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News Release                                                        





HOUSTON--MAY 21, 2004— The Rice University Board of Trustees, after thorough study and discussion of the national and campus picture, has renewed its commitment to participation in Division I-A intercollegiate athletics.

“We unanimously have concluded that, in today’s world, Division I-A remains the best place for Rice,” said Board Chairman Bill Barnett.  “In doing so, we are resolved to maintain academic excellence as we pursue athletic excellence.”

After a final special meeting on Friday to conclude its review of athletics, the Board also expressed it sense that:

  • Rice should move toward an integrated admission process that reflects best practices at other highly selective institutions. This recognizes that some allowances must be made for necessary differences, such as the timing required by NCAA-mandated recruiting and signing dates for student-athletes.

     “Our admission process rightly considers each applicant as an individual person and as a person in whole, including exceptional qualities,” Barnett said.  “As it does for all other students with special talents, so it should do for athletes.”
  • The $10 million per year operating budget deficit being incurred by the athletic department is too high and will be reduced on a phased basis.

“There is a basis for optimism that we can accomplish deficit reduction,” Barnett said.  “Certainly, many supporters of athletics have declared their readiness to increase giving.  We also will be looking at all other ways to increase

revenues and reduce costs.  The Board will be devoting attention this fall to how this will be accomplished.”

  • High priority should be given to building a student-faculty fitness and recreation center and convocation center, which also would serve as an improved venue for men’s and women’s basketball and other intercollegiate, club and intramural sports.  Conceptual planning will begin in the near future.   

“Even apart from intercollegiate athletics, this has been on our to-do list for a long time,” Barnett said.  “Our Admission Office reports that availability of first–class recreation facilities is the one area where prospective students consistently rate us behind our peers.  This review brought to the forefront such a facility – perhaps in a single building, perhaps not – which also would serve other academic needs and our intramural and club sports, and give several of our intercollegiate athletic programs their best chance of success as we enter Conference USA.”

Barnett added:  “The Board commended the athletic director, coaches and student–athletes who uphold an honorable tradition at Rice of demonstrated success in both academics and athletics.  Additionally, we are gratified that the Rice Athletic Department has operated a program never tainted by NCAA sanctions.”

The 25-member Board of Trustees this year took up a review of the athletic program, as it does from time to time with all aspects of the university, from building maintenance to academic programs.  The business school, for example, underwent a comprehensive review in 1996, and Rice did a campus master plan update last year.   

To obtain the broadest possible grasp of intercollegiate athletics in 2004, the Board commissioned McKinsey & Co., a top management-consulting firm, to do research on all aspects of Rice’s athletic program, including budgets, academic and athletic success rates, and of the changing national picture.  The Board directed that the report discuss all possible options, and the pros and cons of each, without making recommendations. 

“The Board is grateful for the excellent work done by McKinsey,” Barnett said. 

The Trustees studied the report and many other materials, sought input from all sectors of the Rice community, held lengthy discussions, and narrowed their focus to four issues:  the appropriate level of competition for Rice; ensuring the student in “student-athlete”; the athletics financial deficit and facilities.  The Board then made the McKinsey report public on the university website and invited comment from students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university before Friday’s special Board meeting.