Having a Kansas University faculty member chair the Kansas Athletics board of directors is a good step toward making the board more accountable, but it may not go far enough.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told the Kansas Board of Regents last week that the six-member Kansas Athletics board henceforth would be chaired by a member of the KU faculty, not the athletic director. Responding to that news, Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer asked both KU and Kansas State University to consider expanding their athletic boards to include people not on the universities’ payroll.
“We think outside eyes would be helpful to add oversight,” Sherrer said.
Gray-Little indicated in June that KU was investigating that possibility, but KSU President Kirk Schulz reportedly was less open to that possibility.
“I have serious concerns with confidentiality if someone external is added to the board,” said Schulz.
Given the controversies that have hit the athletic departments at both KU and K-State in the last year or so, some would wonder whether there has been a little too much “confidentiality” on the boards.
In bylaws adopted about a year ago, K-State created a structure for its athletics department that is very similar to that at KU. Both schools have six-member boards of directors that conduct the actual business of the athletic corporations and larger “advisory” boards that include faculty, student and alumni representatives.
There are, however, a couple of notable differences. Both boards of directors include the athletic director, university administrators and a faculty representative, but K-State’s board continues to be chaired by the athletic director. Another important difference is that a student representative is one of the six members on KU’s board. K-State’s board has no student representative, perhaps in keeping with the president’s desire to keep the board’s deliberations confidential.
Everyone understands the need for athletic corporations to maintain confidentiality, especially when they are seeking to hire new coaches. On the other hand, under-the-table deals have cast both the KU and KSU athletic departments in an unflattering light in the last couple of years. That’s something both universities should want to correct.
Sherrer’s suggestion that “outside eyes would be helpful” certainly should be given serious consideration by KU and K-State leaders. Confidentiality may be desirable, but it’s not as important as integrity and accountability.