As the endowed Alumni & Friends Professor of Accounting and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), I am entering my 22nd year on the faculty of UAB.
Last Wednesday, December 3, 2014, in an email entitled, “Shared Governance,” I received a request from the Faculty Senate asking in my role as Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR), if I was included in the discussions regarding the recent decision to eliminate sports at UAB.
I responded by email to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, providing a timeline outlining the extent of my involvement as FAR over the course of the last year in meetings with Carr Sports, a consulting group that I understood was retained to review the performance of the athletics program at UAB and propose strategies for improvement. I give permission to the group for that email to be distributed.
Thank you for this opportunity as UAB’s FAR to formally answer this request. I would like to give you a brief background on my duties as UAB FAR. Much of the initial information I am about to go over is taken directly from the NCAA’s Faculty Athletics Representative Handbook.
As a member of the NCAA, each University is required to have a FAR (NCAA Constitution 6.1.3). Faculty voices and influence have been present in the NCAA for as long as the NCAA has been in existence.
The term “faculty athletics representative” derives from NCAA usage and denotes the perceived need on the part of the NCAA to involve a faculty viewpoint in the administration of intercollegiate athletics programs.
I was officially appointed FAR by President Carol Garrison on October 1, 2008. A partial list of my documented UAB duties as FAR are as follows:
- The faculty athletics representative provides oversight and advice in the administration of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Athletics’ programs and plays a strategic role to ensure athletic integrity, institutional control of intercollegiate athletics, and enhancement of the student-athlete experience,
- Provides advice to the President and Provost that reflects the traditional values of the faculty, and which is rooted in the academic ethic of UAB,
- Promotes a balance between academics, athletics and the social lives of student athletes, and
- Serves as a bridge between the academic and athletic components of the university working to more fully integrate athletics into the overall educational mission of the university.
In my first meeting with President Watts in February, 2013, I provided him with a listing of FAR duties and a handout from the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association (FARA) entitled, “What College Presidents and Chancellors Need to Know – Faculty Athletics Representative.” Included in the FARA document that I gave to President Watts - it states that the FAR should be an integral part of decision making on athletics though “inclusion in discussions with the president and athletic administrators on important athletic matters.”
In that meeting we together went through my list of duties along with this handout. I wanted to make sure that President Watts fully understood the important role the FAR plays in athletic administration. He stated that he understood and was excited to be working with me as FAR. Since that time, I have continued to meet with President Watts on a regular basis to discuss with him various issues related to UAB athletics.
Several times in the past week I have been questioned about my involvement in the decision that was announced on December 2, 2014, to eliminate certain sports programs at UAB. The only way I know how to answer that question honestly and completely is to summarize the various meetings and discussions I have had since February 2013 regarding the future of UAB athletics:
- When President Watts became President in February 2013, we had a brief discussion regarding the viability of the football program, which was struggling at that time under Coach McGee. We did not discuss, nor was it proposed, that the football program should be eliminated. Since the arrival of Coach Clark, however, I have expressed to President Watts on many occasions that I believed that the football program was moving in the right direction and that with University support and Coach Clark’s leadership, excellence was achievable.
- In early 2014, I participated in three strategic planning sessions with Carr Sports (which were large group meetings). It was my understanding that the purpose of those sessions was to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the athletics programs at UAB and what it would take to improve them. There were no discussions during those sessions of eliminating any sports programs. It was my understanding that Carr Sports was going to prepare a strategic plan based on the discussions.
- In August 2014, I asked Athletic Director Brian Mackin about the status of the Carr Sports Strategic Plan and he informed that it had been delayed because of the changing governance structure taking place within the NCAA, which would apparently impact some financial aspects of the report.
- During my regular meetings with President Watts this year we did not discuss the possibility of eliminating any sports programs nor was I asked my opinion on such a topic. During my meeting with President Watts on November 13, 2014, I specifically asked him about the rumors regarding the elimination of the football program. President Watts informed me that the University was evaluating the Carr Sports Strategic Plan and that no decisions had been made regarding the elimination of any sports. I expressed my opinion at that meeting that all of our sports programs were very valuable to the University and asked to be involved in any decision to eliminate any of them.
- On Saturday, November 29, 2014, while at the football game with the University of Southern Mississippi, I asked AD Mackin about the Carr Sports Strategic plan, to which he replied that he had “done all he could do.” He would not elaborate further.
- Concerned about AD Mackin’s comments, I emailed President Watts and Allen Bolton, Vice President-Financial Affairs and Administration, indicating that as FAR I was receiving inquiries from faculty, staff, students and alumni regarding the athletics programs and that I would like to be a part of the process. VP Bolton emailed me back and indicated that I should be prepared to meet in the next day or two.
- On December 2, 2014 at 9:00 am, I met with VP Bolton, who informed me that for financial reasons, several sports, including football, were being eliminated and that a press conference would be held later that day. During that meeting, I expressed my opinion that eliminating these programs would have a significant impact on the faculty, staff, and students, as well as the City of Birmingham, and offered some alternatives. VP Bolton told me that he would express my opinions to President Watts.
I hope that I have addressed your question to your satisfaction. I believe that it is an important part of my role as your FAR to respond honestly to questions presented to me by the faculty about my duties. Through my statement here today, as well as the email I sent to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee last week, I have attempted to do that by providing you with my understanding of the facts regarding my involvement as FAR in the decision that was announced last week.
I trust that my efforts to fulfill my duties as FAR by responding truthfully to the faculty’s questions will not be viewed negatively by any of my colleagues at UAB. I plan to continue in my role as Faculty Athletics Representative to the best of my abilities and look forward to continuing to represent you, the faculty, our student-athletes and our University’s best interests.