When I was on the Board of Regents at the University of Maryland, I was vice chairman of the audit committee. On that committee, I and my fellow members worked with the internal auditors to identify the highest risks in each university department including the athletics department. Interestingly, admissions policies and special admits (those students, often athletes, who were allowed admission even though they did not meet the school’s admission standards), were never considered a high-risk area.
That all changed this past week when federal prosecutors filed charges against several individuals involved in illicitly seeking, often through the athletics department, to gain admission to top colleges and universities. We now see we can no longer consider admission practices as a low-risk area.
While the NCAA has taken many steps to strengthen accountability for those who oversee intercollegiate athletics, it is critical to understand how important risk assessment is as a tool to insure accountability. Identifying high-risk areas and implementing strict internal controls is how business enterprises avoid front-page scandals. We need the same risk management in college sports.
With March Madness upon us, it is nice to take a break from the regular news cycle in college athletics and simply enjoy the games. But we can never forget that college sports are complicated enterprises and the way to avoid scandal is to implement internal controls particularly around the areas that pose the highest risk.