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COIA aims to improve athletes' experiences

Duke’s athletic program ranks among the elite both on the field and in the classroom, and now members of the athletic administration are taking an active role in a national committee aimed at improving faculty interaction with student-athletes.

Formed in 2002, the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics is a group comprised of faculty representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities nationwide. Its stated primary goal is to find methods for faculty to strengthen intercollegiate sports, both academically and athletically.

“The basic position of the COIA is that because athletics exist within universities, faculty in general have to take a greater concern and have a greater participation in athletics,” said Kathleen Smith, Duke’s faculty athletic representative and its member on the steering committee.

Because of the nature of Duke’s academic requirements, Smith said she recognizes that the committee’s work does not directly impact the University.

“There’s a difference between a school that graduates 92 percent of its athletes and a school that graduates 50 percent of its athletes,” Smith said.

The main issues on COIA’s agenda are governance, finance and worries about academic intrusion. The coalition passed a resolution at its most recent meeting April 1 addressing five topics—admissions, scholarships, curricular integrity, the scheduling of competitions and academic advising. The resolution emphasized that schools should examine whether student-athletes are provided advantages through lower admissions standards and academic requirements.

It also highlighted the need for schools to correct problems regarding a student-athlete’s time management. In some of its harshest language, the resolutions executive summary states that, “In no way does a school more clearly signal an inappropriate prioritization of athletics over academics, than when it sends the message that training or competitions take priority over class attendance and coursework.” 

Beyond this single document, COIA sees its role as a lobbying group to advise university presidents. The coalition hopes to bring national awareness to issues and affect universities’ administrative control over athletics.

“Rather than an isolated voice,” Smith explained, “there is a unified voice. Together we can influence university presidents.”

NCAA President Myles Brand praised COIA for its efforts and championed its cause in a Feb. 14 statement.

“COIA members deserve credit for having researched and consulted widely about intercollegiate athletics, and these serious proposals aimed at improving the academic integrity in college sports are indicative of that effort,” Brand said. “I am confident that through efforts such as the one being undertaken by the COIA, the integrity of the academic-reform movement will be secure.”

Smith said the NCAA has gotten even more involved, considering COIA as a serious resource. She noted that several COIA members have been invited to meetings with Brand and other NCAA representatives.

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