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Duke Trustees Approve School's First Strategic Plan For Athletics
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 05/10/2008
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Photo Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
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DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke University Board of Trustees on Saturday approved the school’s first Strategic Plan for Athletics, a broad vision for bolstering the experience and development of Duke’s student-athletes and enhancing recreational opportunities for members of the entire university community.

The plan calls for maintaining Duke’s academic standards while also improving the quality of athletic programs by upgrading facilities and expanding financial support for athletics, among other measures. It complements the broader university strategic plan, “Making a Difference,” adopted by Duke’s trustees in September 2006.

“The premise of our strategy for the future is that we need to sustain the partnership between excellent academics and superb athletics that gives Duke its unique character and competitive advantage,” the plan says.

The document was developed by a committee of faculty, students and administrators, and was facilitated by Duke Corporate Education Director Jared Bleak.
“This was the first time that the Department of Athletics had engaged in such a broad-based planning effort, and I’m grateful for the spirit with which the effort was embraced,” said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. “I’m pleased with the work of many people at Duke who have created this plan.”

About one out of 10 Duke undergraduates participates in varsity sports, and thousands of students are involved in intramurals and club sports, according to Michael Gillespie, a political science professor and chair of the Athletic Council who served on the planning committee. Gillespie said the strategic plan is needed to recognize the role Duke athletics plays in the educational experience and confront the challenges raised in combining excellence in athletics and academics.

Over the past 10 years, Duke has won more NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships than in any previous decade. During the same period, the university has consistently maintained high graduation rates and academic honors among its athletes. Duke is regularly among the top NCAA Division I institutions in the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) Power Rankings, which is based on a combination of academic and athletic achievement. Duke has been the top-ranked Division I school nationally in each of the past three NCSA ratings.

Officials say the plan seeks to build on this success by maintaining Duke’s core value of nurturing intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational process while adapting to a rapidly evolving world of college sports.

Duke Athletics for years has relied on a funding model in which athletics is supported by the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and the Pratt School of Engineering. Despite the high costs of scholarships at a private university, Duke’s annual subsidy for athletics is around $7.5 million, far less than other schools in the ACC -- and considerably less than at several Ivy League schools, the plan says. Duke’s athletic programs have relied on revenue generated by the school’s successful teams, namely men’s basketball.

While the subsidy has remained relatively fixed, costs have risen precipitously in part because of basketball and football coaches’ salaries, additional staff, upkeep and operation of expanded facilities and support services for student-athletes, the document says.

In the short-term, the plan calls for doubling Duke’s subsidy to around $15 million a year, which would bring it in line with other top private research universities that also compete in BCS Division intercollegiate athletics, including Boston College, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, the plan says.

To boost revenues in the short term, the plan calls for a combination of Duke’s schools and central funds to help fund athletics in recognition of its contribution to the entire university. It also supports exploring more donor opportunities, including naming rights, and increasing the endowment for scholarships. The plan’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the university subsidy through an athletics endowment of around $300 million -– half coming from the university -- that could fully fund the program.

The document also calls on Duke to maintain the quality of its top-notch basketball programs while enhancing other revenue sports, notably its football program. In December, Duke hired highly respected head coach David Cutcliffe, and there are short-term plans to upgrade Wallace Wade Stadium, including improvements to the bathrooms and concession stands. Among other football-related needs identified by the plan are a field house with an indoor football practice facility that can be shared with Olympic sports, club sports and recreational athletes. It calls for a new scoreboard and TV tower at the north end of the stadium within two years. The plan suggests that such improvements will enhance the game experience for fans and increase recruiting opportunities.

Other targeted renovations include Jack Coombs Field, home of Duke’s baseball team; the Murray Building, used by the lacrosse and soccer programs; expanding Brodie Gymnasium on East Campus for recreational and varsity athletics use; and the continued restoration of Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the men’s and women’s basketball teams play.

The plan also calls on Duke to add scholarships for Olympic sports as its revenues increase, and to ensure that coaching salaries are competitive with its peers.

Recreational opportunities for the university community also will improve under the plan, which calls for building two new turf fields within two years for intramural and club sports. A recreation complex on the new campus planned near the existing Central Campus would be built within five years. Within the first year of the plan, the P.E. Department also will establish a formal Wellness and Fitness Program for first-year students on East Campus.

The timing of many of the proposed improvements has not yet been determined and will depend on available resources from university funds, fundraising and anticipated revenues developed by Athletics, officials said.

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