The University of Texas-Pan American is in the process of a year-long, campus-wide effort to study its athletics programs as part of the NCAA Division I athletics certification program.
Specific areas being covered in the study, which began in January, are academic and fiscal integrity, governance, rules compliance, commitment to equity, student-athlete welfare, and sportsmanship.
While academic accreditation is common in colleges and universities, this program focuses solely on certification of athletics programs. Following a pilot project, the Division I membership overwhelmingly supported the program and its standards at the 1993 NCAA Convention. UTPA completed its first certification self-study in 1994-95.
At the 1997 Convention, the Division I membership voted to change the frequency of athletics certification from once every five years to once every 10 years and to require a five-year interim status report. Thus, the current self-study will be the second in the certification process for UTPA.
"At The University of Texas-Pan American, our administration is committed to providing an athletic program that is NCAA compliance driven while striving for excellence in both the athletic and academic arenas," said UTPA Athletics Director William J. Weidner. "As an NCAA Division I member institution, we look forward to participating in the NCAA Certification process to reaffirm that commitment."
The certification program's purpose is to help ensure integrity in the institution's athletics operations. Institutions will benefit by increasing campus-wide awareness and knowledge of the athletics program, confirming its strengths and developing plans to improve areas of concern.
The committee responsible for the study includes UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez; Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services; and UTPA faculty, staff, students and student-athletes. Two members of the NCAA membership services staff already have traveled to the campus for a one-day orientation visit to meet with the committee and its subcommittees.
Within each area to be studied by the committee, the program has standards (operating principles) adopted by the NCAA to place a "measuring stick" by which all Division I members are evaluated. UTPA also will examine how the activities of the athletics program relate to the mission and purpose of the institution.
Once UTPA has completed its study, an external team of reviewers will conduct a four-day evaluation visit on campus. That team will report to the NCAA Division I Committee on Athletics Certification, another independent group. The committee then will determine the institution's certification status and announce the decision publicly.
The three options of certification status are certified, certified with conditions and not certified. While universities/colleges will have an opportunity to correct deficient areas, those that do not take corrective actions may be ruled ineligible for NCAA championships.
The NCAA is a membership organization of colleges and universities that participate in intercollegiate athletics. Its primary purpose is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body.
NCAA membership activities include formulating rules of play for Association sports, conducting national championships, adopting and enforcing standards of eligibility, and studying all phases of intercollegiate athletics.
For more information on the UTPA self-study, contact Edwards at 956/381-2147.