Presented 1/16/02
Approved 1/16/02
Athletic Board
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Gabel Hall #148, 1:00 p.m.

Present:  Gip Seaver (Chair), Nestor Osorio, Debbie Brue, Ray Dembinski, Dave LaCerra, Cary Groth, Earl Hansen, Keith Lambrecht, Jeff Parness, Robert Wheeler, George Shur, Marcia Dick, Ray Tourville, Nolan Davis, Sarah Hammer.

Guests:  Sheila Berg, Athletics Business Manager; Monique Bernoudy, Associate Athletics Director; Sandra Hafner-Arnold, Assistant Director, Student-Athlete Support Services; Josh Branen, SASS; Megan Chiavini, SASS; Amy Kise, SASS.

I.     Call to Order – Dr. Gip Seaver

II.    Approval of September 19, 2001 Meeting Minutes

Ray Dembinski made a motion to approve the September 19, 2001 meeting minutes.  Ray Tourville seconded the motion.

Several corrections to the minutes were submitted to the secretary.  Having no further discussion regarding the minutes, the motion was carried.

III.    Student-Athlete Support Services Presentation

Gip began by asking Cary Groth to provide an overview of the SASS unit.  Cary began by saying Monique Bernoudy and her staff are at today’s meeting to give an overview of the services they provide.  Cary commended this staff as being one of the best we have assembled in that unit.   They are quality people with good experience who are making a difference in the lives of our student-athletes.

Monique Bernoudy was hired three years ago and one of the things that was done was to evaluate where the unit is and where they needed to be.  The first task was the restructuring of the unit.  It needed to change in order to allow them to move forward not only because of the past but for the future.  Monique then introduced Sandy Hafner-Arnold and asked her to provide a brief overview of the unit.

Sandy is an assistant athletics director for the unit.  When she came to SASS, the need for additional staff was apparent.  They have received good support from the university and Cary Groth which allowed them to assemble the staff here today.  With SASS’s support, the student-athletes have achieved the highest cumulative GPAs in the last nine years and the office of Registration and Records has stated the unit is in the best shape it has been in with regard to monitoring athletes’ eligibility.  75% of the athletes took advantage of early access registration in the first day but SASS staff members want to move beyond that figure.

In terms of Monique’s responsibilities, she is working with our exhausted eligibility athletes who are continuing to work toward their degree.  She has also developed a program tailored to the African-American student-athletes.  A major focus for the future is our CHAMPS/LifeSkills program.

Sandy’s role with the unit has changed.  She oversees advising and the day-to-day operation of the program.  She also advises sport teams and is the coordinator for the CHAMPS/LifeSkills program.

Amy Kise was hired in July, 2001.  She is an academic coordinator but also the education specialist, which is a new position this year.  There are approximately 25 – 30 athletes who have been diagnosed learning disabled or who have problems learning.  Amy is also the liaison with PAWS and the tutoring program.

Josh Branen is an academic coordinator responsible for four to five teams and study table.  He has done a great job in these areas.

Megan Chiavini is also an academic coordinator responsible for four to five teams and works with screening and testing all incoming student-athletes.  The athletes are required to do a reading comprehension test and provide a writing sample.  Megan also works with Monique on the Permission to Recruit evaluation.

In addition to the staff members who are here today, the SASS office also employs three graduate assistants and a wonderful secretary.

Next year, with the move to the Convocation Center, there will be space for the athletes to study.  Currently, we have evening study table at Founders Library.  It is good to integrate with the rest of the student body and this is an opportunity to enhance study skills.

Sandy went on to say that Amy Kise has done a good job building the tutoring program.  We want to make sure the tutors are aware of the rules and regulations as they relate to the NCAA.  Our tutors are available to meet with the athletes at study table, one-on-one, and also through a relationship we have with ACCESS on campus.

Sandy then highlighted the CHAMPS/LifeSkills program.  It deals with five main areas:  academic excellence, athletic excellence, community service, personal development, and career development.  A CHAMPS/LifeSkills event was held last night addressing health and wellness issues such as drug and alcohol awareness.  Another event will be held in the spring semester focusing on careers, resumes, interviewing, etc.  The AIM program Monique referred to earlier is a program for African-American males.  They meet every other Monday and work on getting these young men involved in the mainstream.

