Grapevine, Tex.—For the past two days, Pam Perrewé sat in the third row of a hotel conference room here, her back straight, eyes straight ahead, a pencil poised over the notepad where she has taken pages of notes. She joked, at the outset of the meeting here of Division I-A faculty-athletics representatives, that as a newly appointed faculty rep, she felt like a deer caught in headlights. “I’m overwhelmed,” she said.
It’s easy to see why. A meeting agenda that crams nearly all the weighty problems of college sports—head injuries, nefarious sports agents, NCAA rules compliance—into a 24-hour period can have that effect. But Perrewé has gotten a head start: Her first day as Florida State University’s FAR isn’t until January.
Perrewé, a professor of business administration, said she was both apprehensive and excited about starting her new role. Her job will be tougher than most. It wasn’t all that long ago that Florida State attracted headlines for a cheating scandal that involved 61 athletes in several sports. The incident resulted in stiff penalties from the NCAA, including a vacation of football wins that the university hotly contested (it lost on appeal). A protracted legal battle with media outlets over access to correspondence about the cheating incident, in the meantime, kept the university busy in court. In many ways, it was a faculty rep’s worst nightmare.
Perrewé has been at Florida State for more than 20 years, and she remembers that time.
“I’m nervous, a little bit,” she told me. “There are going to be some big demands on me, and I take that very seriously.” She says she is comforted by the athletic department’s recent hiring of two new senior officials—including a new compliance officer—who have law degrees and, she believes, the know-how to prevent any future mishaps.
Still, when Joe Beckham, the departing faculty rep who held the position during the academic scandal, first approached Perrewé about taking the job, she hesitated. The reluctance wasn’t because of the scandal, though. It was because of the strain she felt the faculty rep job would have on her teaching duties.
“I love my doctoral students, and I love my research. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up,” she said. The answer proved to be a reduction in her undergraduate-teaching load, which freed up enough time for the varied demands of a faculty rep—meetings, games, and countless hours spent getting to know athletics administrators, coaches, and, of course, athletes.
It’s a balancing act unique to the position. Faculty reps have to understand the nuances of athletics without compromising their role as a watchdog of sorts. “I want to get to know everybody, but I also know it’s important that I be as objective as I can,” Perrewé said. “I’m not part of the athletic department. I don’t have an office there. I’m still teaching, and I’m still with the students.”
“I hope we never have any type of academic scandal, or any additional problems,” she added. “But if we do, I feel I have the ability to handle that.”