against adding baseball at UO because those kids miss a ton of class-plus they dropped wrestling *&%$!!).

    It is also ok that athletics can raise more money but don’t tout that this is a benefit for the school at large because in most cases (TOSU exempted)athletics drains the university and gives no appreciable ROI back, even in the often cited quality of applicants and things mentioned above. Don’t forget even after Flutie and George Mason–everything flattened out for those schools after a year. Is it worth it? Based on simple economics and market principles–No. There are exceptions and Oregon may very well be one, but most cannot say that and that is where the implosion will happen. (Remember my background is totally mid major and it is a tenuous situation–enrollment actually went down at Marshall–even with the Moss, Pennington, and Leftwich years)

    Comment by ridpath696 | January 14, 2009 | Reply

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