NAICU Washington Update

Knight Commission Calls for Greater Focus on Health, Safety and Treatment of College Athletes

September 11, 2014

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, co-chaired by NAICU member president R. Gerald Turner of Southern Methodist University, met in Washington D.C. on September 8 to hear practitioners and experts share policy updates on new health and safety initiatives for student-athletes. Commission members and panelists also discussed ideas that could help guide future changes in college sports, including the treatment of athletes.

Health and Safety

Brian Hainline, M.D, chief medical officer of the NCAA shared with the Commission, which includes several NAICU members, an array of research projects and initiatives the Association is working on, including:

  • A $30 million partnership with the Department of Defense to conduct baseline testing and concussion event monitoring of all athletes. A coalition of 14 colleges, including NAICU member Princeton University, are taking part in the research.
  • Expanding the health focus beyond concussions. Dr. Hainline offered insights on mental health issues, overuse injuries caused by early specialization in particular sports, high school and college sports pre-season physical exams, and alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Seeking better data to more clearly understand the extent of these health issues. Citing sudden cardiac arrest, accidents, and suicide as the top three causes of death in collegiate sports, Dr. Hainline emphasized the importance of creating a system of standard data collection in order to capture critical health related information.

Sustainability of Collegiate Athletics

The remainder of the meeting was centered on the shape and sustainability of collegiate sports. Oliver Luck, the Athletic Director at West Virginia University, spoke about enhancing the value of athletic scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance. He also addressed the need for better mental health benefits, including post-graduation and career training for athletes. While discussing revenue generation, Luck believes that, with greater promotion, non-revenue sports like soccer and baseball could become, if not revenue producing, revenue neutral for athletic departments.

Sandy Hatfield Clubb, the Athletic Director at Drake University, offered their approach as a model that balances academics, culture, and athletics. According to Hatfield Clubb, Drake takes a co-curricular approach to athletics. Universities, she says, should clearly state they are providing opportunities to participate in sports as a platform for intellectual development. Each Drake student-athlete, for example, signs the Bulldog Way playbook demonstrating a commitment to the school’s approach. That approach focuses on excellence, effort, and accountability. As an example of the co-curricular approach, Hatfield Clubb referenced the foreign travel taken by the Drake football team to Tanzania. In addition to playing the game, the players and coaches built and repaired schools and orphanages in and around the villages

MORE News from NAICU