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Leland strives for balance between athletics and academics

Athletic Director Ted Leland returned to the Faculty Senate for the second time this year to continue his conversation about the relationship of college sports to the academic enterprise.

Leland, who took his cue from senators, addressed three areas of concern at the Feb. 5 meeting: student conduct at recent athletic events; the commercialization of college athletics; and the occasional scheduling of athletic competitions during Dead Week. He also spoke briefly about the tutoring services available for student-athletes.

Echoing President Gerhard Casper's plea to restore a friendlier tone to intercollegiate athletics, Leland said that the misconduct of a small percentage of students at athletic events reflects badly on Stanford.

In his opening remarks to the senate, Casper admonished the Sixth Man Club ­ a group of about 750 student fans who have paid a $25 membership ­ for taunting a member of the University of Arizona basketball team at a recent basketball game. "They treated all aspects of his life as fair game, with no respect to privacy," Casper said. "The Sixth Man Club weakened the university rather than strengthened it."

The group was created, in part, to help keep crowds from stampeding the court after home games, Leland said. But the students' behavior at last week's game has prompted a review of the current arrangement under which Sixth Man Club members get preferred seating at Maples Pavilion.

"I think we will have to review [the Sixth Man Club] from two perspectives," he said, wondering aloud whether his department "may have created a monster in terms of the way they treat visitors and opposing teams." With tickets for the men's basketball games in high demand, he added, questions of fairness also have arisen.

Leland said that his staff will seek input from the office of the vice provost of student affairs and from other members of the university community "to make sure we have some wide input" before deciding the fate of the club.

Turning to the question of commercialization of college sports, Leland said that in an ideal world, there would be no corporate sponsorship of Stanford athletics. But since the program runs without much support from the university's general funds, the prospect is unlikely, he said.

The athletic department currently receives $2 million to $2.5 million per year from corporate packages and advertising. This includes uniforms provided by Nike for almost every varsity team in exchange for the prominent placement of logos.

Leland said a growing chorus of people concerned about this issue have contacted him in recent months. "We're beginning to cross over the line and we need to take a look at our corporate relationships," he said.

The athletic department, he noted, is currently working to remove all signs (with the exception of those located beneath scoreboards) from its facilities. Whether this goal can be reached, however, is questionable, he said.

"It's hard for us to say we're going to be able to pull that off," Leland conceded. "But I think we're getting a clear indication from the trustees and the president and provost's office that they'd like us to get rid of [the signs]. I think it's an absolutely reasonable request. So we're trying to wean ourselves off of it."

Reducing Stanford's dependence on corporate sponsorship of athletics is indeed a top concern for administrators, Casper said. But it is an uphill battle, he explained, because the university would have to raise $50 million in endowment to permanently replace these funds. "Every million dollars of endowment gives us $50,000 to spend," he said.

Classics Professor Marsh McCall voiced concerns about the scheduling of athletic events during Dead Week, the week preceding finals. McCall wondered whether the weekend between Dead Week and final exams counts as part of Dead Week, and is therefore off-limits to athletic events.

Registrar Roger Printup said the current policy regarding the length of the week is vague. The Committee on Academic Appraisal and Achievement (C-AAA) was asked to clarify the matter and report back to the senate at a later date.

Another senator asked how the tutoring system for student-athletes operates. Two half-time and one full-time employee of the undergraduate advising center provide academic support services to athletes, Leland said. As a general rule, he added, employees from the athletic department don't get involved in academic issues.

"We want to make sure the balance is correct," he said.


By Marisa Cigarroa

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