THIBODAUX – For the past year Nicholls State University has been engaged in a campus-wide effort to study its athletics program as part of the NCAA Division I athletics certification program. Specific areas studied were academic integrity, governance and commitment to rules compliance, as well as a commitment to equity and student-athlete welfare. The committee responsible for the study included various members of the university faculty and staff, as well as athletics department personnel.
While academic accreditation is common in colleges and universities, this program focuses solely on certification of athletics programs. Within each area studied by the committee, the program has standards, called operating principles, which were adopted by the association to place a “measuring stick” by which all Division I members are evaluated. Following a pilot project, the Division I membership overwhelmingly supported the program and its standards at the 1993 NCAA Convention. Nicholls completed its first certification self-study in 1997. 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 upcoming review will be the second in the certification process for Nicholls.
The certification program’s purpose is to help ensure integrity in the institution’s athletics operations. It opens up athletics to the rest of the university community and to the public. Institutions benefit by increasing campus-wide awareness and knowledge of the athletics program, confirming its strengths and developing plans to improve areas of concern.
With the completion of Nicholls study, an external team of reviewers will conduct an evaluation visit to the campus Sept. 24 to 26. Those reviewers will be peers from other colleges, universities or conference offices. That team will report to the NCAA Division I Committee on Athletics Certification, another independent group. The committee will then determine the institution’s certification status and announce the decision publicly. For institutions that fail to conduct a comprehensive self-study or to correct problems, tough sanctions can be imposed.
The three options of certification status are: (a) certified; (b) certified with conditions; and (c) 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. The primary purpose of the association is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body. Activities of the NCAA membership include formulating rules of play for NCAA sports, conducting national championships, adopting and enforcing standards of eligibility, and studying all phases of intercollegiate athletics.