The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm continues its Blue Ribbon Tips series with insight from Brian Battle, University of North Carolina at Greensboro senior associate athletics director for internal operations. A Blue Ribbon Tips post contains athletically-related best practices, strategies and tips for administrators from NCAA member institutions and other higher-education professionals.
Mr. Battle anticipates several issues will impact athletics programs during the next five years, including:
- Conference re-alignment.
- Finances of college athletics (especially for the “mid-majors”).
- Rate of tuition increases versus flat or decreasing revenues.
- The change in the modern student-athlete. Mr. Battle explained today’s student-athletes are “different than the athletes from the last 20 years” for numerous reasons. For example, a student-athlete’s “mom and dad are more prevalent” in seeking more involvement in, or feedback on, decision-making concerning their children. Further, the student-athletes’ “self-satisfaction” is “smaller”. Student-athletes are savvy with technology—thus, Mr. Battle believes athletics administrators “have to constantly keep up with technology”. Finally, student-athletes now possess a “shorter attention span”.
- Reduction of the NCAA Manual by “paring down what we can and cannot do”.
Mr. Battle notes campus and athletics administrators can address the future challenges in varied ways. For instance, he suggests “if we have all these rules”, then schools “have to improve” through increases in staffing and “to put people in place and [add more] resources (e.g., software)”. Also, Mr. Battle believes the athletics compliance office should be organized so that one person is assigned to financial-aid issues, one person concentrates on eligibility issues and two staff members are responsible for rules-education. Moreover, Mr. Battle states institutions “need to review programs”, including sports teams, on an annual basis and “find ways to be more lean—we cannot keep doing the same thing over again”. The question for athletics administrators, according to Mr. Battle, is “Do you need all of these sports?” Essentially, he feels “campuses need to accept [athletics] as a business” and make decisions accordingly. However, institutional leaders need to understand that “athletics is the front porches” of a university that they should “embrace”, but designed so that athletics “works in an economic model”.
As a former compliance officer, Mr. Battle offers a few ideas on minimizing major rules-violations:
- Increase “staffing and finances” for the athletics compliance program.
- “Figure a way to self-police”. Mr. Battle notes Rudy Giuliani, then United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Wall Street firms tackled corruption in the 1980s by “cleaning it up themselves”. Mr. Battle explains “we need to worry about big ticket items (academic fraud” and review “each major [infractions] case and learning about it”.
- University presidents “need to invest in IT on campuses” permitting all campus “units to communicate with each other” and enabling reports to be “run on any issues”.
- There is no “perfect” athletics compliance system or reporting scheme. It “does not matter who compliance reports to” since compliance staff “will always be the bad guy”. Instead, Mr. Battle advises to “simplify what we are doing” and “give people the tools”. Further, he suggests “instead of tying bonuses to academics, tie it to not breaking rules”. Similarly, on an institutional level, tie rules-violations to the receipt of “federal aid”, which Mr. Battle believes “will clean up” college sports.
Brian Battle Biography
Brian Battle is the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Battle previously was at Florida State University, where he served as Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance after being named to the position in August of 2006. He re-joined the Seminole athletics department after a stint at Georgetown University as the Associate Director of Compliance in 2005.
During his tenure at Georgetown he oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Compliance Office, was the certifying Eligibility Officer for the Hoyas’ 700 student-athletes and the department of athletics liaison with the Financial Aid and Registrars Offices as well as the alumni and booster organizations. He was the primary administrator for the women’s basketball, baseball and track and field teams and a member of the Big East Cross Country Championships Committee.
Battle was the Director of Compliance at Florida State from 2002-2005. Prior to that, he served for four years as the Compliance Coordinator at Florida State from 1998-2002. He was also a graduate assistant in the compliance services and a student assistant in the sports information department.
Battle is a graduate of Alfred University, where he majored in finance and political science. He received his Master’s degree in sport administration from Florida State University. Battle played varsity basketball at Alfred and has served in various capacities for numerous NCAA baseball and tennis tournament held at Florida State. In addition, he was the chair of the financial aid, registrar academics and Compliance (FRAC) at Florida State.
Battle and his wife, Holly, were married in July of 2008.