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Blue Ribbon Tips, College Sports, Division I, Education

Blue Ribbon Tips: Dr. M. Dianne Murphy (Columbia University)

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm continues its Blue Ribbon Tips series with insight from Dr. M. Dianne Murphy, Columbia University director of intercollegiate athletics and physical education. A Blue Ribbon Tips post contains athletically-related best practices, strategies and tips for administrators from NCAA member institutions and other higher-education professionals.

Dr. Murphy anticipates several issues will impact athletics programs during the next five years. She provided us with five of them.

First, Dr. Murphy believes the state of the economy will continue to affect athletics programs. Dr. Murphy explains the “escalating” and “rising costs of athletics” will remain “an issue” and “will always be something to look at” since intercollegiate athletics is now “a business”. For example, she notes gate receipts, donations, the “arms race in athletics facilities” and the number of sport teams will have an impact on athletics departments in the future. The solutions are not easy. In fact, Dr. Murphy states it is “easy to say not to pay coaches and staff”, but colleges and universities “cannot restrict people’s earnings”. Instead, administrators should “always look for more revenues” and seek ways to reduce costs, including “regionalize competition”, as well as reducing the number of athletics contests, coaches and student-athletes who travel to away contests.

Second, Dr. Murphy considers student-athlete welfare important. In fact, she does not want “to jeopardize or minimize the student-athlete experience, especially if you want to provide a great student-athlete experience”.

Third, Dr. Murphy is “concerned about graduation rates” for student-athletes. She suggests “recruiting student-athletes who will be good in academics and [will] graduate” is one way to address academic issues facing NCAA member institutions.

Fourth, Dr. Murphy states schools should use more ethical recruiting strategies. For example, she believes a university should “sell” itself and “not go negative toward others” schools.

Fifth, Dr. Murphy recommends colleges and universities “look at the sports wagering issue” an implement proactive measures to minimize misconduct.

Finally, according Dr. Murphy, college administrators should consider several maxims when contemplating athletically-related decisions, including:

  • “What are things we must do, but not do things we want to do.”
  • “Always be mindful of why we are here.”
  • “Student-athletes trust us—when they get here they should receive what we promised them.”

 Dr. M. Dianne Murphy Biography

When Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger set out to hire a new athletics director in 2004, he knew he needed someone with the vision to attain national excellence and put Columbia Athletics on par with the rest of the University, one of the greatest in the world.  Seven years later, there is little doubt that Dr. M. Dianne Murphy was the perfect fit for Columbia.

Now in her eighth full year as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education, Murphy has presided over one of the most successful periods in Columbia Athletics history.

Columbia teams have excelled across the board during her tenure.  Since 2004, Columbia has won Ivy League titles in baseball, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, men’s fencing, women’s fencing, men’s golf, women’s golf, women’s soccer and men’s tennis.

In 2009, Murphy also announced the addition of two more varsity sports.  Men’s squash and women’s squash became Columbia’s 30thand 31st intercollegiate varsity sport programs, making Columbia one of the few NCAA Division I institutions to add sports over the last five years.

In 2010-11, 22 Columbia student-athletes won Ivy League individual championships, the most ever in a single academic year in school history.

In addition, Murphy was named to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee in February 2011.  She also developed an elite leadership-training program for college women’s basketball coaches, The Center for Coaching Excellence, in conjunction with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).

The inaugural sessions of The Center for Coaching Excellence were held on Columbia’s campus in May and June 2011.  The Center for Coaching Excellence will return to Columbia University in May and June 2012.

Murphy has overseen a number of initiatives aimed at transforming the experience of Columbia’s more than 800 student-athletes. She has undertaken a complete strategic planning process aimed at short- and long-term excellence in athletics.

She has attracted several high-level head coaches and administrators to the program, and spearheaded the creation of the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame, which had its inaugural ceremony on February 18, 2006. The third and most recent Athletics Hall of Fame class was inducted in October 2010.

Murphy also spearheaded the celebration of the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium Silver Anniversary, honoring 25 years of women’s athletics at Columbia.  She also initiated the Leaders for Life program, designed to provide comprehensive leadership training to student-athlete representatives from all 31 of Columbia’s varsity sports programs.

Murphy came to Columbia after six years as Director of Athletics and Recreation at the University of Denver, where she led the Pioneers’ program from NCAA Division II to one of the nation’s top Division I athletics programs. Under Murphy’s leadership, eight Denver sport programs made NCAA tournament appearances and, on four occasions, Denver teams won a national title.

In 2003-04, Denver enjoyed its best season when it won the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, placed third in the NCAA Skiing Championship, and advanced to NCAA tournaments in women’s soccer, women’s tennis, and men and women’s golf.

The scope of Denver’s athletics excellence was recognized nationally through the United States Sports Academy’s Directors’ Cup, which recognized the best overall athletics programs in the nation, determined by an award of points based on teams’ finishes. The University of Denver finished among the nation’s top third of athletics programs in each of its six years since becoming a Division I member in 1998-99. In 2004, the Pioneers set a University record when they finished 58th in the Directors’ Cup, in the top 20 percent of all NCAA Division I schools.

Denver’s athletics program served as a model for national and regional academic, as well as athletics, excellence. The Pioneers gained numerous academic honors, among them the Sun Belt Conference Graduation Rate Award, which it earned for five consecutive years.

Prior to joining the University of Denver, Murphy served as associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Cornell University from 1995 to 1998. She oversaw nine Division I sports, marketing and promotions, sports information and alumni and booster activities. She helped hire football and basketball coaches and was an advocate for the coaches. Cornell enhanced its equity initiatives and increased its fundraising revenues under her guidance.

From 1988 to 1995, she was the assistant athletics director at The University of Iowa, serving as the university’s lead administrator for external activities. She worked on behalf of Iowa’s coaches, and was effective in enhancing a strong compliance program.

Murphy began her athletics administrative career in 1987-88 as the assistant athletics director at Kentucky State University. From 1986 to 1988, she chaired the school’s Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, served as an associate professor and advised undergraduate students.

Prior to becoming an athletics administrator, Murphy coached basketball for 13 years. She was the head women’s basketball coach at Shorter College (1973-76), Florida State University (1976-79) and Eastern Kentucky University (1979-86).

Murphy was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Administrator of the Year in 2004. She chaired the NCAA Division I Basketball Issues Committee from 2002 to 2004 and currently is a member of the State Farm Wade Trophy Women’s Basketball Player of the Year Committee. She also served on the NCAA Certification and Diversity Committee and the Board of Directors for the Women’s Collegiate Sports Awards, the organization that presents the Honda Award and the Honda-Broderick Cup.

She is active in several national organizations, including the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA), the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and the WBCA. She was named NACWAA’s Division I (Football Championship Subdivision) National Administrator of the Year for 2007-08 and served as NACWAA’s president during 2002-03. In 2004, NACDA honored her as the General Sports Turf West Athletic Director of the Year. The All-American Football Foundation has presented her with the Senior Sports Administrator Award.

At Columbia, she helped initiate the University’s Sports Management master’s degree program. She serves on the faculty as an instructor.

Murphy holds a Ph.D. in administration and curriculum from Florida State (1980), and master’s (1973) and bachelor’s (1972) degrees from Tennessee Technological University. The Tennessee Tech Alumni Association honored her with its 2005 Distinguished Alumna Award. Florida State presented her with its “Grad Made Good” award at its 2005 Homecoming.

She lives in Manhattan, near the Columbia campus.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, compliance, professional development and legal services.

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