Athletes and Academia
What is the place of athletics at Carolina?
By J. Steven Reznick
Our recent national championships in men’s basketball, women’s soccer and field hockey; our perennial strength in baseball, women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s tennis; our numerous successful Olympians; and our ongoing reemergence in football, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer highlight the overall competitive success of our 28 varsity squads.
This success on the field is complemented with comparable success in the classroom. The NCAA has established various metrics for assessing a squad’s academic performance on the basis of graduation rates, grades and progress towards degree. We monitor the data carefully, and all 28 of our varsity squads are consistently rated at impressive levels for all metrics. Indeed, the NCAA recently honored our baseball, men’s basketball, women’s fencing, women’s golf, men’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball teams with public recognition awards for their latest multi-year Academic Progress Rate scores.
Students choose to enroll at Carolina for various reasons, and our exciting athletics success is one of the many opportunities for engagement and entertainment within Carolina’s outstanding social fabric. Further, strong varsity sports create a context in which club sports, intramurals and recreational activities attain a high level of sophistication and participation. It is not coincidental that Lifetime Fitness is one of the “foundations” in our undergraduate curriculum!
My service on our Faculty Athletics Committee, our Undergraduate Admissions Committee and the Athletics Council has given me an intimate perspective on Carolina athletics, and the more I have seen, the more impressed I have become with our unwavering commitment to doing the right thing in the right way for the right reasons.
Carolina athletics fares extremely well in comparison to our competition, but the more important metric is our quality as viewed from various absolute perspectives.
Athletics at Carolina has been shaped in many ways by Athletics Director Richard “Dicky” Baddour, who followed John Swofford in 1997 when Mr. Swofford became Commissioner of the ACC. As Chancellor Hooker noted when Mr. Baddour was appointed, “Dick's familiarity with, and inside knowledge of, Carolina athletics made him the top choice.”
With a BA in economics and an MA in education, both from UNC; more than two decades of affiliation with the Athletics Department; and a moral compass that never drifts from the exemplary path, Mr. Baddour’s leadership has maintained integrity as the central component in Carolina athletics.
Leadership is not just a top-down phenomenon. The Carolina Leadership Academy, which was the first program of its kind in collegiate athletics, was designed by Mr. Baddour and Senior Associate Athletics Director John Blanchard to help our student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators develop leadership skills to enhance success on and off the playing field.
When Myles Brand celebrated the Academy’s first birthday in 2005, his praise was appropriately exuberant: “This is an excellent example of putting the value and values of college athletics to work in enhancing the leadership among those involved in college sports.”
On some campuses, the athletics department is essentially a free-standing castle protected by a moat and drawbridge. At Carolina, the athletics department collaborates with the broader University community on all major decisions.
For example, in 2004, Carolina confronted the possibility of using advertising at Kenan Stadium and the Smith Center to help balance the athletic department’s budget and make sure that our scholarship program and Olympic sports programs were strongly supported. A task force that included faculty, staff, students, trustees and alumni explored the issue; various campus constituency groups were consulted; and a carefully crafted resolution emerged recommending that advertising be introduced in a limited and tasteful way.
This open process, which addressed a serious financial challenge but balanced it with campus values, is not the modus operandi at many of the institutions that compete with us in the highest echelon of college athletics.
Another example of exemplary process is priority registration. Many of our peer institutions have an opaque system of priority registration in which student-athletes are allowed to register for courses before all other students. At Carolina, the policy that defines student groups who are eligible for priority registration was created by a task force representing a wide array of stakeholders. The Educational Policy Committee reviewed the policy, and the Faculty Council approved it by vote.
Student-athletes are one of many student groups at Carolina who may request permission to register before their classmates, but applications are scrutinized in a public meeting by a Priority Registration Advisory Committee composed of faculty, staff and students before priority registration opportunities are granted.
Finally, our Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee, composed of faculty, students and administrators, addresses issues regarding the use of the UNC logo on goods and apparel, including the monitoring of conditions under which these products are manufactured.
Athletics at Carolina includes a wide array of programs that encourage student-athletes to make meaningful contributions to our community. These programs include:
- The “Get Kids in Action” program in which student-athletes promote daily physical activity in elementary schools
- The “Carolina Dreams” program that partners student-athletes with children treated at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital
- Student-athlete participation in fund-raising events for various charities and community initiatives, averaging a total of over 20,000 hours of community service per year
The Department of Athletics also hosts various high school championships, which helps us attain our goal of providing service to the state.
The athletics department is also doing a great job of reaching out to members of our campus community to engage them in the broad world of athletics at Carolina. One prime example is the series of Faculty/Staff Family Days generously hosted by the athletics department with the goal of connecting faculty and staff with athletics department representatives and with the coaches and players of some of our less well known varsity sports.
The Family Day events held this semester at women’s basketball, women’s tennis, women’s and men’s lacrosse, baseball and softball were fun for all. I learned a lot about lacrosse from former men’s lacrosse coach and now Senior Associate Athletics Director Willie Scroggs in his “Lacrosse 101” presentation, and that knowledge has encouraged me to follow our men’s and women’s lacrosse teams through their impressive seasons.
Finally, please note that the Faculty Athletics Committee’s official
charge is “informing the faculty and advising the chancellor on any
aspect of athletics.” To that end, any member of our community with
questions or concerns about the place of athletics at Carolina can send
an e-mail to our Faculty Athletics Committee (FAC@unc.edu), and we will
My perspective on the exemplary role that Carolina athletics plays in our academic community is affected by my four decades of Carolina fanhood, but it also reflects the ample data that demonstrate excellence.
What is the place of athletics at Carolina? To quote Faculty Athletics Representative Jack Evans, “The success, stature, standards and values of our athletic program shape not only the way in which people identify with Carolina athletics, but also their long term affiliation with our prestigious University.”