No consensus on whether regents need athletics committee

Some board members want more official involvement in campus sports

Members of the Board of Regents on Monday, Nov. 1, discussed whether to establish a new athletics subcommittee, an entity that's been absent from the board since 2003.

The idea was brought forth in September by regents Jim Geddes, Monisha Merchant and Joe Neguse, all of whom expressed interest in pursuing it during Monday's study session. But other regents and campus administrators at the meeting questioned whether creating a new subcommittee was necessary to reinforce communication between the board and athletic departments at CU-Boulder and UCCS.

"From my perspective ... athletics has taken a backseat to some of the other priorities at the university," Geddes said. "It's time to bring athletics back up to the priority it deserves."

Before 2003, the board had a standing committee on intercollegiate athletics. Standing committees, which did not take votes, were incorporated into study sessions for the board in August 2003. In 2006, the study sessions became part of the board's two remaining committees, Academic Affairs and Budget. The board currently receives an annual report on intercollegiate athletics.

Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano, who mentioned he took part in the board's athletics committee before 2003, pointed to the low-ranking status of private support for athletics at the university, and welcomed potential efforts from the regents to help boost the public profile and stimulate fundraising.

"If (the regents) want to help with that, it would be great," DiStefano said. "But I don't think we need a committee to do that."

DiStefano said regents have contacted him personally over the years with regard to coaches or the nature of coaches' contracts.

"I've always said, let's get the president involved and have that conversation," DiStefano said.

Boulder Athletic Director Mike Bohn said the Board of Regents' influence "is significant in moving donors ... and protecting and escalating the investment in athletics. (But) do we need a committee? That's for you to decide."

Regents Tillie Bishop, Steve Bosley and Tom Lucero questioned whether a new committee was necessary to increase regent involvement with athletics.

"I would prefer we just have the athletic directors and staff make reports to us," Bishop said via telephone. He mentioned the practical concerns raised by adding another meeting to the board's calendar, including time and travel costs. "Some of us can't make it to the meetings we already have."

Geddes maintained that a committee – while not meddling with or attempting to micromanage the athletic departments – could boost the emphasis on NCAA athletics at CU campuses.

"There's no better way of having the Board of Regents participate than when it's in front of us regularly," he said. "This is an opportunity for us to be more visible and promote athletics."

Lucero, via telephone, suggested that regular athletic department reports could be incorporated into the Academic Affairs or Budget committee meetings. Merchant, also via telephone, said she feared athletic directors would be stuck sitting idle for long periods in such meetings, and that because of that she sees value in a separate athletic committee.

Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said she and Athletic Director Stephen Kirkham are happy to provide information as requested by the regents, and welcomed input for issues such as Division II conference realignment. She said regent involvement could be fostered without adding another meeting to the calendar.

Geddes told an anecdote about taking his son, then 7, to a University of Texas home game, where the boy asked if they were at a professional contest. He said he wants to see Boulder reach for that level. "I don't understand the resistance," he said.

No action was taken on Monday, because regents cannot vote at study sessions. The board might add the matter to the agenda of its next regular meeting, scheduled for Nov. 18-19 at UCCS.