A Framework for Comprehensive Athletics Reform

Coalition On Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA), August 2003

Executive Summary


Reform of intercollegiate athletics is an urgent priority. Successful reform will require a broad consensus and a comprehensive approach.  Some issues may be resolved quickly, others may require much more time, but national agreement on a comprehensive plan in the near future is essential to accomplish meaningful reform; the piecemeal approach has not succeeded.  The COIA Framework, aimed at Division I-A, outlines essential features such a plan should include, and calls for the NCAA and national academic constituencies to develop detailed, appropriately flexible strategies for implementation.  The goal of reform is not negative; it is to bring out the positive aspects of intercollegiate athletics, which contribute to the personal development of athletes and enhance college life on campus and off. 


Academic Integrity.  Colleges should admit only students with realistic prospects of graduation.  Admissions practices should confirm that high schools must prepare athletes to meet such standards.  Continuing eligibility standards should ensure that only academically engaged students compete in athletics.  Faculty must take responsibility to ensure academic integrity in all programs.  Athletics advisors must be closely integrated with academic advising to ensure prioritization of academic goals and integrity.


Athlete Welfare.  The design and enforcement of limits on athlete participation in non-academic activities must be improved; assessment of coaches must reflect commitment to athletesí academic opportunities.  Optimal season schedules for each sport should be designed and adopted, limiting competition in each sport to a single term.  The terms and bases of scholarships should be reexamined so as to support student academics, and athletes should be fully integrated into campus life. 


Governance.  Shared oversight of athletics between governing boards, administrations, and faculty should involve clear communication and complementary responsibilities.  Best-practice designs for the interaction of faculty athletics representatives, campus athletics committees, and faculty governance should be designed nationally, and adapted locally.  Uniform reporting standards for athletics budgets should be established, to provide more financial transparency.  Stable athletics conferences should support the linkage of athletics and academics, and become the basis for intercollegiate relationships beyond athletics competitions and finances.


Finances.  The link between winning and financial solvency undermines the values of college sports and contributes to the athletics arms race.  Broadened revenue sharing, and limits on budgets and capital expenditures should be implemented.  Amateur goals appropriate to each sport should determine standards of expectations.  Cost cutting in the areas of scholarships, squad size, season length, and recruitment should be explored.


Over-commercialization.  Excesses in marketing college sports impair institutional control and contribute to public misperception of the nature and purpose of higher education.  Schools must step back from over-commercialization by cutting costs and setting clear standards of institutional control and public presentation of college sports.


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