Presented 2/13/02
Approved 2/13/02
Athletic Board
Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Holmes Student Center Room #406, 1:00 p.m.

Present:  Gip Seaver (Chair), Nestor Osorio, Paul Bauer, Debbie Brue, Ray Dembinski, Dave La Cerra, Cary Groth, Earl Hansen, Ken Olson, Brian Scholle, George Shur, Marcia Dick, Ray Tourville, Joe True.

Guests:  Sheila Berg, Athletics Business Manager; Scott Lowenberg, Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing.

I.     Call to Order Ė Gip Seaver

II.    Approval of October 17, 2001 Meeting Minutes

Earl Hansen made a motion to approve the October 17, 2001 meeting minutes.  Robert Wheeler seconded the motion.  Earl submitted one correction and having no further discussion, the motion was carried.

III.     Committee Reports

A.     Budget

Gip said for everyoneís benefit, the agenda would contain committee charges to remind them for the rest of this year.

Ray Tourville began discussion by saying that the first quarterly report does not provide a great deal of information because not much activity has taken place.  The departmentís position remains the same in this report and is still trying to address the deficit.  Ray then referred the Board members to the cover memo.  The second quarterly report has not yet been seen.  Cary Groth said that we are approximately $20,000 under gate.  Licensing revenues are up due, in large part, to the new logo.  We have done better than last year and are continuing to make progress on the gate.  Sheila Berg pointed out that she has been unable to move forward with the second quarterly report because the reports necessary have just recently been received in her office.  It is her intention to move forward on this as quickly as possible.

B.     Gender Equity

Debbie Brue said the committee has met once and has done planning work on the survey to be administered.  Thanks to assistance from Dr. Wheeler, the survey is going to be administered to freshmen and sophomores in the residence halls.  The criteria have been discussed in light of what the Office for Civil Rights might expect.  The committee will work with Testing Services.  It is also the committeeís intention to meet very soon and run a small pilot survey.  Approximately 2,000 to 2,500 surveys will be distributed.

Cary said she received notification from the NCAA Committee on Certification that the parameters for gender equity and diversity will no longer be part of the certification process.

C.     Scheduling

No report.  Discussion arose regarding the scheduling policy as it relates to Division 1A criteria.  Athletics made decisions to compete against Western Illinois University this year.  In a 12-game season, five games must be against 1A opponents.  Dave LaCerra asked if 12-game schedules will be the norm for football now.  Cary said it would not be every year but between now and 2010, football has four 12-game seasons.  Cary went on to say that the proposed 1A criteria may not even go forward.

D.     Student Welfare

No report.  The committee has not yet met.

E.     Public Relations

Gip related that this committee will be formed today after discussion about athletics marketing but it will not be a standing committee.  The committeeís charge will be to look at public relations as it relates to 1A criteria.

IV.     New Business
A.     Marketing and Promotions Report Ė Scott Lowenberg

Scott stated that his purpose today is to provide background on public relations in general and 1A in particular.  He is the assistant athletics director for marketing and prior to being here, he worked at the University of Maine and the University of Southern Mississippi.

For many years, NIU intercollegiate athletics has provided good entertainment.  It is clear that Scottís priority in marketing is to generate revenue.   The goals, up to now, have been a bit unclear, but Scottís main focus now is to generate revenue.

He has met with quite a few community members and has discussed what things work and what things do not.  There is a lot of potential here and Scott is working with Cary, Sports Information, and Development staffs to development marketing plans to address football attendance and also marketing of menís and womenís basketball.

At this time, the Marketing and Promotions office is down to two staff members but a candidate was recently interviewed for the Coordinator of Marketing and Promotions position.  The individual interviewed is strong in ticket sales, and licensing and branding.  With the hiring of this new staff member, Scott will also focus on corporate sponsorships and establishing business relationships.  The cost for a corporate sponsorship is $15,000 and it is Scottís hope to get 10 sponsors at that level over the next three years.  He wants to do more marketing than promotions.  The key is to sell tickets to alums, past purchasers, and through telemarketing.

The convocation center is also a big part of Scottís responsibilities because football and convocation center marketing happen at the same time.  Tammy Campbell will continue to work on womenís basketball and volleyball, primarily.  All the marketing and promotions staff members will work on football marketing plans.

