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Athletic Department irks advisory committee

By Austen Hufford, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 3, 2012

For some faculty members, the announcement of Michigan’s matchup against the University of South Carolina in the Outback Bowl has been overshadowed by the operating practices of the University Athletic Department.

Faculty members at Monday’s meeting of the University’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs said there was a lack of faculty input concerning important decisions made by the Athletic Department, claiming faculty members were not consulted about the recent decision to expand the Big Ten Conference.

Faculty members on the Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics lamented over the relationship between the Athletic Department and faculty members at the meeting.

The ABIA — whose members are appointed by University President Mary Sue Coleman and approved by the University’s Board of Regents — includes faculty members, alumni, Michigan athletes, an executive officer and Athletic Director Dave Brandon. Committee members meet regularly to discuss substantive athletic department matters.

According to its bylaws, the committee serves an advisory role to the athletic director who “will seek and consider the advice of the Advisory Board on all major financial and policy decisions with respect to the program on intercollegiate athletics.”

Professors at the meeting alleged that the Athletic Department did not consult the ABIA on the addition of the Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten Conference.

“I happen to think that the implications of expanding the conference ... are significant academic matters, and I was personally very disappointed when I heard it on the radio,” Political Science Prof. Edie Goldenberg, an ABIA member, said.

A primary concern among professors in attendance was that the Athletic Department did not consider the well-being of student athletes. Goldenberg specifically noted that the addition of the two East Coast schools could burden students with long travel times.

ABIA members also claimed that other proposals, such as adding new sports teams or changes to ticket prices, are consistently neglected to be mentioned to the council until after a decision is made.

“We hear about it afterwards,” Communication Studies Prof. Rowell Huesmann, an ABIA member, said.

“(Brandon) cut the number of meetings down dramatically, but he made them longer. So, they tend to be presentations by him and his staff to us about things that are already pretty (decided),” Goldenberg said.

The Athletic Department did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Some professors said Brandon’s role as chair and his control over the agenda for ABIA is the reason it has not fulfilled its role. Medical School Prof. Charles Koopmann, a SACUA member who also formerly served on the ABIA, said the University is an “outlier” because it does not have a professor serve as the chair of the committee.

“Whoever sets the agenda, sets the meeting,” Koopman said. “It would be at least a reasonable accommodation to have the SACUA chair or a faculty member sitting down with the athletic director and jointly setting up an agenda.”

ABIA member Michael Imperiale, a Medical School professor, pointed out that Brandon does not have a vote and that the committee is meant to advise the athletic director.

“My sense is that it’s not our job to micromanage the Athletic Department,” Imperiale said. “I think we need to remember that while these are student athletes and while we do look after the student athletes, really this is the Athletic Department and it’s not an academic unit.”


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