President Emeritus William P. Gerberding is the longest serving president in UW history. During his 16-year tenure, the UW survived serious budget cuts, launched its first major fund drive and saw its faculty receive four Nobel Prizes. It also suffered severe sanctions from the Pac-10 and NCAA for lack of "institutional control" over its football program. After retiring in 1995, Gerberding has served on many public and corporate boards and is currently chairman of the board of the Seattle Opera.
What should be the role of sports at the UW?
It should be an undertaking that focuses on the welfare of the students, both the participants and the non-participants. Intercollegiate sports has become such a prominent part of collegiate life, even the non-participants have a stake in it. Many take a great deal of pleasure in it. Students develop a loyalty for a variety of reasons and one of them has been intercollegiate sports.
Has the UW's reputation been hurt by recent sports scandals?
Oh sure. That is always the case, but it is a risk and a cost of participation in intercollegiate athletics. The idea is to try to minimize and possibly eliminate any infractions.
Does a winning or losing program affect the UW's ability to attract faculty or students?
Probably not much. It is hard to measure, but there is little relevance for faculty recruitment. It may have a marginal effect on undergraduate applications.
Why do you think university sports programs have so many problems following NCAA rules?
I think it's easy to exaggerate the amount of problems institutions are having. We have hundreds of people involved in these programs at each school, and very few of them become involved in activities that violate the rules. The truth is that the temptations to do so are considerable for many of the coaches and players. Look at the rest of the world. Temptation is not always resisted. Look at the business world or the political world; the temptation to go outside the rules of the game is powerful.
Should a coach's or player's character play a prominent role in his or her job? Does character matter? Would a university want a coach of good character who doesn't win?
Character is essential, a prerequisite. Having someone with a flawed character is simply unacceptable. Beyond that, in a revenue sport, institutions care about winning. It is an essential. At the University of Washington, we do not subsidize intercollegiate sports. If we took the very scarce public subsidy of the University and instead of using it for academic purposes, used it to subsidize our football program, there would be a lot of outcry and disapproval.
Are the punishments for rules violators too strict or too lax?
It depends on the case. Regarding the most famous case in UW history, the penalties imposed on our football program in the early 1990s, they were highly disproportionate to the offense. We were shabbily and unfairly treated by the conference and the NCAA. Other institutions with comparable infractions got off much lighter. There are other cases where institutions have just had a slap on the wrists. In a way, it is like the criminal justice system. Each case is different. There is no consistency.
Why put so many resources into what some say is a training campus for pro sports? Is it worth it, given the scandals that keep occurring?
I don't think the University of Washington has any real choice. It has to run an intercollegiate sports program. I think it is a good thing. Anyone who thinks it should be disbanded, well, that's inconceivable. It's good for the student-athletes, it's good for the students, and it plays some rolealthough it is easy to exaggeratein giving the University a favorable reputation. On the whole it's been good for the University. We have a tiger by the tail. We have to learn how to ride that tiger. We can't get off.
Go To: Intro | William P. Geberding | Greg Lewis | Kate O'Neill
Marv Harshman | Trish Bostrom | Norman Rose