Intercollegiate athletics at an NCAA member institution involves many people and most of their roles are clearly defined. An NCAA student-athlete is a student who participates at least once at the institution. A head coach is the person tasked with running all aspects of the team, and his/her assistant coaches are there to help both the head coach and the student-athletes. Athletic trainers take care of the health and safety of the student-athletes, and athletic administrators are responsible for the overall department strategies, goals, and management. All of these roles focus on the “athlete” part of the student-athlete, but what about the “student”? The student is supposed to come before the athlete, but whose role is it to make sure it does? Is it the Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR)?
The NCAA defines the Faculty Athletics Representative as “a member of an institution’s faculty or administrative staff who is designated by the institution’s president or chancellor or other appropriate entity to represent the institution and its faculty in the institution’s relationships with the NCAA and its conference(s),” (NCAA Manual, 2010, p. 20). The NCAA further clarifies that
“An individual so designated after January 12, 1989, shall be a member of the institution’s faculty or an administrator who holds faculty rank and shall not hold an administrative or coaching position in the athletics department. Duties of the faculty athletics representative shall be determined by the member institution”. (NCAA Manual, 2010, p. 45).
The definition enables individual institutions to frame the role of the FAR in a manner that best fits its needs, but the focus is on the institution, its faculty, its conference and the NCAA, which still leaves the student-athlete out of the equation.
It goes without saying that coaches want their players to succeed both in and out of the playing arena; even if the only reason is so that the players remain eligible to play. However, when jobs are lost based on what happens in the playing arena, it’s only natural for the coaches to emphasize winning. Academic success is rarely, if ever, part of a coach’s contract negotiations. If a coach gets a bonus because his team’s grade point average is over 3.0 it’s not something that’s reported in the media, but bonuses for winning conference championships, advancing in post season play or being named coach of the year are front page news. At the same time, if a player becomes ineligible for academic reasons, the coach is the first one to be blamed, but what about the FAR?
According to the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association they are “A faculty voice ensuring balance between academics and athletics for the benefit of the student-athlete,” (Faculty Athletics, 2007, para. 1). Benefits can be derived in many different ways, but maybe it’s time that student-athletes’ academic benefits become a stronger focus for all.
Pamela J. Wojnar, EdD
Dr. Wojnar is the Chair of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy. She has worked in higher education for over 20 years holding positions such as athletic director, sports information director, head women’s basketball coach, assistant women’s volleyball coach, and compliance officer. She has also served on various NCAA committees.
Faculty Athletics Representative Association website, Retrieved January 4, 2011 from http://www.farawebsite.org/default.asp.
NCAA Division I Manual (2010-2011). Published by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, Indiana, Retrieved January 3, 2011 from www.ncaa.org.