Sandy then opened the floor to questions.  Cary and Gip then asked the SASS staff members to tell a little bit about their backgrounds.  Megan previously worked in a learning center.  She is an NIU graduate and works on assessing and pretesting students.

Josh graduated in December from Northern Arizona.  He was director of football operations there and previously played football at the University of Montana where he received his undergraduate degree in Psychology.

Amy went to Iowa for her undergraduate studies and finished at NIU.  She has an MPA in Political Science. She was a tutor for the past 17 years and has experience with learning disabled students and also has advising experience.

IV.     Committees

A.     Scheduling

The 2001-02 women’s basketball schedule was presented.  Questions arose at last month’s meeting as to why this schedule was not presented earlier.  The problem is that the MAC office has been very slow about getting schedules finished.

Dr. Wheeler noted that the DePaul game is when students are not going to be present.  Cary responded that  it is very difficult to schedule non-conference opponents due to our conference schedule.  We must fit the bulk between November and December and the set-up for commencement.

George Shur made a motion to approve the 2001-02 women’s basketball schedule as presented.  Earl Hansen seconded the motion.  Having no other discussion, the motion was carried.

B.     Gender Equity

George Shur began by saying he is pleased to announce today that he received a letter last week from the Office for Civil Rights stating that Northern Illinois University is no longer under oversight by their organization.  Cary and Dee have done a great job keeping OCR informed of our progress and we are now in full compliance with Gender Equity and Title IX.

In regard to the women’s basketball schedule, Jeff Parness urged Athletics to also consult the exam schedules for the graduate school and professional colleges.  It was agreed that this must be kept in mind as it relates to scheduling.

Dr. Wheeler pointed out that Athletics has a policy about busing or flying and asked if the recent national events have resulted in any changes.  Cary responded that volleyball has changed all air travel to bus travel and the department is in the process of reevaluating the travel issue.

Jeff Parness reported that he saw in the paper the incident that occurred with football travel and wonders if we have any recourse when things don’t work out with travel.  Cary explained that the support staff bus was the only one that left Friday at 4:30 p.m.  Eric Schultz, our football travel liaison, got a call from FlightTime saying they were having difficulty with NIU’s plane.  Thanks to Robert Collins, we held the football team on campus rather than sending them to the Rockford airport.  We were informed that our original plane had mechanical problems and was grounded.  Another plane was available but needed a crew from Minneapolis; that crew then got held up with mechanical problems with their plane.  A plane was finally sent from PlanetAir, which moves a lot of the professional teams, from Fort Lauderdale, FL.  It arrived at the Rockford Airport around 11:00 p.m. and the travel party finally left at 11:30 and arrived at the hotel at 2:30 a.m.  We have talked to FlightTime and there will be some response from them.  The meal at the hotel was $3,500 which we were not billed for.  Cary stressed that this was not the reason we lost the game but it didn’t help us.  Then, we experienced a three-hour delay following the game.  She is unsure we are going to fly unless it would be to Marshall or Akron but busing increases the classes missed by the athletes.

Earl Hansen asked if it is a MAC policy for this type of situation and Cary replied that at this time, there is no such MAC policy.  Earl feels that a policy should come from the president’s office and asked Dr. Wheeler if it is possible to explore this.  Dr. Wheeler stated that the president’s office is looking at a number of issues relative to this.

C.     Budget

Ray Dembinski made a motion to approve the fourth quarterly report.  Keith Lambrecht seconded the motion.

Having no discussion, the motion was carried.

D.     Faculty Athletics Representative

No report.

E.     Student Welfare

No report.

F.     Huskie Club

Cary reported that she has been meeting with people in the community to discuss issues related to the Huskie Club.  She will be sharing this feedback at a later meeting.  The feeling does seem to be that we should not have moved away from the Huskie Club structure to the Athletic Association structure.  The feedback thus far has been great.

V.     New Business
A.     Division 1A Criteria

Cary began discussion of this topic by providing information on the Horizon Conference.  The conference voted 7 – 2 early last week not to expand at this time, contrary to public speculation.  Also, Conference-USA met on Monday and the athletics directors voted to table expansion and the topic was not brought up at their presidents’ meeting.  Therefore, the offer to Marshall University to join another conference is off the table.  Cary has since had a conversation with MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst who related that he, the chair of the MAC president’s council and Marshall’s president discussed their commitment to the conference.  We will be issuing an invitation to the University of Central Florida to join the Mid-American Conference as a football-only member.  They are going to accept and we will vote to move to a 14-team football conference.  This move strengthens us as a football conference and as a result, Bowling Green moves to the West Division and Central Florida will join the East Division.   NIU will play Central Florida in ’06.  Cary agreed to provide information about the changes within the MAC.

