Feb. 11, 2000
The University of Notre Dame Athletic Department is in the midst of the fifth year of a five-year plan initiated in June 1995. This report highlights the objectives set out in that plan and details progress that has been made in achieving those goals.
A. The Mandate
The University of Notre Dame Athletic Department will pursue excellence through its comprehensive recreational sports program and be a leader in intercollegiate athletics without distorting its primary role as an educator and moral guide. This is the charge set out by Fathers Edward A. Malloy and E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C., the president and executive vice-president of the University, respectively. This has been the ongoing tradition established by successive administrations at the University.
1. The Results
These facts from the four-plus years beginning with the 1995-96 academic year are a scorecard for evaluation:
- Notre Dame was awarded the BIG EAST Conference Commissioner’s Trophy for all-sports excellence and achievement for men’s sports four years in a row, from 1995-96 through 1998-99.
- Notre Dame was awarded the BIG EAST Conference Commissioner’s Trophy for women’s sports the past three years (1996-97 through 1998-99) and earned a second-place finish out of 13 institutions during Notre Dame’s first year of league play in 1995-96.
- Sears Directors’ Cup standings, measuring the breadth of accomplishments on a national scale, ranked Notre Dame 11th, 14th, 31st, and 25th to average a top 20 finish in these four years. Only two schools in the nation — Notre Dame and Stanford — are ranked in the top 20 academic institutions by U.S. News & World Report and have averaged top 20 finishes athletically in the Sears Cup standings. Notre Dame ranked 11th through the ’99 fall sports seasons, thanks to NCAA team qualification in women’s soccer (NCAA runner-up), men’s and women’s cross country (the men finished eighth) and volleyball.
- A recent survey by The Sporting News evaluated 112 colleges competing in NCAA Division I sports by standards ranging from on-field to academic performance. One of the broad categories for evaluation is: “Do we play fair?” for which Notre Dame received an “A.” Notre Dame also received an “A” for “Do we graduate?” – along with an “A-minus” for “Do we rock?” (based on attendance and fan support) and a “B” for “Do we win?” Notre Dame ranked third overall (with a 3.67 grade-point average) behind Penn State (3.92) and North Carolina (3.75). It is interesting to note the rankings of these schools:
* A record-number 35 Notre Dame teams qualified for NCAA Championship post-season play from 1995-96 through 1998-99 – and four more accomplished that feat in the fall of ’99. This does not include student-athletes who qualified on an individual basis for post-season NCAA competition in cross country, track and swimming, nor does it include three bowl appearances by the football team.
?? * Twenty women and 15 men earned Academic All-America honors in this period, the most in Notre Dame history in any four-year span. Notre Dame also led the nation the past three years combined (1996-97 through 1998-99) with its total number of Academic All-Americans.
* The top eight scholar-athletes are honored annually by the NCAA, in a group known as Today’s Top VIII. Notre Dame broke into this elite field for the first time in 1996 with the selection of Jen Renola, goalkeeper on the 1995 national champion women’s soccer team.
?? * The Honda-Broderick Cup is awarded annually to the most-outstanding female athlete in the country. Cindy Daws, a women’s soccer All-American, won it in 1997 and is the first Notre Dame athlete to do so.
?? * The student body grade-point average has been just below 3.1 over this four-year period. For the student-athlete population, it has been above 3.0. In the academic year 1998-99, 167 student-athletes, or about 23 percent of the total, made Dean’s List.
* The graduation rate for Notre Dame student-athletes who complete four years of athletic eligibility is 99 percent.
* The Rec Sports program annually reaches more than 85 percent of students on campus. The club sports program features 600 students competing in 25 sports locally, regionally and nationally. The Rolfs Sports Recreation Center and other facilities provide clinics, classes and fitness opportunities for more than 5,000 students, faculty, staff and families each year. Intramural sports continue their popularity by attracting more than 7,000 individuals annually.
