Mason: Rutgers controversy will drive discussion of college athletics

Mason visited The Gazette editorial board Monday

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The firing of Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice last week drew national attention to leadership issues in college athletics, an issue the Big Ten Conference already has been discussing, University of Iowa President Sally Mason said.

The situation at Rutgers -- Rice was fired after video surfaced publicly of him shoving and throwing basketballs at players and using anti-gay slurs -- most certainly will drive discussion in college athletics, Mason said Monday during a meeting with The Gazette editorial board.

Just as the recent crisis involving Penn State athletics brought issues to the surface for discussion among college leaders, the Rutgers situation will do the same, she said. Rutgers is joining the Big Ten Conference.

Mason, who is chairwoman of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, said conference leaders are working on a document regarding "institutional control" issues in athletics.

"Certainly Penn State is the one that led us to begin the conversations about 'is there a way in which we as a conference could have helped,'" she said.

The document, which likely will be ready and made publicly available in the coming months, will hopefully be a guide when Big Ten institutions deal with future situations, Mason said. The discussion looks at institutional control of athletics -- "who really does have it, who should have it, how should it be dealt with and how should the conference respond," she said.

The video of Rice "made my skin crawl," Mason said.

"These are certainly issues that contribute to keeping presidents awake and working long hours to try and make certain that it's not the kind of thing that's happening at your institution," she said.

Mason visited with The Gazette editorial board Monday about a range of topics, including UI flood recovery and plans to continue boosting student retention.

She noted the UI recently passed the $1 billion mark during the quiet phase of the current fundraising campaign, which will kick off in a public phase in early May with a goal of $1.7 billion. One priority in the campaign is money for student scholarships, Mason said.

Regarding flood recovery, Mason said site work has started for the new Hancher Auditorium, which will be built just up the hill from the old Hancher facility. The flood-damaged old Hancher is still awaiting demolition, which Mason thinks will start in late summer or early fall. That work is slow-going due to the amount of asbestos in that building, she said.

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