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By Josh Looney
NCAA President Mark Emmert and West Texas A&M President Pat O’Brien recently shared their strong affinities for the active role faculty athletics representatives play on NCAA campuses.
Emmert, who spent more than 30 years as an on-campus academic administrator before joining the NCAA in 2010, appointed FARs as chancellor of LSU (1999-2004) and as president at the University of Washington (2004-10).
O’Brien, current chair of the NCAA Division II Presidents Council, has a personal connection to the athletics and academic support roles that FARs provide. His grandfather served as a faculty athletics representative at the University of Tennessee.
Both leaders reiterated their advocacy at the eighth annual Division II FAR Fellows Institute in Indianapolis Oct. 19-21.
“The relationship among academic administration, faculty, the athletics department and the student-athlete is critically important,” Emmert said. “FARs are the eyes and ears of the faculty. They become, in many ways, the overseer and the broker of balance in the institution.
“Especially in Division II, FARs partner with the athletics department in helping manage the complex nature of NCAA regulations and processes. They are a liaison to the issues of the day.”
The Division II FAR Fellows Institute was established in 2005 to provide an intense developmental opportunity for a core group of FARs to enhance their ability in performing critical on-campus functions. As more FARs are trained, the hope is to improve the overall interaction with athletes and athletics administration at both the campus and conference levels.
“The FARs help us immensely in helping to make sure we have a positive student-athlete experience on our campuses,” O’Brien said. “They are essentially the voice of our students as well as a go-between for other faculty members with members of the athletics department.”
He said faculty athletics representatives provide oversight in both academics and athletics to ensure integrity and institutional control of their institution’s athletics program. They also serve as advocates for the student-athlete, ensuring their well-being in an environment of tolerance, respect and inclusion.
“They are leaders who ensure our student-athletes experience a balanced environment of athletics, academics and community,” O’Brien said.
In a professional development session that lasted more than two hours, Division II FARs discussed best practices and guiding principles alongside Emmert and O’Brien. Emmert was also candid in an open session that focused on topics ranging from NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State to the 4.37 percent of total NCAA revenue Division II receives to support its championships, programs and services.
“As all of you are well aware, campuses have all kinds of different voices that bring different things to the table,” Emmert told the Fellows. “We need FARs as willing partners in identifying issues, shaping policies and, ultimately, improving the performance of our student-athletes on the playing field and in the classroom.”