Academic Integrity in Intercollegiate Athletics:  Principles, Rules, and Best Practices



There are three primary rationales for intercollegiate athletics: 1) for the athlete, the discipline and values of sports can contribute to personal development reinforcing academic excellence; 2) for the campus, the ceremonies and competition of intercollegiate sports can contribute to community and institutional loyalty; 3) for the college and university community, college sports can broaden positive interest in and public support for higher education.


While the experience of the past century has frequently called into question whether these ideals have a close relationship to the practice of college sports, the Coalition for Intercollegiate Athletics has adopted these principles as goals in its advocacy of intercollegiate athletics reform.  College sports should be pursued in a way that supports these claims for its value.  If that has not generally been the case in the past, we need to change our practices.


None of the values ascribed to college sports can be realized if we abandon the principle that personal development through athletics participation and academic achievement are linked.  Yet experience suggests that in many sports programs, academic goals are treated as subordinate, and in a variety of ways students are encouraged or enabled to let their athletics commitment undermine their academic work.  To the degree that athletics undermines academic integrity, it reflects a cynical attitude towards the ideals of college sports and of higher education.


It is a norm of long standing in higher education governance that the faculty bears primary responsibility for maintaining the academic standards of institutions.  For this reason, the COIA, as a faculty governance based coalition devoted to athletics reform, has developed the following set of proposals and guidelines to help faculty fulfill their responsibilities with regard to the impact of athletics on academic standards and integrity.


Although this document includes many proposals, only three are suggested as rules, or NCAA bylaws, that should apply to all schools.  The great majority are intended as best practice guidelines policies that have worked well in practice at some schools or, in some cases, new ideas that are shared because they promise to address difficult problems that have resisted solution.  The object is not to prescribe what schools must do, but to suggest issues that schools need to consider and approaches that may with adaptation fit local needs and strengthen the way athletics supports the educational mission.  Where other local practices already accomplish the goal of academic integrity, those may in fact constitute best practices for that institution.


The Coalition is an alliance of over forty-five NCAA Division IA faculty senates, and proposals and recommendations in this document are intended to apply only to Division IA schools, although in the case of proposed NCAA bylaw changes, the NCAA structure requires that proposals apply to all of Division I.  It is our hope, however, that to the degree that these ideas articulate well founded principles, they will be of use to all schools that engage in intercollegiate sports.


The recommendations are in five sections:

1. Admissions
2. Scholarships
3. Curricular Integrity
4. Time Commitment, Missed Class Time, and Scheduling of Competitions
5. Policies Concerning the Office of Academic Advising for Athletes

Proposals within each section are numbered.  Boldface numbers indicate proposals for NCAA bylaw changes (there are three altogether: 2.1, 3.1, 4.3.2,).  Other proposals are best-practice guidelines for schools to consider and adapt according to local needs and judgments, or general calls for action on the part of Division IA schools.