Jeff Parness asked when student-athletes have legal charges pending against them, it seems there ought to be an NCAA policy which would apply across the board, regardless of the sport.  It is somewhat concerning that the NCAA would not step in.  Discussion ensued regarding the matter of student-athletes and legal issues.  The feeling was that the NCAA should address this situation.  Dave LaCerra brought up the fact that we need to be careful with this because student-athletes are sometimes accused without basis.

Cary said due process is very important.  Earl Hansen said if enough administrators feel a school in the conference is a problem, the athletics directors should make a stand.

Gip then distributed three items to the Board members:  the Knight Foundation report from June 2001, a copy of some specific NCAA bylaws, and a recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The first item reviewed was the NCAA bylaws.   Gip related that it is the Board’s intention to begin providing information on the context of Division 1A.  We will begin to take these items and look at an assessment of the athletics program as to where we stand with these two documents.  We do not know what will happen but it will represent some variation of these two documents.   We may possibly talk about a plan of where to go next.   More information will be forthcoming about where NIU stands and what the implications are to go one direction or another.

Ray Dembinski then stated the information he brought forward today comes from the NCAA Manual. It is an overview of the way the NCAA does business and is a timeframe for people to work with.  Gip said to note the governance structure shows that representation by conference.  Cary said we do not want to split ourselves from the bowl opportunities; it is very sensitive.  Ray Dembinski said this system was designed so that the top groups would control the power within this structure.  The structure is very clear.  The middle conferences are the bubble conferences.  We must be very careful with the battles we choose to fight.  We want to get some of the spoils of the top seven but it puts us in an awkward position.

Gip went on to say he, Cary, and Ray Dembinski thought it was helpful for the Board to be aware of this structure.  Cary said currently for Division 1A, the “A” stands for football-playing institutions.  They provide 85 scholarships for football; “AA” provides 65 scholarships, and “AAA” provides no scholarships.  The division an athletics program is classified reflects on the whole university or institution.  Currently, to be a 1A institution, you must have a 30,000-seat facility and average 17,000 home attendance or 20,000 home and away and those must be sold tickets.

Gip said it will probably take 12 – 18 months to address the criteria.  Cary stated that overall, she likes the new criteria because it classifies our institution based on more than just football attendance.  She then proceeded to review the 1A criteria.

· A minimum of five (5) home games against 1A institutions.  Typically we have one 1AA institution on our schedule.  Jeff Parness asked why we don’t travel to IAA institutions.  Cary responded that it would not be good for us to do so.  Gip said this is an issue to discuss.  The schedule does change the philosophy significantly.

· Attendance of 15,000 per game.  Again, this is people in the seats (through the turnstile) and eliminates the exceptions.  This is not bad except we traditionally play one or two November games.  As it stands now, we cannot count tickets sold for less than half the face value of those tickets.  This would change with the new criteria.  Dr. Wheeler said as for turnstile counts, what happens if someone leaves the Stadium and then comes back?  Are they counted twice?  Cary said they are not counted twice because we stop taking a count at halftime.

· Must sponsor a minimum of 16 sport teams.  This is not an issue for NIU because we currently sponsor 19 sports.

· Minimum number of total scholarships must be 200.  Again, this is not an issue for NIU because we currently award nearly 300 scholarships.

· Must award at least 80 football scholarships per year.  NIU currently awards 85 per year.

· Aware at least 50% - 75% of the NCAA allowable scholarships per sport.  We are at 90% - 95% allowable in our sports.

· Generate a minimum amount of revenue.  This seems to be another way to pay the cost of your tickets.   We don’t like this legislation because it places our institution and conference on the bubble.  It may be that minimum attendance requirements are forthcoming for basketball.  It is not clear what is involved with this particular criterion.

Ray Dembinski said it is an attempt to collect funding data regarding athletics programs across the country on a common basis.   There was also an attempt at one time to get information on what schools spent on athletics.  The executive committee now has a group to address that issue.

