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Symposium Addresses Money, Sports

Ten years after the Knight Commission published its landmark study about abuses in collegiate athletics in 1991, its June report found that little has been done in the past decade to reform college sports.

"College sports do more damage to a university's academic integrity than most realize or are willing to admit," said LeRoy Walker, commission member and chancellor emeritus of N.C. Central University.

Walker was joined by commission members UNC-Chapel Hill President Emeritus Bill Friday and General Alumni Association President Doug Dibbert.

About 30 people gathered in the Student Union for the symposium, which included a panel of three Knight Commission members, faculty and students and was co-sponsored by the Academy of Distinguished Scholars and the Program for Public Policy in Sport.

During the symposium, panel members discussed the impact of commercialization by athletic retailers and broadcasting contracts on universities.

The dialogue included mention of UNC's eight-year $28.34 million contract renewal with Nike Corp. -- the largest of its kind between Nike and a collegiate athletic department.

Friday said large contracts will promote what he calls "the arms race," where colleges are thrown into competition for the biggest deal.

He said the Nike logo appearing on UNC's official Web site is a prime example of commercialization's impact on the entire University.

"The race seems to never end," Friday said. "The way commercialization through shoe contracts has grown so large does not let the University control their own destiny."

Multiple panel members also pointed to athletic games on Sundays and weeknights as an example of UNC's priority of athletics over academics.

"(The Faculty Council) has passed resolution after resolution asking for no Thursday night games," said Sue Estroff, chairwoman of the Faculty Council.

"(The University) needs to agree not to do it, and just say no."

In addition to the concern of commercialization, Dibbert said the academic integrity of student athletes and outside influence from alumni and trustee members also needs to be watched.

Dibbert said the Knight Commission recommended that presidents of schools in the six major athletic conferences, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, get together to address these issues.

"We need to slow the growth of the arms race and commercialization," said Dibbert, who also is the director of alumni affairs.

He said the responsibility falls on the president or chancellor of each school but that collectively they could make an across-the-board change.

"What we really need is a cultural change," Dibbert said. "But cultures don't change easily."

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