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NCAA Division I Certification

by: Ricardo Duran   (May 2003)

The University of California, Riverside has begun a yearlong campus-wide effort to study its athletics program as part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I athletics certification program.

The study will look at several aspects of the athletics program, including its fiscal and academic integrity, its governance, its compliance with NCAA rules and its commitment to gender equity, student-athlete welfare and sportsmanship.

UC Riverside became an NCAA Division I institution in Fall 2001. The current self-study will be part of the first certification process for the campus.

The certification program is relatively recent. Following a pilot project, the Division I membership overwhelmingly supported the program and its standards at the 1993 NCAA Convention. At the 1997 Convention the Division I membership voted to change the frequency to athletic
certification from once every five years to once every 10 years and to require a five-year interim-status report.

"This process helps us take a close look at our operations and identity what we're doing right, and what we need to work on to do better in the future, " said Paula Smith, UCR associate athletics director and supervisor of women's athletics.

The NCAA is a membership organization of colleges and universities that participate in intercollegiate athletics. The primary purpose of the association is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program, and the athlete as an integral part of the student body. Activities of the NCAA membership include drafting rules of play for NCAA sports, conducting national championships, adopting and enforcing standards of eligibility, and studying all phases of
intercollegiate athletics.

Certification is important as a way to ensure that each campus involved in NCAA intercollegiate competition upholds the organization's standards for fiscal and academic integrity; and its standards for equity, student-athlete welfare, and sportsmanship.

There are three certification statuses: a) certified, b) certified with conditions, and c) not certified. Universities are permitted to correct deficiencies in their programs to achieve certified status. Those that do not take corrective action will, however, be ruled ineligible for NCAA championships.

"Most campuses wind up in the certified-with-conditions status but we, of course, will be aiming for a clear certification," said Bob Gill, executive assistant to the chancellor and chair of the UC Riverside certification steering committee. "I think the program becomes stronger because of this rigorous review."

The certification program's purpose is to help ensure integrity in the institution's athletics operations. It opens up athletics to the rest of the college or university community and to scrutiny by the outside community. Institutions benefit by increasing campus-wide awareness and knowledge of the athletics program, confirming its strengths and developing plans to improve areas of concern.

"It is very important that we demonstrate that we're in compliance with all the NCAA rules and that we have the fiscal integrity needed to compete at the intercollegiate level in Division I," said Athletic Director Stan Morrison. "It's a big change to Division I, for instance our budget has gone from roughly $1.5 million to $5.5 million in the past five years."

The self-study review involves people across a wide swath of the campus, who have been organized into five working groups.

The guiding group is the Steering Committee at UC Riverside, which is responsible for the study. It includes Chancellor France A. Córdova; Gill, chair of the steering committee; and 18 other faculty, staff, and students, including Athletics Department staff.

A member of the NCAA membership services staff has already provided the committee and subcommittee members with a one-day orientation to the process.

UC Riverside has also formed four athletic certification subcommittees charged with looking into areas of governance and rules compliance; academic integrity; fiscal integrity; and gender equity, student-athlete welfare and sportsmanship.

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