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Publish date: Nov 1, 2011

Changes likely for athletics certification program

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Committee on Athletics Certification is recommending a new approach to the program it oversees that would be less of an accreditation process and more of a report card on the health of an institution’s athletics program.

Earlier this year, the Division I Board of Directors directed the staff and the committee to create a more streamlined athletics certification process that was less burdensome on institutions, more effective at determining a department’s success and focused on the student-athlete experience. The committee has developed a new program that NCAA President Mark Emmert believes will fulfill that request.

“The revised certification program will provide a better and more contemporary tool for presidents and chancellors to assess their athletics programs and then make changes to improve the student-athlete experience,” said Emmert. “Of additional value, the new program is less intrusive and significantly less expensive for campuses, but still a meaningful tool focused on improvement.”

The new program, as yet unnamed, will focus on four main areas of review: 

  • Academics
  • Student-athlete experience
  • Fiscal management
  • Inclusion (gender and ethnicity)

The program will replace the narrative, self-study portion of current athletics certification with a structure that catalogs various pieces of data member schools already provide in a dashboard format that can be checked annually for meeting certain benchmarks. 

About 80 percent of the information used in the program will be gleaned from forms already provided to the national office by institutions, such as the NCAA financial reports, Federal Graduation Rates, Graduation Success Rates and financial dashboard indicators, leaving only 20 percent of the information to be created.

The new approach takes advantage of technological advances not considered since the creation of the athletics certification program and will use a new database to produce the report card. The program will allow for a consistency in analyzing data and evaluations among different institutions.

If an institution falls below a certain point in one of the four key areas, it will trigger notification to the NCAA staff. The institution must then take action to improve. Accountability measures that include developing a remediation plan, a peer expert visit or an in-person hearing with the committee may become part of the program to ensure that athletics departments take seriously their commitment to the four areas of emphasis. 

The peer review team visits will be replaced with more focused “peer expert” visits only for institutions whose submitted data indicates some kind of issue or performance below a benchmark.

The rules compliance/governance portion of the old athletics certification program does not reappear in the new iteration. The committee believed that rules compliance and governance are caught up in other areas of NCAA oversight, such as enforcement. The fiscal component, a part of the program until 2004, was reintroduced as a way to provide comparison among like institutions.

The changes will go before the membership at the 2012 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, with a town hall format planned. Bradley President and certification committee chair Joanne Glasser will lead the discussion and give the membership an opportunity to comment. Members will also have a chance to respond electronically. 

The presidents suspended the athletics certification program six months ago in order for the comprehensive review to occur. The last class to go through the old process should be finished by the winter of 2012. If approved, the new program could begin as early as August 2013.