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For Comment

The University of Pennsylvania is currently in the midst of its National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) second-cycle recertification review. The purpose of the review, which is routine for all Division I member institutions and is part of a broader reform agenda the NCAA originally enacted in 1993, is to ensure the fundamental integrity of intercollegiate athletics. Penn’s first NCAA review was successfully completed in 1996. Dr. Janice Bellace, the Deputy Provost, chairs the Steering Committee guiding the University through the current recertification process, which will culminate with a site visit by a peer review team early next summer. In preparation for this site visit, and in accord with NCAA standards, Dr. Bellace and the students, faculty, and administrators working on the recertification have been preparing a self-study focusing on three key areas concerning athletics at the University: governance and commitment to rules compliance; academic integrity; and equity and student-athlete welfare. An Executive Summary appears below. To view the most current draft of the full self-study, please see: www.upenn.edu/provost/NCAA/.  Dr. Bellace welcomes questions, comments and suggestions regarding both the draft of the report in particular and about the recertification process in general. Please submit to simonr2@pobox.upenn.edu by Monday, January 9, 2006.

Executive Summary of the Draft Report to the
NCAA Committee on Athletic Certification

The NCAA Certification Steering Committee has completed its self-study as part of the NCAA recertification process. This self-study is required by the NCAA as part of its regularly scheduled review process, designed to provide each institution with the opportunity to evaluate various aspects of the intercollegiate athletics program and receive feedback from its constituencies, including students, alumni, faculty, and peer evaluators. The study is divided into three major topics: governance and commitment to rules compliance, academic integrity, and equity and student-athlete welfare. The Steering Committee has determined that the University of Pennsylvania is operating within NCAA operating principles and has identified plans for improvement to make the athletics program even stronger.


The Steering Committee has determined that the Department of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics (DRIA) operates under the clear authority of the President and Trustees of the University and that both are directly involved with significant decisions related to athletics. Recently these decisions have related primarily to capital projects. The decisions by the Council of Ivy Presidents, including the University of Pennsylvania’s President, have included issues ranging from admissions to the length of playing seasons to televising Ivy League football and basketball games.  There is also an extensive committee structure that facilitates input from student-athletes into major decisions made regarding athletics (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee); faculty, staff and students (Committee on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics); and Trustees and alumni (Athletics Advisory Board, Gender Equity Advisory Committee). An area of improvement will be to document better the meetings of these groups.

Rules Compliance

Penn is operating the athletics program within the rules of the NCAA and Ivy League and has a functioning system in place to ensure ongoing compliance.  The University has implemented the plans that grew out of the 1996 self-study, including formalizing a mechanism for student-athlete feedback, establishing a compliance review committee, and documenting the assignment of compliance responsibilities to specific staff members. In addition to these plans, DRIA has increased the use of technology to help monitor compliance with NCAA regulations, and DRIA keeps coaches and student-athletes updated on NCAA and Ivy compliance issues through regular meetings and communications.  The Office of Audit, Compliance and Privacy conducts regular audits of the athletics department. Plans for future improvement include formalizing internal policies related to camps and clinics, as well as including NCAA compliance responsibilities in the performance evaluations of administrators outside athletics who have been assigned these duties. 

Academic Standards

Student-athletes are held to the same academic standards as other students and graduate at approximately the same rate as all Penn students.  In a few teams the rate is lower than might be expected, and these will be more closely monitored to identify means of improvement.  There is a slight difference in test scores of incoming student-athletes vs. students as a whole; however, student-athletes apply for and are considered for admission on the same basis as all students. There is a process in place by which the University Registrar and representatives from each of the four schools within the University review and determine the academic eligibility of each student-athlete in accordance with University policy and NCAA rules.

Academic Support

The University provides academic support to student-athletes primarily through the services available to all Penn students.  Additional resources provided to student-athletes due to the demands made on their time include additional study halls, scheduling of tutors, and provision of laptop computers for use on team trips.

Gender Equity 

The Subcommittee on Equity and Student-Athlete Welfare concluded that equitable opportunities are available for men and women students to participate in intercollegiate athletics. It noted that the growth of junior varsity and club sports, as well as the construction of the Pottruck Center, allows more opportunities for both competitive sports and fitness and recreation. Resources such as medical facilities, equipment, recruiting funds, locker room facilities, publicity, and uniforms are all distributed equitably for comparable teams for men and women. The only exception is that, while both lacrosse team rooms have been updated, the men’s room is larger and has a dedicated film study area, while the women share a film area with the field hockey team, an arrangement to which the coaches of both teams agreed. Tutoring, other support services, practice times, and travel allocations are all equitably distributed according to set policies.

Anecdotal evidence, however, indicated that students perceive that men’s teams garner more of some resources than women’s teams. This is largely due to the needs of the men’s basketball and football teams.  These two teams are competing to recruit student-athletes and coaches in a set of traditions unique to their sports. In addition, the football team’s size means that it requires additional expenditures per athlete for travel and recruitment and certain considerations in scheduling practices, as well as creating a higher demand on medical facilities.  The subcommittee suggests continuing to monitor the football team’s need for additional resources to try to ensure equity in allocation of resources.

Minority Equity

The University has implemented the plans made during the first cycle of the certification process, including educating all coaches about resources available to minority students, providing means of receiving feedback from minority student-athletes related to their experiences in athletics, and exploring new strategies for recruiting qualified minority student-athletes and coaches.  Future initiatives will include an institutional membership in the Black Coaches Association and sponsoring joint programs with  the Program for Awareness in Cultural Education (PACE).  Additionally, DRIA will explore means of improving all aspects of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, including minority student participation.

Student-Athlete Welfare

The Subcommittee on Equity and Student-Athlete Welfare noted some important improvements in overall student-athlete welfare.  These include the retention of a sports psychologist and a nutritionist to advise student-athletes and teams; the expansion of New Student Orientation to include information for student-athletes on drug and alcohol abuse, hazing, safety, and time management; the addition of a full-time trainer; the introduction of a “team mentor” program; and the development of an electronic “early warning system” for all students that is designed to “alert students early on in a semester if they need help.” A need for improvement of training room facilities and trainer coverage for out-of-season workouts was identified for follow up. Also, the exit interview process has been formalized, and plans are in place for further updates, including an on-line survey for all seniors.


  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 15, December 13, 2005


December 13, 2005
Volume 52 Number 15


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