Athletics committee chair concerned over group’s role

BY NINA EARNEST | MARCH 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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The head of the Presidential Committee on Athletics voiced concern over the group’s passive role at a Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday.

Ellen Herman, the chairwoman of the committee, gave the senators an overview of the committee’s work but also expressed frustration about its scope.

“If we don’t like what’s happening, there’s a question about what we can do about it anyway,” Herman told the senators.

In particular, she said the finance and facilities subcommittee has far less power now than in the past, when the group was called the Board of Control of Athletics. Then, it had sway over matters such as ticket prices. Now, members fill an advisory capacity.

University of Iowa administrators are in the process of conducting a review of committees throughout the university; they will meet with the group in April.

But after Tuesday’s meeting, Herman said she wouldn’t call the committee “counterproductive.”

Their biggest priority, she said, is student-athlete advocacy and making sure academics remained a major part of athletes’ college years.

Still, the committee occasionally doesn’t hear about larger issues before the public does, she said.

“It’s when athletics is making bigger projects that it’s in the paper or presented at the Board of Regents,” Herman said, citing some construction projects as an example.

This is not the first time committee members expressed concern relating to their access to information.

Earlier this month, some committee members were concerned about the lack of information they were given after 13 football players were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis following an intense workout.

Jeffrey Cox, a presidential committee member and history professor, said the issue isn’t whether or not the committee serves in an advisory capacity but whether the administration and Athletics Department consult the panel before tackling projects.

“Not only that, we’re just kept in the dark about things,” he said. “That’s another issue. If we’re going to have an advisory committee, we should be informed.”

During the meeting, journalism Professor and senator Judy Polumbaum told representatives that she had tried to broach the subject of adding an academic surcharge to athletics ticket prices when she served on the committee, but the idea was quickly shot down then. She suggesting discussing the possibilty again.

“It would be a perennial reminder [that] athletics at the University of Iowa is built on the University of Iowa,” she said about directing a ticket surcharge to the general education fund.

Other senators said they would like Herman to address a possible surcharge at the next meeting.

Cox said he had no opinion on that possibility, but said he appreciated that UI athletics is self-sustaining and doesn’t rely on state funding.

“Not many universities are that fortunate,” Cox said.

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