The Priorities of University Presidents: Where Do College Athletics Fit In?

Jason Belzer:

The answer is, in fact, that there are many different answers. Depending on the level which the university participates in college sports, coupled with the overall goal of the institution, often dictates how its president approaches the day to day management of its athletic program. While you would be hard-pressed to find any university that holds athletic success above academic success, it is not uncommon to find situations in higher education where it appears that the tail is wagging the dog. There is little denying the importance that athletics plays in the overall campus environment, and as we recently saw with the University of Missouri, sports can be at the very center of critical campus conversations and a catalyst for academic and social change. Presidents need to give sports special priority while also keeping them somewhat in perspective.

How do university presidents manage the dynamic of academics and athletics on campus? Can presidents be too hands-on? How does money factor into their decision-making process regarding sports? Do competing interests and priorities on campus cause friction between presidents and athletic directors?