Lee Todd on Academics and Athletics

Jul 3, 2011

A new era begins this week at the University of Kentucky.  President Lee Todd, who served as UK president for a decade, has cleaned out his office and went into retirement.

Lee Todd brought his engineering background to the office of president at UK.  Throughout his tenure Todd urged college researchers to branch out into the private sector and involve themselves in start-up firms.  Todd also argued a key ingredient to such economic growth is graduating students with more proficiency in math and science.  Todd says progress depends on training better math and science teachers who have with better classroom skills.

“It’s gonna have to be a collaboration between higher education, business, federal and state governments to gang up on this issue, so this country can catch up,” said Todd.

Todd worked under a state mandate...that said U-K must grow into one of the nation's top-twenty research institutions. That hasn't happened yet.  If not for the economic downturn, Todd is convinced lawmakers would have fully funded such an effort.

Still, the retired president is proud of U-K's academic gains.  Todd has seen improvement in general studies, an increase in the academic quality of incoming freshmen, and more diversity among teachers and students.

Todd counters claims from what he calls a small, but vocal number of faculty and staff, that his administration put too much emphasis on athletics and the new hospital.  He says both pay for themselves. In athletics, Todd says only about 20 American universities can make that claim..

“Many who complain about athletics just don’t understand the impact that it has on our alumni.  Some of our best academic donors are thrilled that basketball is doing as well as it is right now, and it will help us,” added Todd.

Despite such affluence, Todd argues, college athletes should maintain their amateur status and receive no compensation.

“I don’t agree at all with paying college athletes.  What most people don’t know is that are you going to choose to pay basketball players and not volleyball players.   Football players and not the women athletes,” said Todd..

Lee Todd says the cost of athletic salaries and facilities is ‘out of control.’  But the retiring president adds there’s a ‘demand side that keeps that machine going.’  Todd is not actually leaving Uk.  He will return in engineering after taking  a year’s leave.