An important upcoming event is the Last Hurrah at Evans Field House on Saturday, February 23.  A letter has gone to the basketball alumni to encourage them to attend the menís and womenís games that day.  The womenís game begins at 2:05 pm, there is a menís basketball alumni game at 5:00, followed by the menís basketball game at 7:05 pm.  The marketing and promotions staff will hit this event heavily.

Scott then opened the floor to questions.  Brian Scholle asked if plans are in place to market to the students.  Scott said his office does have plans to market to both current and former students.

George Shur said we need to change the culture of the student body.  He understands that MAC schools, Miami (OH) specifically, utilized their marketing department on campus to put together teams of students to work on a marketing plan for intercollegiate athletics.  George wonders if we have considered that department on our campus as a resource.  Scott said he has talked about doing something like this at NIU.  Cary said an offer has been made on campus for assistance to the athletics department.

Earl Hansen then stated he belongs to a professional organization that hosts a conference, which brings in between 800 and 2200 people and if Scott would like to get involved to market NIU sports at that event,  Earl would welcome that.

Gip went on to ask about the lack of halftime and timeout entertainment at the basketball games this year and whether there was a deliberate decision not to do them.  Scott said we will probably end up somewhere in the middle.  We want to have a more collegiate atmosphere at the game.  It all goes back to bringing in revenue.  We are spending a lot on halftime but not bringing in new ticket revenues.

We must also go after the alumni.  Student attendance at football is wonderful but student attendance at basketball is not.  Winning helps and TV coverage will definitely help, but Scott is surprised at the amount of effort necessary in the local media market to get NIU covered but we must keep the contacts going.   Cary brought up that we are initiating the Pup Club.  Anyone under the age of 12 gets into any Huskie event free of charge.  We want to market to young families; they must be addressed.  We must develop a way to make our events affordable because it is very expensive to bring a family to athletics events.  We have researched our attendance figures and found that we have never done better than 17,000; however, we are moving in the right direction.  Athletics appreciates having someone with experience in this marketing position.  Cary said Scott will come back with football marketing plans at a future meeting.

Gip added that three people had originally expressed an interest in working on the PR committee.  We currently have Ray Tourville, Nestor Osorio, Keith Lambrecht, George Shur, and Brian Scholle.  Gip asked Nestor to take charge of getting the committee together for a meeting.

B.     NIU/NCAA Eligibility Requirements

Ray Dembinski began discussion by reporting that if you go back to the time when Dick Durfee and Nancy Vedral were here, they did some work on policies regarding student-athlete eligibility which were, at the time, more restrictive than the NCAA requirements.  They were geared toward increasing student-athletes getting through and earning a degree at NIU and established a number of checkpoints to monitor the athletesí progress.  In 1993-94, the NCAA put into place policies relating to GPA, test scores, cutoff points for initial eligibility, minimum core requirements for high school, and progress toward degree standards which were for the same purpose of increasing the likelihood that over five years, student-athletes would get their degree.

What has happened to NIU over the last three to four years is that we have begun to identify cases where the intent of both the NCAA and NIU policies is the same but NIUís procedures create stumbling blocks that aggravate the process.

With the help of Registration and Records, Ray has developed a chart showing the comparison of NCAA and NIU policies.  Ray would like the Board to move forward in making the policies the same.  With the current policies in place, it is difficult for Registration and Records to calculate eligibility because of existing software issues.  To some extent, the shifting of policies may reduce the hours needed to do these calculations.

Registration and Records, Ray Dembinski, Bobbie Cesarek (Compliance Officer), and representatives from the Student Financial Aids Office meet once per month and review issues that relate to eligibility and financial aid.  Up to now, the meetings have been very amicable and no group is trying to take advantage of another.  There are areas that need to be addressed, however, and this group will continue to do so.  Gip said he would send the matrix out with these meeting minutes because he wants to share this information with the student welfare subcommittee.

Discussion then ensued regarding some particular examples of this issue and also how excess hours are counted for students.  Registration and Records uses a fairly rigid approach when looking at the catalogue language for limits on certain categories of hours.  Paul Bauer asked if this is an issue.  Cary said when the Board initially put these policies in place, it was wonderful; however, it has changed.  Students donít stay with the intended majors.  Another issue is with changing majors because athletes cannot transfer all their hours.  Cary feels that the policies should be reviewed each time the NCAA legislation changes.  We must keep in mind that the student-athletes need to move toward a degree within a five or six year window.  Anything else needs to be looked at because, ultimately, we donít want to disadvantage the athletes.

