Leaders in higher education and athletics gathered today on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. They were there for a panel discussion on the role athletics should play on a college campus.
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp was one of several people who addressed the panel. He offered the controversial idea that presidents and chancellors are ill-prepared to oversee athletics and should not have direct supervision.
“You hear all the time that the presidents of the universities have the power to fix this. I don’t agree,” said Thorp. “We can’t fix the NCAA or the conferences because we have to get a huge number of our colleagues to agree with us at the same time. And we can’t fix our own situations because the alumni and the governing boards want their victories and they want the agony of disagreement over college athletics to end as soon as possible.”
Thorp said athletic directors are better suited to the job: “Either we put the AD’s back in charge and hold them accountable if things don’t work, or, let’s be honest, and tell everyone when we select them to run institutions that have big-time sports, that athletics is the most important part of the job.”
Thorp also had some words of advice for his successor, Carol Folt. She will become UNC-Chapel Hill’s chancellor on July 1.
“My successor will be here soon,” he said. “And she will not want to say anything that will make the NCAA upset or cause the fan base to start an email campaign to the Board (of Trustees) – which shouldn’t work, but it does. But hopefully, my saying these things will make it easier for her.”
Thorp is leaving UNC to become the provost at Washington University in Saint Louis, a school that does not play major college sports. He said he would not be offering these thoughts if he wasn’t leaving to go to a college that plays NCAA Division III, which doesn’t offer athletic scholarships.
UNC-Chapel Hill has been embroiled in several scandals related to athletics in recent years. They include academic fraud and impermissible gifts paid to football players.