By Ken Weller
The NCAA News (March 1, 1978)
Note: The Steering Committee of Division III used the Divisional Round Table of the 1978 Convention as a forum for the consideration of a broad athletic philosophy for the NCAA and the particular role of Division III within the structure. President Ken Weller of Central College, Pella, Iowa, a member of the Committee, presented an analysis which is summarized below. It has implication for all divisions. In addition to his years as a president, Dr. Weller coached football in Division III for many years, served as the faculty athletic representative and as Professor of Economics and Business at Hope College.
As the members of the Division III Steering Committee worked together in the past year we became very conscious of the need for a unifying philosophy. We felt compelled to talk about who we are and what we are trying to do as an integral part of any consideration of specific legislation. In that process we established a perspective on athletics that has been helpful to us. We would like to share it with you.
It provides only the beginning of a philosophical approach. A true divisional philosophy, if it is to come, will be hammered out and established in the process of developing legislation and working together over a period of years. Nonetheless, we feel the ideas will be provocative and helpful as each of us considers a particular athletic philosophy for our own college and a corporate philosophy for our division as we act in concert within the NCAA.
Every educational institution has two sets of objectives. One familiar set deals with what we are seeking to do in serving our students. A second equally valid set deals with our attempts to serve society broadly, going beyond current students to a larger constitutency -- the state, the nation, society -- however you choose to describe it.
The idea that we seek to serve the young people on our campuses is self-evident. What needs atttention is the fact that we serve a broader constituency. We have neglected this fact in the past.
A state institution maintains a school of medicine. Why? To train a particular group of aspiring physicians, but also to provide for the health and welfare of the constituents of that state.
A large state institution has an enormous library with an outstanding collection. Why? To serve the current crop of students, but also to provide resources for the general public of that area.
A college or university sponsors a series of cultural events. Why? To enrich the lives of students, but also to serve the surrounding community.
The very essence of the rationale for low tuition and state subsidy of education is found in the simple logic that public benefit justifies public support. If benefits were inclusively personal, public support would be more difficult to obtain. A major benefit accrues to society through the crucial role higher education plays in forming and shaping culture. Acting as both sustainer and critic, the university bears heavy responsibility for who we are and what we become.
The foregoing examples serve to clarify the idea that serving the broad non-student constituency is a legitimate and pervasive objective of education but let me cite one further example, one closely analagous to the situation facing athletics -- the classic confrontation between teaching and research. Teaching emphasizes service to students. Research, however, is oriented primarily to the service of society.
Many Division III institutions take particular pride in their teaching emphasis, assigning less interest to research. Many major universities on the other hand place great emphasis on the development of new knowledge, research for its own sake -- not for the students -- but for the development of technology and science in the service of society.
Research programs often take on an autonomous existence. Financing is obtained from outside. Separate budgets are established. Personnel are hired and promoted who may never see a student. Despite these unusual arrangements research is certainly regarded as a valuable and legitimate part of the institution.
An institution's attitude toward research shapes its nature. For example, in a "research" institution, "publish or perish" may be the key to faculty advancement but in a "teaching" institution, student evaluations arc more important. A host of similar situations make it clear that the balance that is struck between research and teaching does much to establish the special identity and character of an institution.
The logical progression in this line of reasoning is to assert that an athletic program may have two sets of objectives. It can serve the objectives of the participants --the learners -- the students. It can also serve the interest of the general public -- the spectators, the constituency, the society.
Countless coaches in after dinner speeches have extolled the value of athletics for the participants. This rationale need not be elaborated here (although a grain or two of salt may be in order). Few, however, have addressed the role of athletics in serving society as a whole. Although the provision of entertainment is an important aspect of this role, it certainly is not the whole story. Recent studies of the sociological, psychological, and cultural role of sports make it clear that sport is important to our society. It is a major determinant of our national character and our cultural heritage. Some people deplore this fact, others applaud, but the reality is inescapable. Sport is an essential and integral part of our corporate existence. People want it to be so, appreciate it, and supply the resources to make it possible.
Responding to this well-established need, many educational institutions have developed programs designed to provide what people are seeking. Others have gone beyond passive response to act positively in meeting the responsibility of using the extraordinary influence of sports as an avenue for molding and shaping a better society. Rarely, however, have universities articulated a philosophy which focuses on societal objectives. They have chosen, instead, to legitimatize their programs by reference to participant objectives. This is unfortunate! Somehow it seems totally inadequate, if not ludicrous, to justify a 100,000-seat stadium as a means of teaching young men about the game of life.
A persuasive and logical case can and should be made for an athletic program based on societal objectives. Like research, athletics can be somewhat autonomous in its organization and financing from outside but like research it can and should be regarded as an integral part of the mission of the institution.
It seems clear that the decision regarding the relative emphasis placed on the two different types of objectives does much to establish the special identity and character of an institution. Similarly, it can serve as a basis for distinguishing the divisions of the NCAA. It can be claimed that, in general, Division I institutions place greater emphasis on "societal" objectives. Division III institutions concentrate on "participant" objectives. Division II institutions are likely to fall in between.
