Panel to consider the role of athletics at UNC

Apr. 01, 2013 @ 07:29 PM

What should be the role of athletics on the UNC campus?

A panel led by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, will tackle that question April 19 during a two-hour session at the Carolina Inn.

But don’t expect the panel to have all of the answers to such a complex question that has bedeviled universities with Division I sports teams for more than a few decades.

“I don’t expect this panel to solve in a short time what the Knight Commission has been addressing for more than 20 years,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a news release announcing the event. “But this is a good opportunity to engage in a conversation that could lead to new ideas for best practices moving forward. I will leave it up to Dr. Rawlings and the panelists to decide how to proceed with this work after the first meeting.”

The idea for such a panel discussion grew out of a report last year by the university’s Faculty Executive Committee (FEC).

A special subcommittee of the FEC reviewed internal investigations into academic fraud in the university’s Department of African and Afro American Studies. One of its recommendations called for the creation of a commission to examine the state of academics and athletics at UNC and to highlight what the university is doing right and where it could make improvements.

In response, Thorp asked Rawlings to help UNC examine and better define the future relationship between academics and athletics on campus.
Rawlings became AAU president in 2011.

He was president of Cornell University from 1995 to 2003 and interim president for one year between 2005 and 2006.

He was president of the University of Iowa from 1988 to 1995.

As AAU president, Rawlings directs an organization of 61 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada.

In addition to Rawlings, the panel will include:

 -- James Delany, longtime commissioner of the Big Ten Conference and a former NCAA enforcement officer. He holds bachelor’s and law degrees from UNC, where he was a tri-captain on the men’s basketball team.

-- Bob Malekoff, associate professor and sport studies chair at Guilford College and a former athletics director and head coach. He has written about athletics and sports management at the collegiate and professional levels.

-- Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and previously an NCAA employee and athletics administrator at the University of Kansas. She earned academic honors as a Wake Forest student-athlete.

-- Patricia Timmons-Goodson, former associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court who holds two UNC degrees and served on the N.C. Court of Appeals. She serves on Guilford College’s Board of Trustees.

Also, a roundtable discussion on the subject will be held by Jay Bilas, ESPN broadcaster, attorney and a former Duke basketball player; Bubba Cunningham, UNC director of athletics; Joy Renner, UNC Faculty Athletics Committee chair and clinical associate professor of allied health sciences; Jay Smith, a UNC professor of history; and Richard Southall, UNC associate professor of sport administration and director of the College Sport Research Institute. 

“The issues we face here are not unique to Carolina, and we hope other campuses around the nation will benefit in some way from the panel’s work,” Thorp said.