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UIC athletics gets ‘stamp of approval’ after NCAA review

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A two-year examination of UIC athletics resulted in NCAA accreditation and an easier method for generating athletics reports.

“It was very important that we not just achieve recertification, but use the process as a truly self-reflective look at how our program was functioning and operating,” said Jennifer Woodard, NCAA steering committee chair and associate vice chancellor for civic and corporate relations.

During the review process, each NCAA Division I school must complete a self-study on three key areas: governance, academic integrity, and gender/diversity issues and student athlete well-being, said Dennis Wills, campus liaison to the NCAA and special assistant to athletics.

“The NCAA was really impressed with our diversity — the university is one of the most diverse in the country and athletics follows along that path,” he said.

“They were also impressed that we are really fair to our student athletes — they are all treated the same, they all get the same equipment and academic support, even though some may not have full scholarships.”

Division I schools must apply for NCAA accreditation every 10 years; UIC has received certification during each of its three reviews. If an athletics department does not receive certification, its student athletes cannot participate in post-season NCAA play, including championship tournaments.

“Accreditation gives credence and trust to people that they’re dealing with a certified institution,” Wills said. “It’s a stamp of approval.”

During the self-study, the steering committee discovered the need for a more efficient reporting system, said Michael Crumbock, NCAA report coordinator and assistant to the associate vice chancellor for civic and corporate relations.

Athletics staff members were generating about 50 different types of compliance reports for the NCAA and Horizon League, keeping track of academic eligibility, reporting financial aid, complying with Title 9 gender equity issues, and more.

“There is an increasing number of mandated reports required by the NCAA,” Woodard said. “This is pretty onerous in terms of pulling data, analyzing it and turning it into reports, most of which to date has been done manually.”

Woodard’s committee proposed developing software that would use student data from the university’s Banner database. The project was approved by the university’s Information Technology Priorities Committee, which donated $43,000 to start developing the software. Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares agreed to fund the rest of the project and UIS will help develop the software, which should be in place in about six months, Woodard said.

“The ultimate goal is that by making athletics staff members’ jobs easier, we can make them more productive; instead of focusing their efforts on paperwork, they can redirect their focus to student athletes and program development,” Crumbock said.

Woodard, who also chaired the steering committee during the last NCAA accreditation process, said the in-depth studies have given her a great appreciation for UIC’s athletics program.

“The campus community should take great pride in what a model program we run,” Woodard said. “It’s certainly about the experience that our student athletes have, but it also helps to build both brand and community for our students, employees and the community. The student athletes represent UIC very well.”


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