At the request of President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., the Board of Trustees Athletics Committee reviewed Stetson University’s participation as a member of NCAA Division I at its regular meeting in May. In a report written by a number of faculty — approved and submitted to the president by the DeLand/Celebration Faculty Senate — the authors asked that Stetson strongly consider moving from Division I to Division II or Division III, and if such a move would provide additional resources, that those resources be made available for reallocation.
The entire Board of Trustees had received a report of the Faculty Finance Committee in their board packets a week earlier. That report indicated there had been growth in athletic expenditures at a percentage greater than the growth in academic expenditures, and recommended that Stetson move to a different division. Specifically, two of the Faculty Finance Committee’s four recommendations were: “(1) reduce the rapid growth in athletic expenditures, and (2) reallocate athletic funds and scholarships where possible to academics to enhance net revenue and the academic reputation of Stetson University.”
Accordingly, the Board’s Athletics Committee invited the faculty chairs of the University Athletics Committee and the DeLand/Celebration Faculty Finance Committee to be present at its meeting on Thursday, May 2. In addition, because of the important nature of this discussion, Stetson’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, President, Executive Vice President and CFO, and Director of Athletics also were present.
The Chair of the Board’s Athletics Committee invited the faculty chairs to comment and describe the missions of their committees, to consider Stetson’s participation in Division I, and also to indicate what their committees’ attitudes toward this participation might be.
Stetson’s CFO noted that much of the growth in athletics’ expenditures was planned as part of the reinstatement of football, and the establishment of beach volleyball and women’s lacrosse, and that there was increased net revenue attached to the enrollment of athletes in these sports. He also noted that the compound rate of growth of expenses for instruction and library compared to athletics over the past three years was within 0.1%.
At the request of the Board’s Athletics Committee chair, the Director of Athletics had prepared a presentation on the merits and drawbacks of each of the NCAA’s three divisions. In addition, the Director shared a website (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NCAA_conferences) that enabled the committee to see the geographic coverage of each of the other conferences in Division II and Division III. Average net expenses for athletics, number of grants-in-aid, student athlete quality indicators and diversity all were reviewed for Stetson, Division I, Football Championship Subdivision, ASUN Conference, Division II Sunshine State Conference, Division II with football and the private colleges of the Pioneer Football League. Importantly, because the expense data includes grants-in-aid, high-tuition schools show higher expenses compared to low- or mid-tuition schools.
Following a robust discussion, which included review of the above data as well as the national standing of the ASUN Conference in various sports, the Board’s Athletics Committee went into executive session. After considering the information presented by the Director of Athletics, the comments of the two faculty committee chairs and the committee’s own discussion, the members of the Board’s Athletics Committee unanimously affirmed that Stetson’s Athletics program remain in Division I.
The results of that executive session were reported at the full board meeting on Friday, May 3. Members of the Board of Trustees engaged in a comprehensive conversation regarding the Athletics Committee report and affirmed the committee’s conclusion. In exercising its policy-making responsibilities regarding the strategic direction of the university, the Board voted unanimously without dissent that Stetson would continue its participation in NCAA Division I athletics, and congratulated the Director of Athletics and his staff for the excellent work they are doing in support of Stetson’s mission and student-athletes.