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Institutional Control

So you want to be an AD


The term "institutional control" sounds ominous, perhaps because it is the core of the expression that is at the core of the worst of NCAA violations: "lack of institutional control."

But institutional control itself is a good and essential concept that links varsity athletics programs with higher education. Without it, any college athletics program is not much more than a bunch of kids playing games.

The concept of institutional control is at the center of the Model Division II Athletics Department document developed several years ago by the Division II Athletics Directors Association. That model, which is included in this chapter, has been revised several times over the years, but the core message has remained the same: Any athletics program must reflect the ideals of the institution it represents, and it is up to the athletics director to constantly inform the president (or the person to whom the athletics director reports) of all relevant developments within the program.

As you prepare to pursue a career as an athletics director, you must seriously consider this important responsibility. The president of the institution is ultimately responsible for the integrity of the institution, and that includes compliance with NCAA rules. If you are not comfortable delivering potentially bad news to your boss, then perhaps being an athletics director is not the best career for you.

Questions to consider:

  • Are you comfortable being directly accountable to the president of the institution, even when things go wrong?
  • Do you need to develop organizational and communication skills to keep supervisors informed about all aspects of athletics department operations?
  • Do you understand and respect the role of the faculty athletics representative?
  • Would you value counsel and oversight from an athletics advisory board?
  • Are you willing to commit to finding and reporting secondary violations within your athletics program (in addition to major infractions)?
  • If you are not already familiar with NCAA legislation, how to you plan to learn it?

In fact, things will go wrong at times, often in ways that are routine or understandable. That's why the NCAA has a secondary violation process that encourages the athletics leadership of each institution to monitor and report small problems before they become big ones. As far as the NCAA is concerned, that vigilance regarded as a sign of a well-monitored athletics program. A program without secondary violations might be considered one that is willing to sweep problems under the rug.

In addition to building trusting relationships with institutional leaders, athletics directors must understand and value the role of the faculty athletics representative, who plays a primary role in ensuring student-athlete welfare, especially with regard to academics. The athletics director also should be involved in the formation and oversight of an effective athletics advisory board, which can provide valuable counsel if administered properly.

However tedious it may be, anybody considering a career as an athletics director must learn the relevant sections of the NCAA Division II Manual. If you come from a rules compliance background, then you have a head start. If not, then you must read it and -- more importantly -- get the help you need to fully understand it. If there's a problem later on, ignorance of the rules will not be a sufficient explanation -- and it certainly will not be an adequate defense.

This section provides a wealth of documents to help you understand how effective athletics programs document important components of institutional control. Among those documents are two compliance manuals. It is important to understand that these manuals appear here only to illustrate how they are organized and the level of detail that is addressed. Any actual rules compliance questions should be dealt with directly through institutional, conference or NCAA channels.

Other documentation includes two faculty athletics representative job descriptions, NCAA Bylaw 6 (which covers institutional control issues), the make-up of two athletics advisory boards (along with agendas and minutes from actual meetings), and the make-up of two compliance committees (along with agendas and minutes from actual meetings).