Theory Meets Practice
The University Athletic Association has served as a bold statement of what college athletics can and should be - that it is highly desirable and possible for a group of committed institutions to conduct a broad-based program of intercollegiate athletics for men and women; to compete with like academic institutions spread over geographically expansive areas; and to seek excellence in athletics while maintaining a perspective which holds the student-athlete and the academic mission of the institution as the center of focus.
The UAA is a significant expression of the principle that the provision of a high-quality college athletic experience is worth the commitment required of an institution. It is worthwhile not only because it benefits the student-athletes, but also because it benefits the entire campus community and, in turn, the institution itself. Perhaps more importantly, the UAA is a strong statement that the success of intercollegiate athletics is wholly dependent upon institutional integrity and the ability of institutions to complete the full integration of athletics into the academic fabric of higher education.
Members of the UAA share the belief that academic excellence and athletic excellence are not mutually exclusive. Implicit in this belief are several sets of assumptions. The first is that the academic enterprise is the primary element. Student-athletes are just that - students first and athletes second. The second set of assumptions has to do with athletic excellence. Athletic excellence is not to be confused with a win-at-all-costs attitude. It properly relates to the caliber of experience offered to students who participate in intercollegiate athletics. Athletic teams should have the benefit of qualified coaching - capable individuals chosen for professional competence and commitment to putting the welfare of the student first. They should play and practice in first-rate facilities at reasonable times. Their equipment should be safe, of high quality, and conducive to the best performance possible. A consistent and challenging level of athletic competition should be provided to both women and men.
The final assumptions concern what might be termed a proper athletic emphasis. Athletic programs are extracurricular activities conducted for students and should be given consideration similar to that accorded other such institutionally sponsored activities. They should not only complement the academic experience, but should also reflect the quality of the academic environment within which they exist. Division III is an approach to athletics - not a synonym for third-rate.