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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A lack of focus on the part of the NCAA and
colleges and universities is to blame for college recruiting problems,
Vanderbilt University Vice Chancellor David Williams told a U.S. House
subcommittee March 11.
In prepared testimony, Williams, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for
student life and university affairs, general counsel and a professor of
law, cited five problems that have led to allegations of recruiting
violations, such as the ones currently facing the University of
Colorado and the University of Minnesota.
Lack of clear direction from the NCAA on what is permissible
behavior in college recruiting, the competitive advantage of schools
able to offer recruits lavish perks, little emphasis on education
during the recruiting process, minimal or no institutional control over
college recruiting, and college officials not seeking feedback from
prospective and former student athletes about athletics recruitment
have contributed to questionable recruiting practices, according to
"While many colleges have clean recruiting programs and would never,
ever think of or allow something illegal (by NCAA standards) or
unethical to take place, there are others that either condone
questionable behavior, look the other way so as not to see the
questionable behavior, or have athletic programs so separate that they
truly do not know that the questionable behavior is going on right
under their noses," according to Williams’ written testimony.
Williams was one of several witnesses that testified at the U.S.
House of Representatives hearing "College Recruiting: Are Student
Athletes Being Protected?" The hearing was before the subcommittee on
Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on
Energy and Commerce. Other witnesses included U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne of
Nebraska; David Berst, vice president for Division I of the NCAA;
Elizabeth Hoffman, president of the University of Colorado system; and
Don McPherson, executive director of the Sports Leadership Institute at
Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y.
Under Vanderbilt’s recent restructuring of its athletics program,
Williams oversees the newly created Office of Student Athletics,
Recreation and Wellness, which combines the program and operations of
varsity sports with those of student recreation, intramurals and
community sports programs. He is also the University’s liaison to the
Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Williams served as vice president for
student and urban/community affairs at The Ohio State University, where
the nation’s largest intercollegiate athletic program reported to him.
Williams suggested that while the NCAA manual has 40 pages directly
related to recruiting and several other sections that indirectly
address recruiting, there is not a general philosophy of what
recruiting is about and what should be its major framework, nor is
there direction on what is and is not permissible behavior in
On the issue of competitive advantage, he mentioned the NCAA’s
desire for a "level playing field," but questioned if this goal is
possible when the rules and recruiting practices-which need to be
revised, according to Williams-have come to a point where those with
more money or more resources, or those willing to bend the rules, are
in a position of advantage.
Williams called for redesigning recruiting to more clearly focus on
the educational aspect of college life. Many times prospective student
athletes are shown the weight room, meet with the strength coach and
take a tour of the locker room, but spend little time with professors,
seeing a classroom or talking about academic support.
"If we do not make this (education) important during recruiting, the
prospect may believe it is not important to us and maybe not important
to them as well," he said.
Williams also called for university administrators to gain control
and become more involved and knowledgeable about the recruiting
process. "An athletic program that is not controlled by the institution
is an athletic program waiting for a disaster," he said.
Lastly, Williams suggested that college and university officials ask
current and former student athletes about the recruitment process and
whether institutions’ efforts match students’ needs.
"The kids tell me, yes, these competitive advantage-type things have
some influence on them, but at the end of the day they want to play
their sport at the college level and hopefully attend school and
receive an education," said Williams.
"All of the rest is just fluff and not necessary if we can truly level the playing field," he said.
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Media contact: Princine Lewis, (615) 322-NEWS