by Amanda Bertholf // Spring 2012

Our panel

Tim Hall
Director of athletics at UMKC
Since 2007, he has served as a member of the chancellor’s executive cabinet and leads the strategic direction in growing UMKC’s intercollegiate athletics program.

Janet Justus
Intercollegiate athletics consultant
Formerly senior associate athletics director at UMKC, she’s an expert in rules compliance and gender equality.

Joshua Snyder
Associate athletics director at UMKC
He ensures that individuals and groups representing the institution’s athletics programs comply with institutional, conference and NCAA regulations.

Perspectives: Do you think that college athletics is getting a bad reputation?

Tim Hall: The good that’s happening far outweighs the bad. There are some challenges, and the higher education and governing bodies are working to rectify those situations. But you can point to a number of wonderful things that are happening in intercollegiate athletics. But, again, a few high profile, unfortunate circumstances lead to a black eye on the larger body.

Janet Justus: There are 450,000 student athletes who participate in NCAA sports. So when you have a handful of incidents like those at Ohio State or Penn State, it’s easy for people to just point and say, “Well, all college athletics is bad.” And besides being bad logic, it’s just not true, and we know the wonderful stories, particularly here at UMKC, of student athletes who are good students and are doing what they need to do, and who are some of the best leaders and will be future leaders in our world. And there’s no doubt in my mind that it builds some of the best leaders around.

Josh Snyder: I’m not banging on the media whatsoever because they’re just doing their jobs and their jobs are to sell subscriptions to newspapers and get viewers, but, unfortunately, in our society, bad stories are bigger press than the good stories. And, not saying that the good stories don’t ever get press, sometimes they do, they’re not going to gain the national attention as the bad ones. But when you see stories about boosters paying people or student athletes that have gotten in trouble with the law, that’s the story that becomes the national attention. And, as Janet said, hundreds of thousands of student athletes are doing the right thing every day and are model citizens and great students and are doing great things in the community, and the athletics departments have their values in the right place. But it only takes one or two to have those big stories. Now that said, I don’t want you to think athletics has a bad reputation. I think a lot of people do realize that’s an anomaly or that it’s just one story or two stories or whatever. Now they might be really big and they might grab your attention but I think most people realize that across the board that’s not necessarily the problem. And if you look, even in these tough financial times we’ve had over the past few years, athletics departments are growing, people are still going to games, they’re still attending televisions huge business, so you know, that reputation I think may not be quite accurate, but certainly, yes, the headlines are the unfortunate stories.

Tim: One of the challenges that we have to work through, especially at our level as a major athletic program, is the commercialism piece. In my time here, since March 2007, commercialism in athletics has gone in a direction that I didn’t think I’d see it go as fast as it has. And so, because of TV and the presence that athletics has in our lives, there’s an expectation for the intercollegiate athletic entity that an individual supports, that entity will be the one that rights all the wrongs in their lives. There are people who base how their week is going to go on whether State U won on Saturday or not. Commercialism plays a role in skewing what the real core values are in intercollegiate athletics.

Do you think that the attention being focused on these incidents hurts the students in the system who are model student athletes? Do you think that that reflects poorly on them?

Janet: I think that we have a more educated population than that. I was reading The Chronicle of Higher Education the other day, and there was a survey of campuses and faculty members on their support for college athletics, and it was overwhelming. And sometimes, that’s just one snapshot of our population, but it’s a good population to survey because they have a stake in this system in terms of representing the university. If it were hurting all the other student athletes on a widespread basis, I think we wouldn’t have those kinds of surveys. It’s easy for people just to say “all is bad,” and spread that kind of propaganda, than looking at statistics and at the actual individuals that you meet on a day to day basis when you’re on a campus. Student athletes are a valuable asset to a campus.

Is there anything within the system that needs to be fixed?

Josh: Every year, the NCAA tries to fix things that are an issue. They’re looking at every rule and considering is it enforceable, is it consequential, and does it benefit student athletes? And if it answers those three things, then it’s a good piece of legislation and they keep it around. And if it doesn’t answer those three things in a positive way, it may or may not be. Some of it might be, but in many cases maybe its not, so why do we have this on the books? Why are we spending resources enforcing it? And as we’ve all mentioned, the student athletes across the board would mimic the population. They’ve always been leaders. They’ve always been overachievers. They’ve always been hard workers. They’re focused, they’re driven, and with all those things in mind, they have goals, some of them are to be professional athletes, most of them are not. But they want to get their degree, they want to achieve, they want to be successful. Many former student athletes are extremely successful people because they have always been the front of the class, they’ve always been the leader. Then they get to college and on top of having all those things already going for them, we force them to manage their time as well as anyone possibly could because they’re busy 16 to 18 hours a day. We have tutors and mentors and we have programs in place and they are continually put in positions to succeed and to go with what they already have, which is an innate characteristic. And so, when we, circling back a little bit, but when we have those pieces of legislation geared towards those little things that become headlines, we sometimes lose focus.

The system as it is now, is it supporting the student athlete that you described, the one that is masterfully managing their time and going to class? Or is it failing the ones that do well?

Janet: I think it’s supporting those, successfully. And those are the stories that don’t make the headlines.

Tim: The system is extremely supportive to those 98%. As with anything there’s going to be that percentage that for whatever reason, its not working or they cant figure it out. If bad things are going to happen, then the challenge that the NCAA has and that campuses have is how do you prepare yourself to be able to handle those challenges when they happen? And I think that there has been some things unfortunately recently in our business that people wouldn’t have thought that those types of things would happen, so how do you handle those things as they come about? There are challenges that are hitting us in the business probably a little bit quicker than we are able to turn around and provide solutions to. One example is proposed legislation coined “cost of attendance”—permissive legislation that would allow us to give all fully scholarshipped athletes an additional $2,000 to help them bridge that gap between what the full cost attending college is. That is a response to situations where a few student athletes are out selling merchandise and game jerseys.

A penny saved for retirement
Green with envy

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