Jan. 13, 2004
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina University Chancellor John W. Bardo is fond of saying, "We want our student-athletes to succeed on the playing fields, but more importantly, we want them to graduate and succeed in the 'game of life.'"
Bardo discussed that priority Saturday, Jan. 10, at the 2004 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The NCAA invited Bardo to represent Division I schools at a session titled "The President's Role in Maintaining the Integrity of Intercollegiate Athletics on Campus." He was joined by James Netherton, president of Carson-Newman College (Division II) and Richard Pattenaude, president of the University of Southern Maine (Division III).
In his remarks, Bardo discussed how Western has attempted to create and maintain a climate in which student-athletes can thrive not just on the courts and fields of play, but also as scholars in the classrooms and citizens of the communities in which they live. He addressed specific situations at Western, including creation of an independent "blue-ribbon task force" that examined the university's intercollegiate athletics program from top to bottom, and the hiring of coaches and administrators who embrace institutional values of academics and citizenship.
Bardo pointed to several success stories since the task force completed its work in January 2000, including a significant increase in the graduation rate for Western student-athletes; record grade point averages for the school's athletes; and top 20 rankings on national lists of top academic programs for Western's volleyball, women's basketball, and track teams. Western placed 19 fall sport student-athletes on a Southern Conference "all-academic team" earlier this month, including football player Jason Whaley, previously named an "academic all-American."
"It's the job of the president or chancellor of a university to set the standard and create the right climate for the athletics program, and to be sure the university and the athletics department are doing what is best for the welfare of its student-athletes," Bardo said. "You do that by being very visible and very vocal in setting the standards, and by hiring athletics directors and coaches who share those values."