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No varsity teams to be cut this year

By
News Editor
Monday, October 17, 2011

Editors’ Note: A previous version of this story contained material similar to text that appeared in other written sources. An Editors’ Note was published in the Oct. 31, 2011, Herald. That Editors’ Note can be found here.

The men’s and women’s fencing teams, men’s wrestling team and women’s ski team will not be cut in the next year, according to recommendations released by President Ruth Simmons today. The recommendations were a response to last spring’s report of the Athletics Review Committee and will be presented to the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, at its meeting later this week.

In her response to the review committee’s report, which recommended eliminating the four teams, Simmons recommended giving the four teams the chance to find additional funding through gifts and pledges over the course of the next year to supplement existing team-designated program funding. If the teams meet the financial terms, the programs will not be cut.

Coaches were told about the changes at a meeting at 9 a.m., and athletes found out with the rest of the community in an email from Simmons at noon, according to Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services.

The report also outlines a plan to increase the academic rigor of athletics at Brown, including lowering the number of admissions spots for athletes from 225 to 205, a decrease of 9 percent.

The four teams should demonstrate “that they have assembled gifts and pledges that, when combined with existing team-designated support, constitute an income stream sufficient to generate no less than 100 percent of the current annual budget for that sport,” Simmons wrote in her recommendation.

Simmons recommends the University agree not to cut the athletics budget over the next five years, with the condition that annual funding continue at the current level as the Department of Athletics builds the appropriate endowment base to support the current team sports. Such a system should allow for donors to be “better incentivized to make gifts to support athletics,” she wrote.

Michael Goldberger, director of athletics, said the teams will still receive some funding from the NCAA and from the Sports Foundation endowments for their sports. But they will need to find the remainder for themselves.

“I feel pretty confident that when you set a certain target — say here’s what we need — the commitment of our alumni is pretty strong,” Goldberger said. He added that he thought Simmons struck a “balance” in the funding compromise.

Goldberger was unsure what would happen to these teams if they failed to meet their financial target. 

Klawunn said she believes most of the teams have been working to raise funds since last year, and she is confident they are all close to or have achieved their targets.

In addition to the funding changes, Simmons recommended increasing the academic rigor of athletics. Brown lags behind the rest of the Ivy League in terms of Academic Indexes, a formula based on athletes’ SAT or ACT scores and high school grade point averages.

Over the past four admitted classes, Brown has had seven teams with AIs under 200, “while Dartmouth and Penn had five, Columbia three, Yale one, and Harvard and Princeton none,” Simmons wrote in the report.

Simmons also recommended reducing admissions spots reserved for recruits by about 20, a slightly smaller decrease than that suggested by the Athletics Review Committee. In the spring, the committee recommended reducing the number of spots for recruited athletes to 195, about a 13 percent reduction. Klawunn said part of the reason the reduction is smaller is because no teams will be cut.

“It’s always hard when you see the elimination of spots,” Goldberger said.

The University has averaged each year around 225 admission spots devoted for recruits, roughly split between men and women in respect for Title IX, he added. That put Brown “at the top of the league” for women, and around the middle for men. But with the reduction in spots for athletes, he said Brown might not rank so highly for female recruits anymore.

Simmons also recommended further academic oversight of athletics.

“It is not clear at this time that academic authorities are in fact sufficiently in control of athletics at Brown,” she wrote.

She charged Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron and Klawunn with drafting a plan to monitor “issues such as excessive practice demands, absences from classes and overall academic participation of athletes,” according to the report. Simmons recommended raising the target AI for incoming classes. Goldberger said that would be doable.

“It’s a really difficulty position for the president to be in,” said Goldberger. “She’s done a lot of research and she’s made a good response.”

Goldberger said he appreciated the “respect she showed for coaches as educators” in her response, as well as her commitment to coaches’ salaries and financial aid.

Simmons also asked the provost to work with the University Resources Committee to address the non-competitiveness of coaching and other salaries. Simmons supports an effort to raise $10 million for addressing “the field hockey field, related field issues and a new locker room,” according to the report, and concurs with the Athletics Review Committee’s recommendation that the athletics department implement policies to minimize the number and impact of schedule conflicts on student performance and choice.

In the report, Simmons recommended there should be the creation of “an ‘extra-curricular block’ in the late afternoon to reduce the conflict between practice times and special academic opportunities.” Simmons wrote in the report that the block’s formation is “a matter for the dean of the College, provost and faculty to consider.”

In the report, Simmons wrote she supports increasing “the level of resources for matching competitive financial aid offers from other Ivy institutions,” if the “program is carried out as called for in Ivy rules and monitored to ensure that it does not favor athletes over other students.”

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