2. The Changed Environment
A great many people at Notre Dame share the credit for these lofty accomplishments. The Athletic Department has changed from the former years when it sponsored seven sports — with part-time coaches in all but two of them. There now are 26 varsity sports, a comprehensive rec-sports and fitness program for all faculty, staff and students, 112 acres of ground for their purposes — plus nine major athletic buildings. Between July 1, 1998, and June 30, 1999, Notre Dame managed 4,232 events in one or the other of those nine facilities or upon some portion of those 112 acres.
To do all of this the Department has 251 full-time employees, 1,400 students or part-time employees, and more than 750 student-athletes. Twenty-two of those full-time employees are head coaches whose operations may be compared to divisions within an industrial complex. Each is dedicated throughout the year to obtaining the high standards to which he/she aspires. Each one helps prepare and implement an annual budget for which he/she is held accountable, and provides a rolling five-year plan with stated objectives, measurable targets and a projection for what he/she requires in the constant battle for restricted human and financial resources.
3. The Complexity of the Department and The Plan
The Athletic Department has expanded threefold its annual expense budget since 1985 and increased by 400 percent its annual revenue in that same period. The recreational sports program for the general student body and faculty and staff members is one of the most comprehensive in the country. The national average for participation in such college programs is 55 percent. At Notre Dame it is approximately 85 percent. It covers such opportunities as the Bengal Bouts, 23 club sports, fitness classes, and instruction and clinics in subjects from sailing to fly-casting. With the construction of the Rolfs Sports Recreation Center came the opportunity to better serve the entire University community. In addition to providing additional recreation programming it has given leadership and employment to 30 students.
The varsity teams, coaches and student-athletes — and the professionals staffing the key support areas — are a diverse and dynamic group of people. These multiple programs present complex issues because of the high-profile enterprise in which the Department is engaged and the constant challenge of participating in the personal development of 750 men and women between 18 and 22 years old.
The potential of a celebrated athletic program to serve the general interests of an institution has created an explosion in expenditures on facilities, coaches’ compensation and women’s programs by many competitors.
To compete in this environment and manage these diverse, complex issues, Notre Dame must have excellence throughout the athletic administration. In 1995, three senior positions were created:
?? * Associate Athletic Director for Student Services — Dr. Tom Kelly
?? * Associate Athletic Director for Legal, Compliance, and Strategic Planning — Missy Conboy
?? * Associate Athletic Director, Finances — Bubba Cunningham
Authority could be delegated to these experienced administrators and their respective staff only if a long-term plan of targeted results and the criteria for decision-making was created.
4. The Five-Year Plan
For the first time in 1995-96, a five-year plan was created and agreed upon by administrators of the Athletic Department and their staff members. It has served the Department well.
The key criteria for the five-year plan to end June 30, 2000, are:
I. Understand that the Athletic Department exists only to support the mission of the University.
II. Provide Notre Dame’s student-athletes with a four-year experience geared to launch them successfully into their chosen careers.
III. Hire and retain coaches who embrace their role as teachers and mentors to the student-athletes.
IV. Manage efficiently and equitably the physical, financial and human resources of the Department.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of those four criteria:
I. Support the Mission of the University
The Athletic Department has a unique opportunity through its varsity programs to serve as a visible example to all members of the student body of how an organization deals with the challenge of competition. Success in competition demands a solid organizational structure, leadership, dedication, discipline, teamwork and integrity. Adversity and the unexpected will test the resolve of an individual, even the collective team. How coaches and players deal with these issues is akin to a laboratory of human experience that can have greater impact than the written word in a textbook or the theoretical discussion of a seminar. No other country supports such an elaborate system for intercollegiate athletic competition. It may be a factor in why the United States is the world leader economically, politically, and militarily. Americans learn about competition, leadership, and teamwork at an early age. The successes cited previously during this four-year period attest to this aspect of the mission. Beyond the varsity athletic experiences, Rec Sports contributes significantly to the stated goal of education of the total individual — mind, body and spirit.
