When the University of Tennessee’s intercollegiate athletics board meets next month, chairman Donald Bruce hopes the group will do more than serve as a social hour before the spring football game.
UT’s board of trustees approved a plan last week that would cut the size of the athletics board by more than half, from 41 members to 18, a move that Bruce hopes will make the group more “effective and efficient” in fulfilling its mission to advise the chancellor on the direction of UT’s athletics program and its $100 million budget.
“You can’t have an oversight board if you don’t have good information. And you can’t be informed if you’re not engaged,” said Bruce, who is a professor in UT’s economics department and the school’s faculty athletic representative. “We now have the ability to actually live up to our charge.”
Created in 1951, the board had grown to a size that made substantive work all but impossible, Bruce said. Bylaws required the group to meet only once per year. By tradition, the board met on the morning of Tennessee’s spring football game.
“There wasn’t any purpose, really,” Bruce said. “We got together, heard some reports and then everybody went on their way and enjoyed the game.”
New bylaws require the group to meet once a semester. Bruce said his goal is to meet monthly, or at least twice per academic term.
“I’ve been the faculty athletics representative since May 2012, and I’ve chaired one meeting (of the athletics board),” Bruce said. “The highlight of that meeting was that we actually took a vote on something (to retire Johnny Majors’ jersey), and that hadn’t been done in some time.
“Now the chancellor or (athletic director) Dave Hart is able to say, ‘Let me run that by the board.’ ”
Hart, who deferred comment to Bruce because Bruce is the board’s chairman, supported the changes. In a letter to the full board of trustees, Hart said the proposal had “broad support” among faculty and current athletic board members and that the “leaner” group would be “privy to real-time information on finances, compliance issues” and other challenges.
Bruce said trustees had seen the ineffectiveness of the board firsthand and supported the changes, which will bring UT’s athletics oversight in line with similar universities.
“I feel pretty confident in saying these changes we just passed make us a lot more like our peers, as far as meeting more frequently and having a clear mission and purpose,” Bruce said.
Senior associate athletic director Donna Thomas, UT’s senior women’s administrator, is the vice chairwoman of the group.
The other 16 members are: Hart; Margie Nichols, vice chancellor for communications; the UT faculty senate’s athletic committee chair; two at-large members of the faculty; two members of the Trustees; the director of the Thornton Center; Bill Myers, the athletic department’s chief financial officer; a member of the UT Alumni Association’s board of directors; an at-large member who is not an alumnus; the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; the SGA president; a representative from the Office of Student Affairs; and the Director of Undergraduate Admissions.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.