Survey of Procedural Changes and Increased Oversight of Athletic Programs Article posted on September 23, 2013

In October of 2012, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges [AGB] released a report requiring a heightened oversight of college athletics primarily based on recent ethical issues arising from college sports. 1 Although the report provides only recommendations, urgency from the institutions is emphasized because the report also offers recommendations to the sanctioning groups, specifically to the NCAA. In order to prevent enforcement proceedings and harsh penalties from the NCAA, it becomes more imperative for schools to, not only take notice, but also implement some of the new standards suggested from the AGB.

Since the report was released nearly a year ago, some state institutions have clearly began incorporating the new changes into their previous standard operating procedures when dealing with athletic events. There are also many schools that have simply accepted the recommendations (such as Arkansas, 2 Idaho, 3 Kentucky, 4 Ohio, 5 South Carolina, 6 Virginia, 7 and Wisconsin 8), while others have strictly imposed the recommendations into statewide athletic policies (specifically Georgia, 9 Kansas, 10 Maryland, 11 Nevada, 12 and Pennsylvania 13).

This piece provides an overview of changes implemented since the report was released and after reviewing the new policies from the more active states, inevitably, there are common themes, drivers, and trends. In the summary from the AGB regarding the report, there are three broad recommendations for institutions, including the following 14:

  • The governing board is ultimately accountable for athletics policy and oversight and must fulfill this fiduciary responsibility.
  • The board must act decisively to uphold the integrity of the athletics program and its alignment with the academic mission of the institution.
  • The board must educate itself about its policy role and oversight of intercollegiate athletics.

As for the NCAA, the AGB suggested two broader recommendations 15:

  • Include in the NCAA rulebook stronger, more detailed statements about the responsibility that governing boards have for intercollegiate athletics in their institutions.
  • Take a stronger stance in addressing major violations and the root causes of infractions, and support institutions in making changes in a fundamental and sustained manner.

The AGB report declared one overarching theme: enhanced board oversight of college athletics. Because the theme is broad, it is left to the discretion of the individual state to outline alterations to existing policies in order to comply with the AGB 2012 Report recommendations. While each state may proceed in different manners, the Georgia Board of Regents outlined how they felt was best to alter their policies.

First, they determined that the establishment, expansion, changes, and funding of athletics are the four areas that ordinarily fall within athletics. If activity arises within any of these categories, the board must first give its approval before the institution can continue. Second, in order to receive approval, the institution must submit to the board a full proposal of the athletic plan. The new policy in Georgia requires the proposal to analyze key criteria including, but not limited to:

The submission of a five-year operational and capital plan; a record of support and approval for the plan by the campus, students and community…the analysis that demonstrates the implications of athletic programs on facilities; and requiring that all funds related to athletics be administered under the direct authority of the campus president. 16

While these changes to the policy in Georgia may seem to create a burden on the department of athletics, the information provided could bring positive fiscal awareness that may not have been present previously.

The Kansas Board of Regents has already experienced a rapid change in planning policies for athletic departments. In 2009, Kansas State experienced some financial inconsistencies in the athletic department, causing a reasonable suspicion to conduct internal audits of other state athletic departments. 17

At the University System of Maryland, they took notice of the recommendations from the AGB and described the issue in their Fiscal 2014 Budget Overview as “Strengthening Oversight and Accountability of Athletic Programs.” The Budget Overview overtly explains the policy changes as well as the ongoing deficit situation. Since the University System of Maryland is currently experiencing a massive budget discrepancy, it makes good business sense to tighten the policies that coincide with the institutions as a whole. The Maryland Board of Regents created an Intercollegiate Athletics Workshop that will be responsible in reviewing the athletics plan submitted for fiscal approval. 18 Similar to the University System of Georgia, a board evaluates the information; however, Maryland established an entirely separate entity specific to athletic issues.

In May of 2013, Nevada Board of Regents developed a lengthy resource document specifically aimed at increased oversight of intercollegiate athletic programs. Based on the AGB recommendations, the 40-page document highlights general board policies regarding athletics, issues regarding Athletic Directors and Coaches, oversight of athletic financial issues, oversight on internal controls and compliance programs, and lastly oversight of student-athlete welfare and campus culture issues. 19

Last, but certainly not least, the state of Pennsylvania was quick to abide by the recommendations from the AGB. Since the Penn State scandal in 2011, the University has been under close scrutiny by every sanctioning body in the nation. While many areas of reform have been tested, the higher education governing boards became more aware and better able to judge the financial issues linked to college athletics in the wake of the issues in 2011. 20 Despite the scandal, it appears that the state of Pennsylvania is moving the right direction in properly assessing ethical and financial issues associated with, and magnified by, athletic departments.

The report from the Association of Governing Boards, while providing only recommendations, reflects the urgent desire for increased accountability and oversight by states and institutions in order to avoid violations. Athletic departments may be well served to review a broad swath of these changes and evaluate whether adopting new policies will allow more time to implement the recommendations and proactively stay ahead of any coming mandates.


  15. Id.