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  March 22, 2004

NCAA Rep A Bridge Between
Student-Athletes And Community

Scott Brown was curious. The chair of the President's Advisory Committee on Athletics for the previous four years, he had been invited into then-athletic director Lew Perkins' office. When he got there, Jeffrey Hathaway, then the associate athletic director, and John Allen, UConn's NCAA faculty athletic representative, were also in the room. Allen closed the door.

Image: Scott Brown meets with Melissa MacDougal

Scott Brown, NCAA faculty athletic representative, meets with Melissa MacDougal from the Women's Lacrosse team to discuss a class research project.

Photo by Dollie Harvey

"I thought, 'Oh oh. What did I do?'" said Brown, during an interview in his office, which is lined with trinkets from almost every varsity sport at UConn. "Then John said he was retiring, and they were recommending to President Austin that I should take over as faculty rep."

Brown jumped at the chance.

"It's a great job," he says. "I see how hard these kids work - academically and athletically - and how much they want to succeed in everything they do. It's a pleasure working with them, helping them, and watching them compete."

The NCAA established the mandatory position of faculty athletic representative for each of its member institutions in 1989, to serve as a conduit between the university, its faculty, its athletic program, the NCAA, and the conference in which the school's teams participate. The representatives are asked to "ensure academic integrity, facilitate institutional control of intercollegiate athletics, and enhance the student-athlete experience," according to a handbook produced by the NCAA for faculty athletic representatives. The checklist of duties in the handbook is long and wide-ranging.

"Here at UConn we take the term 'student-athlete' very seriously," says University President Philip E. Austin. "Whoever serves as faculty athletic representative plays a vital role in translating that term into an operating reality and, on an even more fundamental level, assuring the integrity of our athletic program. Like John Allen before him, Scott Brown carries out this responsibility with a high degree of distinction, and we're all grateful for his contribution not just to UConn athletics, but to the University as a whole."

Jeffrey Hathaway, director of athletics, says "the role of the Faculty Athletic Representative is an essential part of our communications with the campus community regarding the role of academics, intercollegiate athletics, and the NCAA, and how they successfully work together. The outstanding working relationship the athletics department has with Scott has been a very important part of our efforts to continue the excellent reputation UConn has with the NCAA, and to maintain our integrity on a national level and within the University community."

Brown, a professor of educational psychology, says the position comes down to three things: communications, vigilance problem solving.

"I do a lot of work helping the student-athletes: advising them, helping them change majors, connecting them with the right tutors or faculty," says Brown, who has been faculty athletic representative since 2000. "I receive a lot of calls from parents of recruits, concerned that the academics should be a good fit for their son or daughter. I've had professors call who want help getting a former student-athlete into graduate school, angry parents calling because their son was sitting on the bench, and questions about red-shirting. I'll connect them all with the people they need to talk to."

Brown, who has been faculty athletic representative since 2000, continues to teach and conduct research. In all fields, he has earned the respect not only of UConn faculty and administrators, but also of colleagues nationally.

Recently, he was selected to administer a $5 million grant from the Carnegie Corp., called The Teachers for a New Era Project, on behalf of the Neag School of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"Scott is an outstanding teacher and advisor," says Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School of Education. "His students always give him the highest ratings, and he's non-stop. He'll keep teaching and researching regardless of his NCAA duties, his efforts on the Carnegie grant, and his other committee work. He loves teaching."

That includes working with student-athletes, whether it's helping basketball star Ashley Battle create a business plan for a management course while on a basketball trip, or "teaching" new football recruits about NCAA regulations, UConn rules, or the rigors of maintaining good grades while practicing 20 hours a week.

"I usually get their attention pretty quickly," says Brown, with a smile. "Coach (Randy) Edsall gives me about two hours with the recruits in August. I essentially let them know we're serious about academics, we're serious about rules - NCAA rules and UConn rules - and we're serious about citizenship, and they respond well."

Brown's sermons to the freshmen are taking on renewed urgency in light of recent scandals that have rocked a number of universities and focused media, NCAA and, most recently, Congressional scrutiny on intercollegiate athletics programs.

Is Brown worried about the possibility that UConn may one day face the same problems? His answer is quick and unequivocal. "No, we have a good history of doing the right thing," he says. "We're very careful and we're constantly vigilant."

That's particularly true when it comes to academics.

"The positive thing is that we have good coaches here who have high standards," Brown says, adding that there are lots of people watching and helping the student-athletes.

"I'm in touch with Bruce Cohen, director of the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics, at least three times a week," he says. "I talk to Bill Shults, the NCAA compliance officer in the athletics department, at least twice a week, and several times a week with Jeff Hathaway. Jeff is very accessible and concerned about academics. I also work with five or six people, including the Registrar, Jeff von Munkwitz Smith, on a regular basis, making sure our student-athletes are keeping up their grades, taking the proper courses, and are on track for graduation."

Brown says the University's goal is to have student-athletes graduate at a rate equal to or higher than the general student population, a goal that has been achieved several times in the past four years.

Another positive number, he says, is that more than 250 of UConn's slightly more than 600 student-athletes this semester made the Dean's List, achieving grade point averages of 3.0 or better, and a half-dozen earned a 4.0.

Brown often sounds like a booster. Indeed, in the handbook, that's listed as one of the faculty athletic representative's duties. But he says the job is much more than that.

"My job isn't to be pro student-athlete," Brown says. "I'm pro-Universi ty of Connecticut. I have to keep my eyes and ears open, and be aware of the implications of what we do locally as well as nationally.

"When I was considering the position, I asked President Austin how long I would have it," says Brown. "He said as long as we're both smiling any time there's a story about us on the front page of The Hartford Courant, I'd be OK."

So far during Brown's tenure as faculty athletic representative, there have been no frowns.