Drake Group Given ‘In Residence’ Status at UNH

The Charger Bulletin

By Karen Grava

Director of Media Relations

The Drake Group, a national organization of faculty and staff who seek to defend academic integrity in college sports, is now “in residence” at the University of New Haven.

Since its founding in 1999, the Drake Group has significantly influenced public discourse on current issues and controversies in sports and higher education.

The UNH College of Business is home to a sports management program ranked among the best in the world.

“We are pleased to offer the Drake Group a permanent home since the mission of the group is something UNH is proud to support,” said UNH President Steve Kaplan. “Having the group in residence is an excellent fit with our nationally recognized sports management department.”

“We are dedicated to academic integrity in sports,” said Allen Sack, UNH professor of sports management and president of the Drake Group. “In some cases, the pressure of commercial college sports leads universities to give greater priority to keeping athletes eligible than to providing a quality education.”

The Drake Group was founded when a distinguished group of college faculty, authors and activists were invited to Drake University for a meeting about ways to end academic corruption in college sports. Included in the initial conference were members of faculty senates, journalists, athletic directors and members of organizations such as the NCAA and the Knight Foundation Commission on Collegiate Sport.

Donna Lopiano, president and founder of Sport Management Resources and former chief executive officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation, is a member of the Drake Group advisory council. She shares the Drake Group’s position that ultimately college faculty are responsible for protecting the academic integrity of the educational institution.

“When the power or oversight of the faculty is usurped by administrative decisions such as admissions standards exceptions, improper conduct such as tutors doing the work of athletes or unethical intervention such as placement of athletes in courses demonstrated to require less effort or higher than normal grading, voices must be raised to object,” she said. “Such voices become catalysts for change when institutions, fearful of public embarrassment, are forced to act to protect their public reputations.”

Lopiano said over the last four decades, athletics governance systems have become increasingly fragmented by competitive division, by weighted voting, by structural changes that increase the power of smaller decision-making groups, and by executive powers that have moved the NCAA from governance by a large and diverse deliberative assembly to decision-making by smaller more homogeneous groups that increasingly include fewer faculty and independent voices.

“These changes should ring a bell of caution,” she said. “It is easier to get off track if we are not constantly challenged by different views, especially by the collective conscience of the majority but also the clear expression of academic integrity by the faculty. A good measure of moral certainty will be the ability of athletics to answer its faculty critics. That’s what The Drake Group is all about.”

A key component of the Drake Group’s strategy is to anchor the intercollegiate athletic experience within the context and mission of higher education, said Billy Hawkins, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia and a member of the Drake Group advisory council.

“The Drake Group has been active in keeping issues of athletic reform at the forefront of the discussion on intercollegiate athletics,” Hawkins said. “The academic reputation of the University of New Haven and the legacy and scholarship of Allen Sack provides the Drake group with a reputable residence and resources to continue its notable work.”

The Drake Group co-sponsored the College Athletes Right to Know Act in Connecticut, sponsored conferences focused on major policy issues in collegiate sport, and met with Ralph Nader’s League of Fans to discuss changes in athletic scholarship policies. Last fall, the NCAA adopted one of the Drake Group’s most controversial proposals when it revived multi-year scholarships for college athletes.

“The Drake Group is an independent watchdog that has provided invaluable perspective, hard analysis and important data on the problems with intercollegiate athletics,” said Andrew Zimbalist, The Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College and a member of the Drake Group advisory council. “One of the benefits of having the group based at UNH is that Allen Sack has been a leading and influential critic of intercollegiate athletics. His leadership has been central to the Drake Group’s success.”

Since its inception in 1999, the Drake Group has had no home base and has held meetings in cities throughout the United States. The group plans to hold meetings and other events on the UNH campus in years to come.