UT Announces Creation of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation


When Coach Charlie Strong arrived on the Forty Acres, he promised to teach his football players how to behave both on and off the field. In establishing his five core values and booting a multitude of players from the team in violation of his moral code, Strong has made a commitment to to the betterment of his squad, as people and as players. Now, that commitment will be felt across the university. At a press conference Monday morning, President Bill Powers announced the creation of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation.

During the brief announcement, also led by men’s and women’s athletics directors Steve Patterson and Chris Plonsky; women’s basketball coach Karen Aston; Moody College dean Roderick P. Hart; and founding director of the center Daron K. Roberts, the initiative was introduced as a proactive measure to bridge the gap between athletics and academics. Cemeka Crawford of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, based in Austin and also introduced at the press conference, will be involved in some capacity.

According to Roberts, BA ’01, Life Member, the center was created “to leverage our stature as a premier research and sports institution and enhance the character development of young student-athletes.”

The three main goals of the center will be to design a certification for high school coaches around the state to detect and correct troubling behavior, to develop a financial literacy class for student-athletes, and to facilitate research on athletes’ decision-making. The center will be funded for three years through the president’s office, mostly with Longhorn Network revenue.

“We’re looking to do something positive instead of just disciplinary action,” Powers said, when asked about the timing of the press conference in regards to the morning’s news of a grand jury’s indictment of former Longhorn football players Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander. Strong kicked both players off the team when they were arrested for alleged sexual assault in June. Powers praised the coach’s values and acknowledged his influence on the center.

“It’s our obligation to add value to their lives while they are here,” Powers continued.

The pilot certification for high school coaches will begin in June 2015, Roberts said. Roberts is a former UT student government leader and high school, college, and NFL coach.

“I’ve seen the student-athlete at several different points in the pipeline, and before this point most of the interventions have been focused on professional and college athletes,” he said. “What we want to do is push those interventions farther down the pipeline.”

College of Education professor Rich Reddick agreed.

“That’s got to be reassuring for the parent of an athlete,” Reddick said. “They are going to get some good info about how to best prepare themselves for both life in college and after financially.”

Reddick, who teaches a course called Economics and Finance of Higher Education, said that undergraduate students of all stripes—especially those who aren’t finance majors—are in dire need of financial literacy.

“General financial literacy is a problem for all our students, and especially for athletes dealing with the NCAA and with the potential to make a lot of money in professional sports,” Reddick said. “It’s a critical life skill.”

Reddick, who has known Roberts since he was a standout strong safety at Mount Pleasant High School, said he thinks the 2011 OYTEX honoree is the best choice to lead the charge.

“He’s probably the most qualified person nationally to engage in this work,” Reddick said. “Once again, Texas is leading from the front.”