NCAA Division I Certification: FAQ

Answers provided by the Seattle University Certification Steering Committee

Q: What is the purpose of the Certification and Self-Study? Are they one in the same?

A: The purpose of NCAA certification is to ensure a commitment to excellence and integrity in intercollegiate athletics. The Self-Study is an institutional self-analysis that will enable the University to confirm areas of strength, identify areas of weakness, and chart measurable plans for improvement.

The process of Certification overall is comprised of two parts: the Self-Study and the peer review team visit. Both of these components are evaluated by the NCAA Committee on Certification. This nationally comprised committee then renders a decision regarding certification for all Division I member institutions.

Completing the self-study is intended to accomplish three major objectives: (1) open the affairs of athletics to the Seattle U campus community; (2) set clear standards, called operating principles, for Division I athletics programs; and (3) serve as a strong incentive for vigorous evaluation. While the process is intended to be enriching for each institution, there are serious sanctions for institutions that fail to conduct a comprehensive self-study and/or correct problems over a reasonable period of time.

Q: What are some of the key issues that will be looked at?

A:  When the University decided to return to Division I athletics, the institution committed itself to certain membership principles.  The process of Certification presents a timely opportunity for the University, as an entire community, to evaluate how well these principles are being put in practice. 

These principles, which encapsulate the key issues to be examined, are summarized by Division I membership as the following: governance and rules compliance; academic integrity; and gender/diversity and student well-being.  Together, these three areas comprise the Division I Operating Principles.

Examples of questions that the Governance and Rules Compliance subcommittee will look at include: Does the university have written compliance policies and procedures for recruiting student-athletes?  Does the responsibility for admitting student-athletes lie with the same office that handles admissions for all students?  Who is responsible for rules compliance and who do they report to? Are written compliance polices and procedures clearly communicated to department of athletics staff on an annual basis?  Etc…

Examples of questions that the Academic Integrity subcommittee will look at include: Are student-athletes admitted to the university using the same admissions policies that apply to all students?  Are academic standards for student-athletes consistent with the standards for the student body in general?  Are there differences between the graduation rate of student-athletes and the graduation rate of students generally?  Are there differences between the retention rate of student-athlete subgroups (i.e. sport, gender, ethnicity) and the retention rate of all student-athletes?   Is missed class time significant or excessive for student-athletes?  Etc…

Examples of questions that the Student Well-being subcommittee will look at include: How does the university recruit staff, coaches, and student-athletes from underrepresented groups or diverse backgrounds?  Does the university conduct exit interviews with a sample of student-athletes from each sport?  Does the university have written appeal procedures for such areas as financial aid and transfers?  Does the university have a life skills program to address non-academic areas such as career counseling, nutrition, or alcohol and drug guidelines?  Etc…

Each of these operating principles is an item that the University already strives to achieve, regardless of its Athletics affiliation.  However, as a Division I institution, the self-study process allows the campus community as a whole to evaluate this commitment and insure that the operation of Intercollegiate Athletics is fully integrated into campus life and the university mission.

Q: Do other universities go through Certification? What is the likely outcome?

A: Yes, all NCAA Division I institutions must undergo the Certification process, which has been in effect since 1993. Certification is based on a ten year cycle, much like institutional accreditation.

There are three possible outcomes based on the NCAA’s assessment of the self-study report and peer review team visit:

  •     (1) an institution becomes “certified” based on a finding that it is in substantial conformity with the NCAA’s operating principles;
  •     (2) an institution is designated “certified with conditions,” which still indicates substantial conformity with the operating principles, but reflects a finding of one or more serious areas of improvement; or 
  •     (3) an institution is designated “not certified,” which reflects very widespread or pervasive problems.

As a reclassifying institution, Seattle University must "successfully" complete Certification as part of returning to Division I membership.  "Successful" completion, as designated by the Committee of Athletics Certification, coupled with fulfilling the final year of reclassification requirements in 2011-12, will lead to the university ultimately attaining full active member status as Division I.


Q: What is the schedule for the full process?

A: The Self-Study is due at the end of April 2011. After a period of feedback and amendment to the Self-Study, the peer review team visit will take place sometime between late-October and mid-November 2011. 

The NCAA Committee on Certification will render its final decision early spring of 2012.

A more detailed schedule is posted on the Seattle U NCAA Certification website.

Q: What is the relationship between Certification and the return to Division I Athletics?

A: Reclassification to Division I is a prescribed, five-year process defined by NCAA Division I membership legislation, Seattle U is entering Year Three.  For each year of the process, the university is expected to take certain steps toward full Division I membership.

One of the requirements for Year Three (year four of the transition overall) is to commence the Certificatoin process. During the next two years, the university will complete Certification and the final stretch of reclassification on paralleling tracks.

Q: Who is directly involved in the self-study?

A: In addition to a Steering Committee, there are three subcommittees working on the self-study: Governance and Rules Compliance, Academic Integrity, and Gender/Diversity and Well-Being.

In the spring of 2010, Father Sundborg asked Dr. Joseph Phillips, Dean of the Albers School of Business and Economics, to serve as chair of the Steering Committee. Dean Phillips assembled a team of three subcommittee chairs: Vice President and University Counsel Mary Peterson (Governance and Rules Compliance), Dean of the College of Science of Engineering Michael Quinn (Academic Integrity), and Associate Vice President for Student Development Michele Murray (Gender/Diversity and Well-Being).

Over the summer, the Steering Committee chair and sub-committee chairs recruited a diverse and representative group of committee members who would be directly involved in the process. More than 50 students, faculty, staff, and administrators agreed to participate. Across all four committees nearly every part of campus is represented, including both academic and non-academic university units, divisions, and colleges. NCAA has certain requirements for committee membership, but the university has gone beyond those to establish a broadly representative group.

For a complete roster of the Steering Committee and the sub-committee, please review the committee rosters on the SU NCAA Certification web site. 

Associate Athletic Director Eric Guerra will serve as the institutional liaison to the NCAA, as well as report (Self-Study) coordinator. Guerra is available at extension 6027 or to answer questions related to the process or requirement of the Certification process.

Q: Can I participate in the Certification Self-Study?

A: Yes, participation by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other members of the Seattle University community is welcomed and encouraged. While the steering and subcommittees have been formed to create a representative group, everyone will be welcome to participate by providing feedback on reports posted on this website and by attending open forums which will be scheduled.

Everyone is encouraged to visit the Seattle University NCAA Certification website. The website will contain helpful material as well as committee meeting agendas and minutes. Additionally, anyone is welcomed to submit comments or questions to All comments and questions will be regularly reviewed and may be responded to on the Certification website depending on the nature of the comment or question.

The open forum dates will be provided to the campus community via the campus wide email, as well as The Spectator and The Commons.