Nolan Davis said ticket sales or television might be a commonality.  Cary suspects what is behind this is the migration of 1AA to 1A.  It is revenue distribution from the bowls.  That revenue distribution is substantial.  The lower bowls are $50,000 per school.   The NCAA wants more control of the football bowls but the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) controls college football, not the NCAA.  They are the ones working closely with the task force to develop criteria so that no more institutions can come into the distribution pool.   The discrepancy in budgets is quite clear between 1A and 1AA.

Cary also said the initial proposal for changing criteria for 1A status was just one:  you had to have 20,000 people in the seats.  That is why there is a broad-based approach.  The MAC had some influence on that.  We are not waiting until this issue is decided for us.  We are trying to increase attendance and get things in place before we have to do so.  Promotions and marketing and the external staff are focusing on getting people in the seats.

Jeff Parness then said for future discussion, he understands the pressure exerted on the NCAA by 1AA schools moving to 1A.  Is there adverse reaction to proposals from any 1A schools to say the NCAA stay out of it?  Are there any 1A schools considering moving down?  Ray Dembinski said whatever you might generate is not relevant.  Institutional support is the basis.  He has not heard of anyone talk about moving down.

Gip said Jeff’s question is very appropriate and what we need to talk about in the context of this.  The underlying mission and philosophy should dictate where to go.  We will have to look at this later but it is a fundamental question.

Nolan Davis said there are a number of things and groups involved.  Division 1A is what is best for football and also what is best for the institution.  Successful athletics programs can drive the whole institution.

Gip then moved on to the Knight Foundation report.  We will talk about it but he summarized it to an attachment to the minutes.  Ray Dembinski then provided an overview of this report.

Following his review, Gip proposed as a start to work, there is the regular continuing activities of the board, charges to the subcommittees and in addition to those things, beginning to look at 1A proposals.  He would still like to meet regarding the specifics on strategy and what aspects of the program we need to work on (i.e. attendance, academics, support for marketing and promotions, budget, etc.). What would be the form of the document or documents?  The has yet to be determined.  We will move the executive committee meeting up to Wednesday, October 31, from November 7.  The other thing is that there is a meeting called for Wednesday, November 21.  That day, the students will be leaving at noon.  Gip would like to move the Board meeting to Wednesday, November 28 and use that as a committee day with the liaisons and work on their charges from the executive committee.  What additional committees do we need to look at various aspects?

The next meeting of the Board would be December 5.  However, Gip would again like the committees to meet regarding their new charges and the data to be gathered.  The next full Board meeting would then be Wednesday, January 16, 2002.

Earl Hansen asked if staying 1A is the goal here.  Gip said we need to look at if that is the goal, what does it mean for NIU relative to a number of areas.  Critical issues would be budgets, schedules, attendance, promotions and marketing, SASS staffing, etc.  It might be better for us to talk about the benefits and liabilities of being 1A.   Cary said we must never get involved in a discussion about anything other than being Division 1A.

George asked if 1A criteria could be changed to be even more hard to meet.  Ray Dembinski said the hard line approach has been moved.  George feels the criteria are reasonable now.   Cary stated NIU is a very solid 1A institution both philosophically and in looking at the criteria.  We must stay positive about that and be very careful about how we approach this.  Anything that may be distorted may cause people to start questioning our 1A status.  Gip would say in the document to the president that we need to clearly articulate why Northern is 1A and outline the advantages.   Everyone must understand the commitment the Board and the institution are making.  Eleven of the thirteen MAC teams are threatened and they are like us.

Ray Dembinski said the mentality of people in the MAC regarding academics and the treatment of student-athletes mirrors Division III.  We don’t think the MAC schools are far off when focusing on athletes and their needs as students.  There is a lot of integrity here.

Ray Tourville made a motion to move the meetings as necessary.  Earl Hansen seconded the motion.  Motion carried unanimously.

VI.     Adjournment

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

The next full meeting of the Athletic Board will be January 16, 2002, in a location yet to be determined.  Committees will meet on Wednesday, November 28, 2001, at 1:00 p.m. in Holmes Student Center Room #305 and also on Wednesday, December 5, 2001, at 1:00 p.m. in Holmes Student Center Room #306.