Conflicts of Interest in the Intercollegiate Athletics Management Structure – The Impetus for Nullification of Presidential Authority

Submitted by Corey M. Turner, J.D., Assistant Professor of Business Law*

1* Department of Business, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York, Brooklyn, New York 11235

Corey M. Turner is an Assistant Professor of Business Law and a member of the campus-wide Athletics Committee at the City University of New York’s Kingsborough Community College.

ABSTRACT

In recent years there have been numerous athletics scandals at major universities. The scandals are the outgrowth of infractions of NCAA rules and regulations committed by coaches and student-athletes. In the wake of such scandals, university presidents have asserted that they are not in control of their athletics programs, despite the fact that the NCAA changed its management structure in 1997 giving presidents full authority for the governance of intercollegiate athletics nationally. Thus, there is a perception amongst university presidents that their presidential authority in areas of intercollegiate athletics governance has been nullified despite the existence of NCAA regulations to the contrary.

The root cause of nullification of presidential control and authority is the president’s own conflict of interest between professional responsibilities and personal interests. In the contemporary environment of large television contracts and the race to increase revenues on university campuses, there has been a fundamental change in mindset that places the importance of athletics over academics. In such an environment, conflicts of interest are both prevalent and unavoidable. Thus, the key issue is not the existence of conflicts of interest, but the management of conflicts of interest.

Although there is no easy answer or simple fix for conflict of interest induced nullification, process based decision making may be strategically deployed as a conflict of interest management tool when analyzing information, evaluating choices, making decisions, and establishing conditions that such decisions must meet in order to be ethically correct.

Key words: infractions, NCAA, university, president, management structure, control, authority, governance, intercollegiate, athletics, conflict of interest, nullification, decision making. Continue reading