II. Providing Student-Athletes With a Four-Year Experience That Launches Them Into Their Next Career This objective arose because the classical education and lessons learned from athletic competition did not always fill the needs of Notre Dame student-athletes whose personal backgrounds vary tremendously. The Athletic Department wants to take an active interest in helping each student-athlete approach graduation with the confidence of a bright future as opposed to the fear of being exposed to the world for the first time outside the cocoon of organized sports. Notre Dame’s objective is that all student-athletes who graduate will do so knowing that the Athletic Department was interested in them personally, not merely for their athletic ability.
This focus on the welfare of the student-athlete addresses two other key issues. By approaching each of them with programs to further his/her future prospects, it allows the Athletic Department to introduce sessions to help them make better decisions. This is a more attractive experience for them than the typical lectures on alcohol, drug and physical abuse. These issues are put into the context of a plan that goes beyond graduation and what will be significant to the individual’s prospect of achieving that plan.
Very importantly, these programs bring a greater focus by Notre Dame’s coaches and administrators to the personal development of student-athletes. A consequence of which is, Notre Dame is better positioned to learn of problems in a timely manner and to take action as required.
The Life Skills program, which began in 1996-97, focuses on these subjects:
- The promotion of community service.
- Career mentoring, by introducing student-athletes to athletic alumni who have succeeded in their chosen vocation. They also learn to prepare a resume and consider carefully “Life after Notre Dame.”
- Substance abuse.
- Mentors in violence prevention, sexuality and date rape.
- Nutrition — to address the risk of eating disorders and to promote the opportunity for them to compete most effectively in the classroom and in athletic competition.
- Public speaking and media relations.
These are the main core programs given to all student-athletes through Life Skills. Additionally, the Department assists them in dealing with other issues through these initiatives:
- Academic Honors Program – It exists to promote the potential of academically-gifted student-athletes. While the Department long has supported those who struggle, this particular program celebrates those who lead.
- Professional Sports Agent Program — It attempts to assist the student-athlete and his/her family to make a fully-informed, good decision. If Notre Dame puts its collective heads in the sand, it will only encourage illegal contact.
- Diversity Committee — This recently-developed committee operates in the context of the University’s statement on cultural diversity. It assists the Department in being more aware of these sensitive issues.
- Professional Development Workshop Series — These programs are held annually for coaches and administrators alike to assist in re-examining how objectives are pursued.
- Performance Team – It’s comprised of the University physician, head trainer, strength and conditioning coordinator, two sport head coaches, Associate Athletic Director Dr. Tom Kelly and Life Skills Coordinator Jannifer Crittendon. This group deals with issues of general application to the student-athlete population with a focus on health and performance. Subjects such as nutrition, use of supplements, equipment, training methods, and insurance coverage are examples of areas they have studied.
III. Hire and Retention of Coaches Who Embrace Their Role as Teachers
Seven varsity head coaches and a coordinator for strength and conditioning have been hired in the past four years. Two of the seven were hired because two new women’s programs, lacrosse and rowing, were added to the list of Notre Dame’s varsity offerings.
In every case, a search was conducted in which the administrator responsible had the support of a committee to evaluate all candidates. This required the development of criteria believed to be necessary for success in the program.
In the examples of football coach Bob Davie and men’s basketball coach Matt Doherty, the Faculty Board on Athletics and the Athletic Affairs Committee of the Board were advised of the procedures followed in the respective searches and why each of the successful candidates was selected.
Each head coach has a job description citing what objectives and results are critical to his/her performance. These targeted results are the basis for ongoing discussion during the year and the factors considered in the annual performance evaluation.
IV. Efficient and Equitable Management of Human, Financial and Physical Resources
To pursue this objective, key organizational changes were made:
- The Athletic Director retained direct administrative responsibility for football and men’s basketball. While he is ultimately accountable for all programs, direct responsibility was delegated to the three Associate Athletic Directors for the remaining programs. The exceptions are baseball, which reports to Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing Bill Scholl, and men’s and women’s lacrosse, which are supervised by Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information John Heisler.
