Athletics Review Committee Report

President Simmons' June 6 Letter to the Community

June 6, 2011

Dear Brown Community Members,

Now that the spring semester and final exams are over, I want to bring you up to date on where the consideration of the Report on Athletics now stands and give you additional information about the work required prior to our being able to make a final determination in October about the size, scope and budget of Athletics.

Let me begin by making an exceedingly important point. There has never been a question about the value of athletics to Brown. The sole purpose of this review has been to determine the appropriate size and scope of Athletics in the context of the University’s overall priorities and demands, including its fiscal position, the extraordinary increase in competition for admission, the wide array of capital needs, and so on. The Corporation has affirmed that intercollegiate athletics, the experience and contribution of Brown student-athletes, and the University's participation in the Ivy League are deeply valued and must be supported appropriately in the context of Brown’s resources.

As anticipated in my April 29 letter to the community about the review of athletics, the Corporation did not take action on this matter at their recent meeting. That is to say, no decisions were made and no actions will be implemented with regard to either the status of specific teams or admission slots for recruited athletes for any team while this process of review remains underway. The Corporation plans to return to the discussion of athletics at its October meeting, when they will receive my report and recommendations.

There has been particular confusion in recent weeks about the number of admission slots for recruited athletes in some sports. However, all reductions in the number of admission slots for recruited athletes have been halted until October so that a determination on this issue can be evaluated in the context of the larger question of the overall size and scope of athletics at Brown. Accordingly, no teams are having admission slots eliminated or reduced this year; recruiting is continuing as usual, with one important caveat - recruiting for the three varsity programs recommended for discontinuation will continue with the understanding that no coach should commit to support a recruit and no recruit should commit to Brown until a final decision is reached in October.

In the meantime, since the impetus for this review was improved support for our athletes, we are proceeding to implement the recommendations to improve staffing and salaries for coaches and address other pressing resource needs in the department. Further, we have accepted the recommendation to make some additional funds available for financial aid that will benefit all students, including athletes. Finally, the University will begin to work on raising funds for facility improvements, as recommended by the Committee.

I promised our students that they would have adequate time to comment on the report and the October decision point will give them, their supporters and others ample opportunity to be heard on these matters. Over the course of the summer and fall I will meet with groups representing teams recommended for discontinuation as varsity sports (fencing, wrestling and skiing). This is far from an empty exercise; I will be fully attentive to their arguments, perspectives and proposals. I will also consider feedback to date, including the copious comments made earlier to me and to the Committee. These comments are incorporated into the Committee’s final report which is now available on-line. I encourage those interested in Athletics to read the report carefully.

These matters have caused significant distress for the students who would be most directly affected by the elimination of their sport. While I am cognizant of the fact that continued uncertainty creates additional stress, I also recognize that the import of any decisions in this area is significant enough that, in keeping with our community standards, we should take the time to arrive at a decision that is best in the context of our mission and purpose, our desire to excel at all that we do, and our concern above all for our students’ welfare and success. A thorough process of review and decision-making in which the many points of view are weighed, while unusual and occasionally quite cumbersome, reflects well the spirit of this community that we cherish. I appreciate very much the passion and intelligence that so many of you have brought to this important discussion.

However, multiple reviews from the athletics department and others have indicated that we do a great disservice to our students by not adequately supporting our programs as they are currently organized. At the same time, given the breadth and consequence of our total goals, priorities and needs, the athletics program must be shaped and supported in accordance with those overall goals. As we proceed with discussions of these important questions, the search for a judicious balance among these needs will necessarily guide any decisions ultimately reached.

I look forward to working with you to reach the best decision for our athletes and for Brown.


Ruth J. Simmons