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Released May 21, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- The University of Southern Mississippi has begun a yearlong, campus-wide effort to study its athletics program as part of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division I athletics certification program, required of all participating institutions.

The goal of the certification program is to help ensure integrity in the institution's athletics operations, examining the areas of academic and fiscal integrity, governance, and rules compliance as well as a commitment to equity, student-athlete welfare and sportsmanship. At the 1997 NCAA convention, the Division I membership voted to change the frequency of athletics certification from once every five years to once every 10 years, and to require a five-year interim status report. Thus, the current self-study will be the second in the certification process for Southern Miss.

"Clearly our athletic department is in compliance with the expectations of the NCAA, but this process will set goals for continuing improvement," said Southern Miss Vice President Dr. Joe Paul, who is serving as chair of the steering committee for the study. "Over the weeks and months to come, we will see broad-based input into the study from students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university."

Once the university has concluded its study, an external team of reviewers will conduct a four-day evaluation visit on campus. The team of reviewers will be peers from other colleges, universities or conference offices, and will report to the NCAA Division I Committee on Athletics Certification, another independent group. The certification committee will then determine the institution's certification status and announce the decision publicly.

Southern Miss Athletics Director Richard Giannini said there are approximately 50 members on the university's self-study committee, which is divided into subcommittees that include a governance committee, academic integrity committee, equity committee and physical committee, in addition to the overall steering committee. Southern Miss faculty members serve as chairs of the various subcommittees, he said.

A member of the NCAA membership services staff will conduct a one-day orientation session with the committee and its subcommittees early in the process.

"This is just a great exercise for the university to go through. It gives us the opportunity to evaluate our athletic program, and we're looking forward to the process," Giannini said. "We feel like it will be beneficial to the future of our program, and at the end of the day, we feel confident the NCAA will recertify our athletic program."


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May 21, 2004 5:33 PM