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Letter to Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Friends

June 10, 2003

Dear alumni, faculty, staff and friends:

Earlier today, the Board of Tulane voted unanimously to maintain a Division I-A athletics program at Tulane University. This vote, as many of you are aware, followed many months of very intense discussions as to the economic viability of the program at Tulane, the commercialized climate of Division I athletics in general and how a Division I-A athletics program can fit into the university's goals of continuing to grow as an internationally recognized research institution.

I support the board's resolution (on the Web at http://www2.tulane.edu/board_061003.cfm) because it unequivocally states that the board is committed to maintaining Tulane's place among the nation's outstanding institutions of higher education. In addition, the resolution clearly states that the university aspires to continue operating a Division I-A athletics program that is a model in terms of the academic performance and graduation rates of its student-athletes, and financially viable on a sustainable basis so as not to impede the basic mission and goals of the university.

The board agreed that NCAA Division I-A athletics has strayed far from its original philosophical goals of providing excellent student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a high level while also getting an education that will prepare them for lives as productive and successful citizens after college. Division I athletics has gone from being student-centered to entertainment-centered, while additional policies by the NCAA and the creation of the Bowl Championship Series have increased the disparity between the "big-time" athletics-entertainment programs and the schools like Tulane that are still trying to operate a program on the student-athlete model.

But we still believe in that original Division I-A model, and the board voted--and I agree--that Tulane University should try to lead the way in making that model work in today's environment. We want to make sure that we give our athletics programs every opportunity to succeed and see if we can run a true student-centered Division I-A program with the support it needs to thrive.

Toward that end, the board has approved a multi-year plan for athletics, with yearly measurable goals toward limiting the program's financial deficit to a maximum of $2 million annually by 2007. The program currently runs an annual deficit in excess of $5 million above the allowable subsidy, not including $7 million spent each year in scholarships for student-athletes.

The athletics review is the conclusion of a process I began five years ago to develop an institutional vision and a strategic plan for the future of Tulane University. As part of that plan, each unit within the university has undergone a review of its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its ability to be self-sufficient within the university's overall decentralized budget. The athletics program review was but one of a number of reviews that have been done in the past two years.

Our athletics program has operated at a deficit for decades and certainly it is not alone among Division I-A programs in that regard. However, the question that the board had to answer at the heart of its review was: Given the changing landscape of Division I-A intercollegiate athletics and the mission, aspirations and resources of Tulane University, what intercollegiate athletics program is best for the university?

Certainly, these discussions were not easy, and emotions, history and tradition all played a role. We looked at three primary options: remaining in Division I-A with the goal of substantially reducing the deficit under which we operate the program; remaining Division I but changing to Division I-AAA status by eliminating the football program--the most costly and restrictive of the NCAA Division I sports; or moving the entire athletics program to Division III, which is a non-scholarship division that is by nature more student-centered and in which more of Tulane's academic peer institutions participate.

In the end, the board agreed that the tradition of Division I-A athletics at Tulane, the exceptional quality of our student-athletes (who have one of the highest graduation rates in the country among Division I-A schools), and the value of the program to our community, our city and our alumni warranted our continuation of the program.

But we will need your support to make this work. Many people have stepped up and voiced support of the Division I-A programs during the past months. Now we need your tangible support as well as moral support. Attend Green Wave events; support the university financially for both academics and athletics so that both may thrive; and get behind Tulane as we work our hardest to advance Tulane University as a world-class institution that is proud of its role as a leader in higher education, as a citizen of its community, and as a beacon of light among Division I-A athletics programs.


Scott S. Cowen