Fresno State President John Welty will retire this summer, bringing an end to a 22-year tenure as head of the university. He recently sat down with Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore to reflect back on his career.
Welty on advice to his successor:
Good luck, have a thick skin, and take time to laugh at yourself from time to time.
Welty, (who is a member of the NCAA Board of Directors) on paying student athletes:
Revenue is largely generated from football and basketball. And if you look at paying student athletes, by law, by federal law under Title IX, you have to treat all student athletes the same. So it's not realistic that you can pay a football player or a basketball player and not deal in a similar way with other student athletes.
I think the issue is a very difficult one. Obviously there's huge amount of money involved now with new key television contracts, but I think it's important to remember that student athletes get a full grant-in-aid, and that they also receive numerous other support services while they're in college that help them to be successful. And that is I think a significant amount of support that a student receives as a result of their participation in student athletics.
But going beyond that level of support they need, to paying them, I think opens a door that I think, it's not realistic for intercollegiate athletics to try to walk into that arena. If you want to pay student athletes, then let's go professional and have those professional leagues and minor leagues undertake that activity.
Welty on the growing gap between "big money" college sports programs and schools like Fresno State:
I think it is important that within higher education we reach some agreement that there's competitive fairness, and it's really important to the future of intercollegiate athletics. I'm one for example,that I guess I'd be critical of some of the bigger schools that are generating surpluses, why are they not re-investing in their academic programs? Probably, if I had that opportunity, [I] would love to do that. Investing in additional facilities, higher salaries, it is not sustainable.
Welty on enduring numerous high-profile controversies, lawsuits, and painful budget cuts:
There have been some of those days. There have been a lot of sleepless nights during some of those periods. I think what I've really tried to focus on is the longer range in terms of what we were trying to accomplish as a the university. As we went through periods of difficulty, to recognize, yes we've got to work through those, but we've got to take responsibility for making changes that we need to make and at the same time stay focused on where it is we wanted to go with the university. And I think we've been able to do that.
Welty on the changing role of Fresno State in the future:
Our role I think has changed significantly over the 22 years that I've been here. We are I think going to have to assume more responsibility for offering those academic programs that help to prepare students for careers that the economy needs in the Central Valley. We're also going to, I think, as we become more engaged with the region, accept that responsibility to do the best we can to work through [regional] problems.