Taking a leap
With an ambitious plan to fully fund every varsity sport, AD Kevin White hopes to vault Notre Dame to the very top of NCAA athletics
With less than a year under his belt, new athletic director Kevin White has announced a plan to provide all 26 of Notre Dame's varsity teams with the full number of scholarships allowed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The move will add 16 athletic scholarships each year for the next four years, 64 total, starting with next fall's freshmen.
"To achieve our stated departmental and University mission of providing a high-quality intercollegiate athletics experience for the most academically and athletically gifted individuals available, it's imperative that our programs have access to the full complement of athletic-related financial aid," White said.
The NCAA does not limit spending on certain expenses, such as recruiting and travel, but it does limit scholarships a university can grant in each of its varsity programs. Currently, Notre Dame fully funds grants-in-aid for 10 teams, including football, men's and women's basketball, and women's soccer.
Women's rowing, which will go from offering no scholarships to doling out 20, will benefit the most from the additional funding. Men's lacrosse, another sport currently without grants-in-aid, will gain 12.6. Men's swimming will pick up 7.9 and women's cross country/track and field will add six.
Other sports to benefit will include baseball, men's and women's fencing, men's and women's golf, women's lacrosse, men's soccer, men's swimming, and men's cross country/track and field.
Once they are in place, the additional scholarships will cost the department $1.2 million a year, according to Sandy Barbour, associate athletic director for compliance and administration. The athletic department, which operates under a different budget than the rest of the University, must raise money to absorb the additional costs.
"We are allowing [White] to embark on additional fundraising to enhance his operating budget," said University executive vice president Father Timothy Scully.
The decision to increase athletic scholarships was independent of the $13 million the school received from the football team's appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, Scully said. That money, Scully said, will enhance general undergraduate financial aid.
"This proposal was made well before the Fiesta Bowl," Scully said. "We would have done this without the Fiesta Bowl."
The athletic department based its decision to add 64 scholarships on several factors, ranging from helping teams become more competitive to increasing opportunities for female athletes.
The additional scholarships are particularly significant resource to coaches. "At a place like Notre Dame with high tuition costs and a tremendous academic tradition" coaches must find athletes that not only meet the school's high athletic standards, but also that meet its high academic standards, she added, making recruiting a "tricky game," said Barbour.
"You have to give coaches the ability to go out and recruit these athletes," Barbour continued. "When you're going up against other schools that are offering scholarships ... it is very difficult."
While many of the programs benefiting from the scholarships are already nationally competitive, Barbour said insufficient financial aid has been holding teams back. Overall participation probably will not increase, but Barbour anticipates that the quality of the athletes will improve.
"Watch out," Barbour said. "They're going to do phenomenal things."
One of the "phenomenal things" the University is hoping for is improved standing in the Sears Directors' Cup, a competition that ranks colleges by the combined performance of all their varsity teams.
The athletic department would like Notre Dame to finish in the top five of that competition, according to Barbour. In the final fall standings for 2000-2001, released on Jan. 9, Notre Dame was ranked eighth among Division I schools.
Scully, however, wants more than just a top five finish in the Sears Cup.
"I'd really like to see Notre Dame win that," Scully said, adding that he would also like for Notre Dame athletics to become known for more than just an outstanding football program.
Being a "superb university" and having great athletics is possible, according to Scully, who added that athletics can help create excitement among students and alumni.
He pointed to Stanford University, which maintains high academic standards and has numerous successful varsity sports teams. Stanford was second in the most recent Sears Cup final rankings.
"Why bother doing it if you're not going to do it with excellence?" Barbour said.
Gender equity was another factor behind the decision to increase scholarships, according to Barbour, adding that the additional funding will "enhance [Notre Dame's] gender equity position."
The plan to fully fund all varsity athletics involves adding scholarships to men's programs, but the majority of the 64 new scholarships will be dedicated to women's sports. Women's sports will gain 36 grants-in-aid, while men's teams will gain 28.
"It's the right thing to do," Scully said. "We are currently not meeting Title IX requirements."
Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments requires that a school provide athletic opportunities for men and women's athletics in a proportion to the gender ratio of the entire student body.
Currently, female athletes receive 38 percent of the athletic department's scholarship resources. With the additional scholarships, that figure will increase to 42 percent, more closely reflecting the 45 percent of student who are women, according to Barbour.
"That takes us from being close to compliance to being in compliance," she said. "We have to close the gap."
Next year, Notre Dame will go through the NCAA's certification process again, and one area the NCAA looks at during the process is gender equity. However, Barbour said that Notre Dame did not have to add the scholarships for that reason.
"We're not worried about certification," Barbour said. "We believe we provide in all the areas certification encompasses."
In fact, gender equity is only one of the benefits the University considered while considering whether to add the additional grants-in-aid.
"That is not the full reason we're doing it," Barbour said. "The University did this because they believed it was the right thing to do."
Although the new plan does not require Board of Trustees approval, Barbour said that University President Father Edward Malloy and White, among other administrators, have kept the Trustees informed on the subject.
All News Stories for Wednesday, January 31, 2001