For Immediate Release
January 9, 1997
Contact: Debra Ruder
(617) 495-1585
Harvard Reviews Intercollegiate Athletics Program

Harvard University has launched a year-and-a-half-long effort to study its intercollegiate athletics program as part of the NCAA Division I athletics certification process. The review will cover academic and financial integrity, governance and rules compliance, and commitment to equity.

The self-study kicked off officially on Jan. 3 with an orientation visit by a National Collegiate Athletic Association staff member, but planning has been going on for several months. The process is expected to wrap up in the summer of 1998 with a decision about certification.

According to the NCAA, the accreditation program is designed to ensure integrity in an institution's athletics operations. Institutions will benefit by increasing the community's awareness and knowledge of the athletics program, confirming its strengths, and developing plans to improve in areas of concern.

"Harvard's athletic program is one of the most extensive in the country, and it forms an integral part of the experience of many of our students," said Harry R. Lewis, Dean of Harvard College and chair of the steering committee for the accreditation review.

"This self-study of the intercollegiate side of our program provides an opportunity for us to examine our offerings and to heighten awareness in the community of what they mean for students. We look forward to understanding what we are doing well, and where we can make improvements."

Although academic accreditation is common among colleges and universities, this program is the first to focus solely on athletic certification. The program was approved for Division I institutions in 1993 as a key part of the NCAA's reform agenda.

The steering committee responsible for the Harvard self-study includes President Neil L. Rudenstine, Dean Lewis, various members of the faculty and staff, a number of alumnae/i, and representatives from the athletics department.

The committee's four subcommittees are chaired by Elizabeth Studley Nathans, Dean of Freshmen (Governance and Commitment to Rules Compliance); Nancy L. Maull, Administrative Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Fiscal Integrity); William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid (Academic Integrity); and Barbara J. Grosz, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science (Commitment to Equity).

Lewis and each of the subcommittee chairs are members of the Faculty Standing Committee on Athletic Sports, which has for many years set policy for the athletic program. The NCAA accreditation review builds on more than 20 years of regular internal reviews of the athletic program, conducted under the auspices of the standing committee.

"President Rudenstine and Dean Lewis have enlisted superb help for this review from faculty, students, alumni/ae, and members of the University's administration," said Thomas A. Dingman, Associate Dean of Harvard College, who is coordinating the review process. "We look forward to seeking direct input from the entire University community."

Within each area to be studied, the NCAA has set standards upon which all Division I members will be evaluated. Harvard will also examine how the activities of the intercollegiate athletics program relate to the mission of the institution.

Once Harvard has concluded its own study, an external team of reviewers from other institutions will visit Harvard for several days to evaluate whether the self-study was accurate and complete. That visit is expected in March 1998.

The "peer-review" team will report to the NCAA Committee on Athletics Certification, which will determine the University's certification status and announce its decision. The three options for certification status are certified, certified with conditions, and not certified, and institutions will have an opportunity to correct deficient areas. July 1998 is the target date for the NCAA's decision.

The NCAA is a membership organization of colleges and universities that participate in intercollegiate athletics. Its primary purpose is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body.

About one-third of the roughly 300 NCAA Division I institutions have gone through the certification process, and virtually all have been certified without or with conditions.

Harvard offers 21 men's sports and 20 women's sports on the intercollegiate level, the most of any Division I school in the country. More than 1,300 undergraduates compete in intercollegiate athletics here, and Harvard teams have captured many Ivy League championships and national titles over the years. As a member of the Ivy League, no athletic scholarships are awarded.

"The Department of Athletics is working hard to provide the best athletic and educational experience for our students, who are such a remarkably talented group of people," said Director of Athletics William Cleary. "We look forward to assessing and improving what we are doing."