Gip said Athletics hopes to bring this issue to light.  This is why the student welfare subcommittee can review it and bring information back to the Board.  The chart will help show the areas of inconsistency.

Discussion then arose as to the issue of the Bachelor of General Studies degree and whether the NCAA defines that as a major.  If they donít, what is there to prevent an institution from letting a whole group of students into that situation.  Cary said institutional integrity would prevent that situation.

Gip then ended the discussion by reminding the Board that this issue will be addressed at a later meeting.

C.     Report on NCAA Convention

Ray reported that the most interesting discussion at the convention centered on the topics of initial eligibility and continuing eligibility standards.  The research group within the NCAA collected academic data going back to 1994 and then followed that cohort for six years.  The data are now available.

Looking at athletes only, for the group entering in 1994, almost 2/3 who earned less than a 1.8 GPA their freshman year left the institution by the end of their second year.  3% of the students who graduated had less than a 1.8 GPA their freshman year.  The data also indicate that 2/3 of the student-athletes earning less than 24 credit hours per year leave by the end of their second year.

As it is now, for initial eligibility, a student-athlete must have a high school diploma, must have completed 13 core courses, have GPA and test scores at a certain level based on a sliding scale.  Continuing eligibility requires passing 24 hours within 12 months with 75% of those hours earned during the academic year, and making satisfactory progress of 25%/50%/75%.

Proposed criteria include, among other things, increasing the core course requirement from 13 to 14.  The data show the average core course background for incoming student-athletes is 18 core courses.  The GPA requirement for initial eligibility would remain at 2.0 but reconfigure test scores on a sliding scale option.  High school grades are two to three times more accurate at predicting success in the first year.

Earl Hansen asked if a student-athlete achieved a 1.8 GPA here they would be placed on academic probation or dismissed.   Ray said this is a moot point for athletes because if they are on academic probation, they are ineligible for competition.

The 25%/50%/75% rule may go to 40%/60%/80% by the third year.  The question arose as to how this would affect students who change majors.  Ray responded that the intent of the 40%/60%/80% rule is to take into consideration individual cases when a student in good standing switches majors.  There is a great deal of conversation yet to be had on this topic.  Cary cited an additional concern. If you have a freshman student who doesnít do well, the bounceback opportunity after the first year is a long way.  Right now, a student would have a chance.  The proposed standard would make it more difficult.  Monique Bernoudy and Sandra Hafner-Arnold from the Student-Athlete Support Services offices are reviewing these proposals and assessing the impact on our student-athletes.

Academically we serve our own students well.  Ray Dembinski said the MAC is a good home for us because the academic integrity is there.  Cary said perhaps it would be good to talk about an ďannual report cardĒ regarding retention and graduation rates.  The concern is for football and menís and womenís basketball.  The bigger targets are football and menís basketball.  The graduation rates there are not good and there is concern about that.  If a student-athlete leaves school early for any reason, their departure counts against the institutionís retention and graduation rates.

Cary went on to discuss the proposed Division 1A criteria and that there may be no going forward with them, leave things as they are, or go forward with the proposal and bring in another criteria outlining what it means to be a 1A conference.

Currently there is legislation that if we donít make attendance criteria, we would still qualify as 1A as long as 60% of the MAC institutions make their attendance.  The new criteria doesnít include a provision that would protect conferences and we donít know what would happen.  MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst feels the NCAA  will move forward and add a conference criterion.  It is important for us to remember at NIU that the proposed criteria are good for this institution.  The only one we donít currently meet is 15,000 actual bodies in the stands.  The athletics staff really likes the proposed criteria because they are broad based.

D.     February Board meeting

Gip stated that it looks as if the Board may have to deal with the athletics fee proposal and it may also be a good idea to start thinking about the NIU/NCAA comparison issue.  We meet as a full Board in February but the question comes up whether we can move the meeting from February 20 up to February 13.   If the Board is agreeable to moving the date, Cary offered to provide lunch and have the meeting in the Evans Field House Hall of Fame Room.  It was agreed by those present that the Board will meet from noon until 2:00 pm on February 13 in the Evans Field House Hall of Fame Room.

V.     Adjournment

Earl Hansen made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Ray Dembinski seconded the motion.  Carried unanimously.

The next meeting of the Athletic Board will be on Wednesday, February 13, 2002, at noon in the Evans Field House Hall of Fame Room.  The executive committee will meet on Wednesday, February 6, 2002, at 1:00 p.m. in the Evans Field House Conference Room.