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November 25, 1998

Pitt Division I athletics program earns full certification by NCAA

Pitt Division I athletics program earns full certification by NCAA

Pitt athletics has re- ceived full certification for its Division I varsity programs, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Committee on Athletics Certification announced Nov. 19.

The NCAA certification, which comes after an 18-month-long review process, indicates that the University is operating its athletics programs in "substantial conformity" with standards established by the NCAA regarding rules and principles of program governance, academic and fiscal integrity, and commitment to gender and racial equity.

"Our varsity athletic programs are operated with the same commitment to quality that characterizes all aspects of the University of Pittsburgh and we are pleased to see that the NCAA has recognized that commitment through its certification process," Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said. "The University's athletic programs are important to our students, our alumni and the community. This NCAA certification is further evidence of our dedication to building on the strong foundation of Pitt's proud sports heritage," he said.

The certification process – the equivalent for athletics of accreditation for academic units – was part of a reform agenda that the 308-member NCAA approved at its 1993 convention.

About 50 members of the University community helped evaluate Pitt athletics department's compliance.

"One of the things that the NCAA requires is that this be a University-wide process, open to the entire University community and with the results announced to the public," said Internal Audit Director John Elliott, who chaired the 28-member Pitt self-study steering committee.

The steering committee also included Nordenberg; Athletics Director Steve Pederson; education school Dean Kenneth Metz, who is Pitt's faculty athletics representative to the NCAA; and Senior Associate Director of Athletics Carol Sprague, who is Pitt's senior woman athletics administrator.

Other steering committee members included Donna Sanft, Pitt athletics department's NCAA compliance officer; associate general counsel Rich Holmes; and faculty, staff, student and alumni representatives named by campus organizations such as the University Senate and the Chancellor's Diversity Working Group.

Four subcommittees worked with the steering committee – academic integrity, fiscal integrity, rules compliance and commitment to equity – and each filed a report.

Following the self-study, a five-member peer-review team composed of educational and athletics personnel from other NCAA member schools visited the campus last May to verify the accuracy of the self-study and to report back to the Committee on Athletics Certification, which rendered the final decision at the NCAA's fall quarterly meeting.

Each Division I school is expected to complete a self-study every five years. But Elliott said that the timeframe for Pitt's next evaluation is likely in the 2005-2007 range due to the length of the self-evaluating process and the ongoing nature of complying with NCAA guidelines.

"Each of the four subcommittees did a critical self-analysis and made recommendations as part of the self-study, rather than filing a report that 'everything is perfect,'" Elliott said. "These recommendations were, in effect, endorsed by the NCAA as part of the certification process. For example, the rules compliance subcommittee recommended the reformatting of the Golden Panthers into 'Team Pittsburgh' to provide more institutional control of fund-raising activities. I will followup on the self-recommendations, probably more in my role as Internal Audit director than committee member. We will continue to have an internal monitoring process and keep the NCAA informed of our progress in implementing these recommendations." Other recommendations included strengthening academic support services for student-athletes (academic integrity subcommittee), updating the policies and procedures manuals regarding fiscal control to simplify and facilitate their usage by current student-athletes and administrators (fiscal integrity subcommittee), and strengthening women's sports, including adding soccer and softball to the athletics program, increasing scholarship funds for female student-athletes, and standardizing per diem, travel and housing arrangements for all teams (commitment to equity subcommittee).

-Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 7

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