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‘Integrity in Sports’ Panel Discusses Hot Topics in Collegiate Athletics

Integrity & Sports-125-XLThe Edward C. Kennedy Center for Business Ethics and Belmont University Athletics  welcomed NCAA Division I administrators to campus for a candid dialogue on student athlete compensation and the commercialization of college sports on Tuesday in the Maddox Grand Atrium.

Moderated by Belmont Athletics Director Michael Strickland, participants Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner Beth DeBauche and former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said they agreed that the NCAA business model needed a “radical change” to resolve its ethical issues and allow college and university athletics departments to be financially viable. However, Beebe argued that paying some student athletes would mean levying more student fees on their peers to provide funding.

Although some Division I colleges have multimillion dollar television deals and rising coaches’ salaries, many smaller universities do not operate profitable athletic departments on their own, DeBauche noted. In the OVC, much of the conferences’ profits return to its member institutions to pay their bills, and many of the 32 conferences are similar to the OVC, she said, adding that all conferences need to continue to meet Title IX requirements.

Other large players, like the University of Kentucky, pay its smaller opponents as much as $100,000 per basketball game and $800,000 for football games to compete in Lexington, Ky., Barnhart said.

He also discussed the pressure to win cycle that leads to fired coaches having their contract bought out, new coaches demanding higher salaries and ticket prices rising to absorb the costs, which makes fans crave winning seasons and reject coaching staff who cannot turn around programs in as little as two years. And compared to hiring professors and other academics or administrators for which search committees can take six months without batting an eye, if an athletic program cannot hire a new head coach within nine to 12 days, it is chastised and doomed, Barnhart said.

“I don’t want to miss an opportunity to help our young people learn, grow and succeed,” he said.

To accomplish this, DeBauche asserted that administrators and athletic officials must “take control of the conversation, be consistent in our behavior and do what we say” when it comes to enforcing the ethical landscape of college athletics.

“We have a huge responsibility to ensure that college athletics are conducted in alignment with the higher education institution’s mission,” Beebe said. Click here to view the taped panel conversation in its entirety.

This is the second time the ethics center and the University have hosted an ‘Integrity in Sports’ panel. In 2013, Men’s basketball coaches from Division I private universities Belmont, Vanderbilt and Butler, along with ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes, shared their perspectives on the changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics and maintaining integrity and honor amid growing pressures to win.

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