CULLOWHEE - Chancellor John Bardo has announced that Western Carolina University will begin a yearlong campuswide effort to study its intercollegiate athletics program as part of the NCAA Division I athletics certification program.

The study will specifically examine academic and fiscal integrity, governance, rules compliance, and university commitment to equity, student-athlete welfare and sportsmanship.

While academic accreditation is common in colleges and universities, this program focuses solely on certification of athletics programs, said A.J. Grube, Western’s assistant to the chancellor for equal opportunity programs who is chairing the campuswide study committee.

Following a pilot project, the NCAA Division I membership overwhelmingly supported the program and its standards at its 1993 convention, and Western completed its first certification self-study in 1994. At the 1997 convention, the Division I membership voted to change the frequency of athletics certification from once every five years to once every 10 years and to require five-year interim status reports. The current self-study is the second in the certification process for WCU.

The certification program’s purpose is to help ensure integrity in the institution’s athletics operations. It opens athletics to the rest of the university community and to the public, Grube said. Institutions benefit by increasing campuswide awareness and knowledge of the athletics program, confirming its strengths and developing plans to improve areas of concern, she said.

Members of the steering committee responsible for the study, in addition to Bardo and Grube, are Dale Carpenter, associate dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, who will chair the academic integrity subcommittee; Candace Boan, assistant professor of psychology, who will chair the commitment to equity subcommittee; Robert Edwards, internal auditor, chair of the fiscal integrity subcommittee; Noelle Kehrberg, dean of the College of Applied Sciences, chair of the governance and commitment to rules compliance subcommittee; and Debie Connelly, information and communications specialist in the Office of Public Relations, chair of the editorial committee.

Mira Colman, a member of the NCAA membership services staff, will travel to the campus for a one-day orientation visit to meet with the committee and its subcommittees Friday, Oct. 31.

Within each area to be studied by the committee, the program has standards, also called operating principles, which were adopted by the association to place a “measuring stick” by which all Division I members are evaluated, Grube said. Western also will examine how the activities of the athletics program relate to the mission and purpose of the institution.

Once the university has concluded its self-study, an external team of reviewers will conduct a four-day evaluation visit on campus. Those reviewers will be peers from other colleges, universities or conference offices. The team will report to the NCAA Division I Committee on Athletics Certification, another independent group, which will then determine the university’s certification status and announce the decision publicly. For institutions that fail to conduct a comprehensive self-study or to correct problems, tough sanctions can be imposed, Grube said.

The three options of certification are “certified,” “certified with conditions” and “not certified.” While the institutions will have an opportunity to correct any deficient areas, universities and colleges that do not take corrective action may be ruled ineligible for NCAA championships.

The NCAA is a membership organization of colleges and universities that participate in intercollegiate athletics. The primary purpose of the association is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body. Activities of the NCAA membership include formulating rules of play for NCAA sports, conducting national championships, adopting and enforcing standards of eligibility, and studying all phases of intercollegiate athletics.

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Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 | Originally published: Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Western Carolina University