Rawlings panel releases report

After months of work, the panel of leaders in higher education and athletics released 28 recommendations for the University today as part of its final report on athletics at UNC.

“It is our hope that these recommendations will be taken seriously and work will be taken to put them in action,” said Hunter Rawlings, chair of the panel and president of the Association of American Universities, in a media conference call today.

“There are a lot of reports, but we don’t see a lot of reform,” he said.

“Our panel believes we’re reaching a tipping point in intercollegiate athletics because there’s so much revenue pouring into athletics.”

The five-member panel, which first convened in April 2013 and held a public forum, was appointed by Thorp in response to a faculty report on athletics in 2012.

The Rawlings panel’s report focuses on the oversight of athletics, financial considerations, and the admissions, treatment and eligibility of student-athletes.

Some of the 28 recommendations include ensuring the Chancellor’s clear oversight over athletics, establishing an internal audit and external audit every four years to test the University’s adherence to the recommendations and publishing the University’s NCAA financial reports.

Rawlings said some recommendations would be challenging to implement, such as the proposal that freshmen athletes with academic difficulties take a year off from playing.

“The most challenging ideas are for new initiatives that have been considered for many years but never taken,” he said. “This is a problem because no one wants to do this because of athletic disadvantages. I know the NCAA has taken this up as a recommendation and we’re hoping that something is done in this area.”

The report also made several financial recommendations, including that athletic conferences or the NCAA consider impose a spending cap on sports teams.

“The financial approach is particularly urgent for UNC and peer institutions,” said Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Delaney also said the financial recommendations were important to consider not just at UNC but at all intercollegiate athletic programs across the country.

“The academic enterprise isn’t growing and the athletic enterprise is,” Delaney said.

UNC has taken several measures recently targeting athletics, including the creation of a group, the Student Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group, led by Provost Jim Dean and Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham, which will examine how to encourage athletes’ academic success.

Dean said in an interview earlier this month that the group planned to use the recommendations created by the Rawlings panel.

Cunningham said the work of the panel, as well as other changes made at UNC, would make UNC a national leader in the discussion on college athletics.

“The University of North Carolina is positioned well to not only participate in, but lead these conversations that should take place at the conference and national level with schools and programs across the spectrum of college athletics,” said Cunningham of the panel’s recommendations.

Rawlings said UNC’s excellent academic and athletic history puts the University in a position to be a leader and example for other athletics programs across the nation.

UNC has been running a superb athletics program that has kept itself out of problems other programs have had, until quite recently,” Rawlings said.

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