Category Archives: Academics

The Butler Way: Winning With Integrity

In 1988 Robert Fulghum announced to the world that by the age of five, he learned everything he really needed to know.  Fulghum’s New York Times Best Selling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten, includes an essay which begins, “How about some good news for a change?”

In a time where it seems that every major news headline related to NCAA sports and the student-athletes who play them involves some inherent scandal, a quote from that essay brings a dose of reality back to the situation:

“You will continue to read stories of crookedness and corruption. . . Don’t be misled.  They are news because they are the exceptions.”

If there ever was a NCAA member program which demonstrated that the heavily publicized stories of the day regarding corruption amongst NCAA programs are the exception, it would be the Butler University Bulldogs.

Butler painted itself onto the national sports landscape in 2010, when its men’s basketball team’s successful season and run through the NCAA tournament granted the Bulldogs the opportunity to play in the National Championship game against Duke.

“People will be talking for years to come about Butler’s incredible run to the National Championship game in men’s basketball, and we will too.  It was a truly remarkable season with a school-record 33 wins, the first 18-0 conference record in Horizon League history and a school and league-record 25-game winning streak,” noted Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier.

The clock did not strike midnight on the Bulldogs’ Cinderella story after the conclusion of the 2010 National Championship game.  Another successful season for the Bulldogs in 2010-2011 culminated in the Bulldogs facing off against the Connecticut Huskies in the 2011 National Championship game.  Other Bulldogs teams have experienced similar success in their respective sports, as the school has won 26 conference championships in the past decade.

Not only have the Bulldogs experienced success on the court, but also in the classroom.  While its most recent competitor in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship game is unsure whether it will be able to participate in the 2013 Division I Men’s Basketball tournament due to new post-season academic criteria set forth by the NCAA, Butler student-athletes have consistently yielded high academic results.

“As good as our teams were on the field, their performance in the classroom was equally as impressive.  During this year’s men’s basketball Final Four, there was quite a buzz about the fact that members of our men’s basketball team went to class on the day of the National Championship game.  But it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering the importance our coaches and athletes place on academics.  It’s a reason that the Butler men’s basketball team featured two Academic All-Americans, junior Matt Howard and sophomore Gordon Hayward.  They were two out of just 15 Academic All-Americans chosen nationwide!  We also had sophomore Grant Hunter named to the Academic All-America Team in football, junior Conner Burt picked to the Academic All-America squad in men’s soccer, and Andy Baker selected to the Academic All-America team in men’s track/cross country, and we’ve had ten Academic All-Americans in the past three years!  This is an incredible accomplishment for these student-athletes and for our university.  The other nine Horizon League members combined for eight Academic All-Americans last year,” noted  Collier.

In an age when mainstream media questions the integrity of some of the most winning NCAA men’s basketball and football programs daily, how have the Butler Bulldogs maintained integrity on the fields of competition and in the classroom?

Collier is not only Butler’s Athletic Director, but a Butler alumni and former member and coach of the Butler men’s basketball team.  If anyone understands the foundation that Butler’s model of winning is built upon, it is Collier.

“A very significant part of the pride that our community feels about Butler and Butler athletics is because of what our student-athletes demonstrate everyday.  When we think of a model collegiate athletic program, it would be one where student-athletes are accomplished in the classroom, on the fields of competition and are people of high character.  That’s what we have at Butler,” said Collier.

Collier recognizes that the community’s pride toward Butler athletics is largely based upon the well-rounded nature of Butler student-athletes, as student-athletes are equally competitive athletically and academically.  Collier credits Butler’s coaches with allowing this hybrid of success to exist at Butler.

“Our student-athletes’ graduation rates and retention rates are higher than the student body, which is quite high itself.  The key is to establish a value-based program and then stay true to that.  There’s no silver bullet.  There’s no magic potion that allows that to take place.  There’s a philosphy in place.  The coaches that lead our programs fit the model of placing integrity and academic accomplishment at the top of our values and goals,” explained Collier.

In recognizing the role that coaches play in ensuring the integrity of a program, Collier, a former basketball coach himself, pointed out that NCAA coaches who embrace integrity as a core value largely outnumber those coaches whose improprieties make up the bulk of NCAA stories covered by the media.

“There are  probably only a handful of professions that are taking more cheap shots than coaches these days.  I don’t think that’s accurate.  You have many, many, many, coaches who are down in the trenches leading and mentoring student-athletes and programs and recruiting folks that fit the culture.  I see that everyday with our 12 head coaches.  I’m sure it’s the vast majority of coaches out there.  There are always exceptions to that,” said Collier.

The Butler Athletic Department’s mission statement references something it refers to as, “The Butler Way.”

“The Butler Way demands commitment, denies selfishness, accepts reality yet seeks improvement everyday while putting the team above self.”

In an age when college sports fans are desperate to find signs that stories of corrupted NCAA teams are the exception and not the norm, The Butler Way and the Bulldogs who adhere to it serve as a beacon, guiding college sports fans to cheer on a program built upon integrity, to further success.