A better understanding of the approach and the procedures of each division can be achieved if the implications of these differences in objectives are analyzed. Some examples may be helpful.
Autonomy-lntegration -- A Division I university would in all likelihood develop a more autonomous organization for its specialized programs than a Division III college in which athletics is integrated as one of many programs developed to serve students directly.
Financing -- Division I programs would be financed largely from outside revenues; Division III programs would be financed internally and have a budget established and controlled as part of the general budget.
Student-Athlete -- The person described in NCAA literature as the student-athlete could escape the schizophrenic role and become primarily an athlete in Division I, receiving special treatment in financial aid, livingeating arrangements, tutoring, etc. But in Division III the student-athlete would be primarily a student, living and eating in undifferentiated accommodations, working with campus-wide tutoring programs and, of particular importance, receiving financial aid in ways and in amounts consistent with provisions for all other students. In general there would be no favoritism shown nor would athletic participation disqualify a person for aid that would be available to him on non-athletic grounds.
Faculty -- Division I institutions would probably have full time coaches whose assignments and compensation arrangements would be separate from the regular faculty while Division III would hire regular faculty and establish compensation, promotion, and rights of tenure consistent with faculty appointments.
Title IX -- The demand for equal treatment of men's and women's sports is based on the assumption of participant objectives. One participant clearly deserves the same treatment as another. The validity of societal objectives opens up a whole new dimension. Differing support for programs in Division I could be based on the rationale that although all participants are equally deserving, distinctions are based on different capacity to meet societal objectives. Attendance figures could be cited as factual evidence. From this standpoint football, a "society-serving" sport, might be given large dollar support while men's tennis, women's tennis and lacrosse would be lower but equal. Such an approach would have distinct rhetorical and philosophical advantages permitting the replacement of the somewhat crass references to special treatment for "revenue-producing" sports with a positive philosophical statement of non-sexist objectives. For Division III, however, where the participants are emphasized in all aspects of the athletic program, an aggressive program for equalization of sports for men and women would seem to be essential, consistent, and much more feasible.
Role of NCAA -- For Division I institutions the NCAA would serve as a key agent in relating to the publics to which their objectives point them. The NCAA establishes the rules of various sports, negotiates TV contracts, controls post-season competition, assists in developing regulations and acts as the enforcement agency. The enormous dollar "pay-off" possible in major sports creates a serious threat of destructive, cut-throat competition in recruiting, illicit financial aid, etc. The role of the NCAA as a form of regulatory agency is extremely vital if the kind of programs desired by the public are to be provided honestly and sensibly.
For Division III the NCAA's primary role is to provide for the participants a chance to compete fairly and effectively with athletes from similar institutions and to progress in championships to the level of their ability.
TV Contract -- The substantial amount of funds involved in the NCAA TV contract would represent for Division I teams an indication of success in achieving their societal objectives. There need be no apology or embarrassment. For an institution of Division III to profit from participation, however, could be in consistent. Participating institutions from Division III should have liberal expense allowances but sharing significantly in revenues arising from the entertainment provided for TV audiences by Division I programs would seem inappropriate. The current pattern of using TV revenues to assist individual participants in Division III championships on the contrary would seem wise and consistent with the proposed philosophical stance.
The foregoing analysis is not intended to be a description of reality. It uses assumptions and hypothetical situations and is certainly too simplistic
In the real world, each institution and division must continually seek its own balance of objectives and certainly none can choose one set exclusively. To do so would court disaster. A disaster for those who ignore student objectives illustrated by athletes with four years of competition and no interest in graduation. A disaster for those who ignore the outside world illustrated in the deterioration of morale and constituency support when incompetence and buffoonery exist in the midst of general excellence. Thoughtful and responsible institutions may emphasize one approach but will do everything possible to maximize the other.
The Steering Committee hopes that these ideas can assist individual institutions to find their own peculiar balance of educational objectives and facilitate the development of a philosophical basis for the NCAA and its separate divisions. We are well aware that these ideas are tentative and subject to modification but we are hopeful that they can provide a framework for moving ahead, developing the procedures and regulations that will encompass and clarify our goals and objectives in the years ahead. To that end a philosophical approach that places a large relative emphasis on the participant seems constructive and hopeful for Division III.
As Division III institutions work together in the future a key consideration will be to find a balance between the approach of the idealist and the approach of the cynic.
The idealist will say, "We are dealing with very complex issues, difficult to codify and difficult to enforce. Let's agree on broad constitutional principles and place primary reliance on trusting each other to exercise self-discipline.”
The cynic will say, "That sounds good but it won't work. We need to get specific about what's unacceptable and use the enforcement clout of the NCAA to gain uniform compliance.”
The ultimate resolution of these conflicting points of view is of utmost importance. The Steering Committee sees no simple answers at this point but requests your assistance and urges your consideration of the issues and problems involved.Last Updated: Sep 3, 2013