Tuesday, January 22, 2013

NCAA cuts funding for Scholarly Colloquium

A few days ago, the NCAA announced that it would withdraw funding to the Scholarly Colloquium, which has been in existence for six years and "provided a space for (often critical) academic discourse at the association's annual convention," according to an article on Inside Higher Ed.

The NCAA officials said that the colloquium did not attract sufficient attendance and that the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport (JIS), also sponsored by the NCAA and affiliated with the colloquium, was not profitable.

Some scholars who attended the colloquiums and submitted research for the JIS said that the NCAA's main problem was not financial, but the fact that the NCAA was reluctant to hear criticism embedded in the scholarly articles and discussions. (Read more on scholars' responses in the article by the Chronicle of Higher Education here.)

It is unclear at this point if the JIS will be able to stay alive.

Dr. Scott Kretchmar, professor of Kinesiology, who also served as the founding president of the Scholarly Colloquium and the founding editor of the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, expressed his disappointment with the NCAA's decision.

"How interesting that, at a time when most agree that all is not well in Division I athletics, the NCAA has taken steps to avoid thoughtful criticism," Kretchmar wrote in an article for the Curley Center for Sport Journalism's site.

The former NCAA Faculty Athletic Representative of Penn State, Kretchmar teaches classes in sport ethics, among others.

I concur with Kretchmar. It is, indeed, "interesting" timing by the NCAA. One might wonder what happened to the NCAA's commitment to academics. Even beyond that, whatever happened to reason?

Wouldn't you, the NCAA, as an organization, want the input of people who can provide empirical evidence that might actually help you solve at least some of the problems?

The timing is particularly interesting considering that a study recently published by the Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research pointed to the wide gap between spending on student-athletes and students.

Here is a paragraph from the study:

"Athletic departments spend far more per athlete than institutions spend to educate the average
student—typically three to six times as much; among Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions,
median athletic spending was nearly $92,000 per athlete in 2010, while median academic spending
per full-time equivalent (FTE) student was less than $14,000 in these same universities" (p. 2).

This should raise some question. An NPR article provides some good evaluation for the study. It's worth a read.

Anyways, perhaps a continued conversation at the Scholarly Colloquium and in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport would allow for a deeper investigation of how the NCAA can better negotiate the "academic" component in intercollegiate athletics, whether that means examining the psychological impact of sporting events on campus, economic sustainability, hiring issues related to race, gender, and/or sexual orientation,  and, broadly, academic reform. 

It is understandable that the NCAA looks to cut costs. But do the cuts really need to result in the exclusion of scholars who see intercollegiate athletics both on a micro-level through teaching the student-athletes and on a macro-level through their research that often asks questions that are different from the NCAA's primary concerns (feel free to fill in the blank here)?

Dear NCAA, please reconsider.
-- Dunja Antunovic

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