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UNC panel pushes reforms to college athletics

September 3, 2013

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A panel created by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says the Tar Heels and other schools should require academically at-risk students to sit out of games during their first year.

The panel was reviewing the balance between academics and athletics at UNC, which has faced a series of athletics-related scandals over the past three years. Its report, released Tuesday, issued 28 recommendations to the school covering everything from improved oversight and academic support for athletes to maintaining “responsible” spending for athletics operations.

Former UNC chancellor Holden Thorp appointed Hunter R. Rawlings III, the president of the Association of American Universities, in August 2012 to lead the panel. The panel, which included Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany, said in its report that it hoped the proposals would be adopted by schools across the country and not just at UNC.

The “year of readiness” proposal would apply to at-risk athletes who arrive on campus as “special admissions,” though they would retain four years of competitive eligibility after sitting out that first year. In addition, the panel suggested that schools limit the number of hours an athlete spends weekly in competition or practices, particularly for at-risk athletes.

Among the recommendations: having conferences or the NCAA implement “spending caps” on some sports for operating expenses; having more transparency regarding the specifics of athletics budgets; and ensuring the admissions office has the final say in decisions on athlete admissions as it does with non-athletes.

“We think it’s crucial universities now take (reforms) as a very high priority because in fact I think our panel believes we’re at a tipping point in intercollegiate athletics,” said Rawlings, former president of the University of Iowa and Cornell University. “And the tipping point comes now because there’s so much revenue pouring into intercollegiate athletics and the budgets for universities’ academics programs have been so tight in the past few years that it’s out of balance.”

The panel also suggests that UNC or the Atlantic Coast Conference develop a mandatory education program for coaches with topics ranging from a school’s academic programs to coaching ethics.

The panel members were: Rawlings; Delany; Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics; Robert Malekoff, associate professor and chair of the Sport Studies Department at Guilford College; and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, former associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

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