The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 3rd

UNC Faculty Athletics Committee strives to be ‘a bond rather than a bridge’ between athletics and academics

In the wake of recent NCAA sanctions and widespread criticism of the UNC athletic department, University administrators are striving to turn over a new leaf.

In its meeting Tuesday, the faculty athletics committee focused on facilitating a stronger connection between athletics and academics.

“We need to be a bond rather than a bridge,” committee chairwoman Joy Renner said.

Renner said the relationship between University athletics and academics should be so close that one department’s decision directly and immediately affects the other.

At the meeting, Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham discussed a new strategic plan to guide decision-making in the athletic department.

The plan involves clarifying the department’s values and commitment to academic excellence. It will be fully revealed in October.

This summer, the athletic department partnered with Paul Friga, a professor in UNC’s business school, to develop the plan.

Friga, who presented a draft of the plan, said it will help prevent individuals from making selfish choices that could be detrimental to the athletic department as a whole.

He said aligning operations to fulfill the mission of the University is a top priority of the athletic department.

Another goal is to be one of the top three universities in the ACC and one of the top 10 in the nation in both athletics and academics, Friga said.

Chancellor Holden Thorp, who spoke at the meeting, stressed the importance of excellence in both academics and athletics.

“We want to make sure that Carolina is the best in all that we do,” he said.

This new focus on the relationship between the athletic and academic departments follows closely after an investigation that resulted in the largest academic scandal in the University’s athletic history.

The scandal was uncovered in 2010, when it was found that UNC football players were receiving inappropriate academic help.

In August, a faculty report revealed that African and Afro-American Studies classes, some of which contained a high percentage of student athletes, were taught irregularly, or not at all.

In his presentation, Friga said the athletic department’s core values are responsibility, innovation, service and excellence.

The plan, which seeks to promote these values, also highlights examples of the department’s strengths and weaknesses.

Friga said strengths include student athletes, the coaching staff and the department’s focus on facilities.

He said weaknesses include poor organization and a bias toward the status quo.

Renner added that individual initiative can prevent improper activities from happening without detection in the future.

“Don’t assume things are being handled by someone else,” she said.

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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