- Hundreds of athletic competitions occur on the Notre Dame campus annually. The responsibility of organizing formally the management of these events and playing host to the visiting teams was assigned to Assistant Athletic Director Tony Yelovich.
- 4,232 events took place in athletic facilities or fields in the year ended June 30, 1999. There are constant issues for scheduling. Mike Danch was made Director of Athletic Facilities to arbitrate these issues and to make known future needs that may require major renovation and/or new construction projects.
- Financial planning was centralized in the office of Bubba Cunningham. Previously, an annual budget was completed by the Business Manager and the Athletic Director. This had proved inadequate to keep pace with the growth in the department.
Currently, each head coach and the administrator for that program put forward a budget with the assistance of the Athletic Department Business Office. These are then combined with the remaining budget centers in the Department for review by the Athletic Director and three Associate Athletic Directors according to the guidelines from the University Budget Sub-Committee. It is then submitted for approval by Father Beauchamp. Progress on the budget is monitored monthly by Bubba Cunningham meeting with representatives of the University’s Budget Committee.
Furthermore, the Athletic Department was the first unit within the University to initiate rolling five-year projections for more effective planning and management of our resources.
- Title VII and the Fair Labor Standards Act are examples of Federal employment regulations impacting the management of the Athletic Department staff. There are numerous other personnel matters ranging from payroll issues to appropriate behavior, preparation of job descriptions and annual performance evaluations. To insure the necessary attention to these details and the appropriate orientation for new coaches and/or employees, an employment coordinator was hired.
- The Performance Team recommended that the Athletic Department change from being the primary insurer for medical claims for student-athletes to offering excess medical insurance coverage for athletically-related injuries. It adds no cost to the student-athlete or his/her family, but the savings to the University are significant. A Medical Claims Specialist has been hired to administer this program.
- Previously, no provision was made in the annual budget for renovation and repair of existing athletic facilities. A building fund existed and it was used on an “as needed basis.” An Athletics Facility Renewal Fund created from the annual premium paid for football season tickets, totaling $1.6 million, is now being used for projects identified and agreed upon by the Athletic Department and Facilities Engineering. Here, as well, projects and their costs have been planned on a five-year cycle.
- Explosive growth of recent years necessitated an internal controls financial audit to insure the integrity of all financial operations within the department. That has been completed and brought about changes in our procedures.
- During the past five years, the Athletic Department has supported the comprehensive recreational sports program plus the 26 varsity teams and contributed a dividend of $25.8 million, or an average of $5.16 million per year, to the University’s general fund. Projections to the year 2005 have been reviewed with the Budget Sub-Committee and a more detailed plan to the year 2005 will be completed this spring.
- Facility enhancements costing approximately $100 million have been made since 1995. While the list of completed projects fills three pages, the key projects in this group are the expanded Notre Dame Stadium for football, the Warren Golf Course, and the new Rolfs Sports Recreation Center. The Joyce Center is now more than 30 years old. It was constructed when Notre Dame had only a male population and a handful of varsity programs. Issues remain to be addressed and they will be included in the five-year program to 2005.
B. Implications of NCAA Violations
Two years of publicity resulting from dealings with the NCAA have almost obliterated from public consciousness the achievements of Notre Dame student-athletes and coaches and the industry of our administrators during that period. The embarrassment to the Athletic Department and to all associated with the program is deep.
The NCAA matter made all involved aware that Notre Dame’s coaches must be more involved with the personal development of their student-athletes. It has been made clear – demanded, in fact — that information must be brought forward, however troubling it may be. The failure to bring forward information will be dealt with at least as seriously as the act or actions in question. The facts of the NCAA case demonstrate as well the need for education of student-athletes on issues of personal behavior. It underscores the need for the support the Life Skills programs can provide to the student-athlete population.