Making the Grade: NCAA Revenue Distribution and Academic Excellence

Today’s post is part of a three-day series discussing the NCAA Presidential Retreat, in conjunction with Alicia Jessop of Ruling Sports.  For the first piece detailing the fiscal portion of the retreat, click here.  On Friday, Alicia and I will take to our sites to discuss the integrity component of the NCAA Presidential Retreat.

Today, from Ruling Sports…

On August 9 and 10, 2011, NCAA President Mark Emmert summoned 54 Division I university presidents and other NCAA leaders to Indianapolis for a presidential retreat.  The retreat focused on three issues:  “continued expectations for student-athlete academic success, fiscal sustainability in Division I, and fortifying the integrity of the enterprise.”

On the second day of the retreat, participants discussed several key issues related to academics and NCAA student-athletes, including:  raising academic standards of current student-athletes, raising academic requirements for incoming freshmen and two-year college transers, and requiring “appropriate academic performance. . . [from] all participants [of] NCAA championships.”

The common thread of the retreat was that participants seemed committed to implementing thorough reform measures promptly.  As such, the Division I Board of Directors will meet today–one day after the conclusion of the retreat–in Indianapolis and will likely move forward with endorsing stricter academic guidelines.

Click here to continue reading on Ruling Sports.

Can We Measure the Effect of National Championships?

As some of you may know, I’m a graduate of University of Florida’s law school. I was fortunate enough to see Florida win three national titles while I was there: 2006 football, 2006 basketball, and 2007 basketball.

Since I study the business of college sports, I’ve often found myself curious about the effect of a national championship (or three, in this case). Obviously it’s good for the athletic department, but it is my belief that a successful athletic program can boost an entire university.

In reviewing budgets, audited financial statements and admissions profiles for the University of Florida over the past several years, I’ve found some interesting trends. While none of these is wholly attributable to the national championships, I certainly think they played a large role.

We’ll start in the athletic department. The most obvious impact is in game revenue and ticket-related contributions. From 1992 to 1996, football game revenue remained fairly stagnant around $7.5 million. Following Florida’s 1996 national title (and a stadium expansion), game revenue climbed to nearly $10 million by 2000. Then from 2000 to 2004, game revenue again leveled out at around $10 million. However, by 2008, following the Gator’s 2006 national title and Tim Tebow’s 2007 Heisman Trophy, game revenue had exceeded the $15  million mark. That number has continued to climb and is expected to reach $20 million by 2012.

Ticket-related contributions saw a jump from 2002 to 2004 when The Swamp expanded. They saw an even greater rise following the 2006 national championship. In 2002, ticket-related contributions were just over $10 million. By 2008, they passed the $20 million mark and in 2011 they have exceeded $30 million.

Much the same has happened with the basketball program. The years 2005 and 2006 saw basketball game revenue hover at $1.5 million. Following the 2006 national title, game revenue jumped to over $2.5 million. Add another championship in the 2007 season and 2008 game revenue jumped to an all-time high of $3 million.

Ticket-related contributions for basketball also saw significant increases. After remaining stagnant at just over $1 million per year since 2001, ticket-related contributions rose to nearly $1.5 million in 2007, $2 million in 2008, and a high of over $2.75 million in 2009 and 2010.

Another area the national titles impacted was revenues derived from licensing. The Gator logo is surely one of the most recognizable in college athletics today. Indeed, the athletic department expects to receive $4.8 million this year from licensing revenue. From 2004-2006 that number was just $2 million, having only seen modest increases from just over $1.5 million in 2001. National championships have certainly helped those licensing revenues more than double since 2006.

 And it’s not just the athletic department who profits. Like most athletic departments, the University Athletic Association at University of Florida shares licensing revenue with the University. Assistant Athletic Director and Controller, Susan Parrish, tells me they used to share a percentage of licensing revenue with the University. However, the University requested a change in their agreement, as the percentage model caused a great deal of unpredictability. Today, the athletic department shares a set dollar amount with the University each year, as determined by an agreement of the parties.

The benefits to the University don’t stop there. Most of you have heard of the Flutie Effect, which is basically the idea that successful athletic programs can increase applications to universities by measurable percentages. This occurs because the school is televised nationally and becomes a recognizable brand.

Take University of Florida, for example. In 2006, University of Florida received 21,710 applications and both the football and basketball team won national championships. There were 24,040 applications for the fall 2007 class, an increase of 10.73 percent. Before you tell me that there are other reasons for increases, keep reading.

Following the 2007 basketball title and Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy, the University received 26,392 applications, an increase of 9.78% over the previous year.

Following the national championships applications rose by much higher percentages than in other years. And this isn’t an isolated phenomenon at Florida. It’s been documented at numerous other schools following athletic success. I have more thoughts on this, but you’ll have to wait for my upcoming book. (I know, I’m such a tease.)

A national championship can have a positive impact on any program, not just an already strong program like University of Florida. I’ve recently been speaking with an executive at a DII university who won a national championship in a sport other than football or basketball this year. This person tells me she’s already seeing the impact this national championship is having at her school. Watch for their story coming soon on!