Arkansas to merge men's, women's athletic programs

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas will merge its men's and women's
athletics programs beginning next year, joining nearly all Division
I colleges across the nation, school officials announced Thursday.

The university kept the departments separate for 35 years,
following the passage of Title IX in 1972. Chancellor John A. White
said the move would strengthen the university's athletic department
as a new director takes over.

Under the new system, incoming athletic director Jeff Long will
report to White and serve as vice chancellor of intercollegiate
athletics. Bev Lewis, director of the women's athletics department
since 1989, will become an associate vice chancellor and will
report to Long.

Long will replace Frank Broyles as athletic director on Jan. 1,
the same day the merger will take effect. Broyles, 82, is retiring
after 50 years with the school, first as head football coach and
later as athletic director.

White said he began exploring the idea of merging in the summer.
Broyles announced his resignation plans in February.

"I frankly realized that I had become a victim of one of the
things that I in my professional practice had chided my clients not
to do -- I told them that you should not follow the adage 'if it's not broken, don't fix it,'" White told reporters Thursday morning. "That means that you're satisfied with good as opposed to pursuing

White said no layoffs were immediately planned. Currently, the
women's athletic department alone has about 60 full-time employees.

"Our overarching reason to do this is not about cost reduction
or anything else," White said. "We're not going into this with
the idea in mind of what can we eliminate but rather what we need
to add."

Broyles said he supports the move, although he indicated that
cost-cutting could very well have been a motive.

"It's the best thing in the world for us," Broyles said. "It
will eliminate duplication and cost. They didn't say that, but
that's what it'll do."

Arkansas has eight men's and 11 women's varsity teams in
Division I. The school competes in the Southeastern Conference.

Among the 329 Division I schools, only Texas and Tennessee
maintain separate women's athletic departments. But before Title
IX, nearly every school had separate athletic departments, said
Jennifer Alley, executive director of the National Association of
Collegiate Women's Athletic Administrators.

To comply with the federal law, a school can show
proportionality of female athletes to female students on campus; or
a history of increasing sports for women; or prove it has met the
interest and ability of the underrepresented group. After nearly a
decade, the NCAA moved toward incorporating women's sports under
its supervision, Alley said.

Many schools responded by joining their then-separate
departments. However, schools like Arkansas held back, sometimes
because the women's program had its own strength, Alley said.

"They had huge booster programs and had very, very strong
commitments in supporting for their women's program," Alley said. "It was just working for them in that capacity."

Lewis said she planned to stay on at the school through the
changes. A hastily called news conference Thursday morning
confirming the merger came because more people were learning about
the idea and she planned to travel to Italy in the coming week,
Lewis said.

Lewis said the merger would "benefit everybody." She pointed
to the marketing possibilities, such as selling both men's and
women's basketball radio broadcasts together.

"Throughout history, the men's program has been very strong.
Having a separate women's program allowed the women's sports to
grow to become their equal," she said. "It is now time to take
the next step."