The NCAA case sends the clear message that winning isn’t everything. Character counts. Having coaches who believe that, who recruit that way, and who are committed to the mentor role is essential to being able to manage these situations. The term “manage” is used advisedly. It’s impossible to eliminate human error in the future anymore than that has been done in the past.
Consider what a diverse group of student-athletes exist at Notre Dame — 750 young men and women between 18 and 22 years old. They are away from home for the first time, engaged in emotional experiences as competitors that cause their ambitions to flair one day — and flatten with discouragement the next. It is a time for exploration, finding oneself, learning one’s potential, and accepting one’s limitations. It is a period of stress. It is a time to grow and mature.
These are among the reasons every school has an Office of Student Affairs or its equivalent. Young adults make mistakes, parents make mistakes, Admissions makes mistakes, and coaches make mistakes. The experience of the Notre Dame student-athlete before Student Affairs tracks that of the student body. We will not eliminate human error, youthful misjudgment, or even character disorders from the student population. The key is to be attentive to what is happening, act decisively when necessary, be consistent and fair, but firm — and always strive to do what is right, however challenging or embarrassing it may be at a given point in time. That is what is meant by “managing” future issues.
As the NCAA matter points out, the management of the Athletic Department is made more complex because it is a lightning rod to the University. Its historic prominence nationally and internationally has served the University well. However, in an environment changed dramatically by the proliferation of media outlets and technological change, Notre Dame’s celebrated status marks it as an easy target. Ultimately, the Athletic Department probably receives greater scrutiny than any other part of the University.
C. The Need to Communicate
All of this scrutiny exists to gain a level of confidence from knowledge of how the Athletic Department is being directed. Notre Dame’s senior athletic staff interacts with other University personnel in many ways:
- Athletic Director Mike Wadsworth participates in regular staff meetings of Father Bill Beauchamp’s direct reports in which key information about respective obligations is exchanged on a timely basis.
- Dr. Bill Sexton and Mike Wadsworth meet monthly with the public relations and Sports Information staff members to discuss current and potential issues. The respective staff members also meet as often as may be required.
- Senior Athletic Department staff members serve on at least eight committees with members of other University departments. Dr. Tom Kelly liaises with no less than 12 centers on campus in his responsibility for student-athlete services and the Life Skills program.
- The Athletic Director also serves on the Capital Planning Committee, the Policy Committee on Licensing, and is a member of the Ireland Council and the International Advisory Council of the University.
- The Athletic Director appeared before each of the College Councils to discuss Athletic Department plans and aspirations and to receive input from the faculty members of these Councils.
- Senior Department personnel appear regularly before Alumni Senate groups, the Alumni Board, and appear at numerous Notre Dame functions to tell the story of what’s happening in athletics.
- Through the Rec Sports program, every segment of the University directly experiences the impact of the Department. In addition to participation, the Rec Sports staff meets regularly with the rector’s Advisory Board as well as the Rec Sports Advisory Council.
All of these are opportunities to learn from others and create a clearer understanding of what is happening in the Department. Yet, the Athletic Department is a prime example of how the University must have a communications plan to its key constituencies to better communicate what is happening institutionally when it comes to athletics.
D. Future Plan to 2005
An Athletic Department plan to 2005 will be developed this spring. Financial projections through that period project 26 more grants-in-aid to meet Title IX requirements. No additional varsity programs are contemplated.
Athletic facilities needs have been identified and a working relationship with the University Development Office will determine potential scheduling of these projects as the University moves forward to 2005.
Key to this plan will be a communications strategy to address the need to get the facts before the Department’s constituencies.
Within this next five-year period significant relationships will be reviewed for extension. They include the Champion apparel contract in 2000, the adidas contract in 2002, football radio rights in 2002 and football television rights by 2005. Rights with respect to the internet are being protected now and are expected to become a significant factor in this period.