The Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative aligns with a philosophy of self-examination in pursuit of distinction at the University. There have been two assessments of Brown athletics in the past decade.
In 2011, then-President Ruth Simmons charged an Athletics Review Committee to develop a vision and plan for intercollegiate athletics at Brown. A proposal for strengthening the Department of Athletics and providing more sustainable support for varsity teams focused on reducing budgets, a reduction in recruiting slots and reducing the number of varsity teams, as well as other changes. The University ultimately deferred the decision about changing the number of varsity teams.
At 38 teams, the University has continued to maintain the third-highest roster of varsity teams in the country (behind Stanford and Harvard).
In 2018-19, consultants with expertise in Division I athletics conducted an external review of Brown sports and found that the large number of varsity teams was a barrier to competitiveness. The reviewers observed that “some sports struggle producing a roster that can merely participate let alone be competitive.”
There have been exceptionally competitive teams at Brown over the past 10 years. Since 2010, Brown teams have made 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and captured one National Championship in the sport of women’s crew (2011). And true to Brown’s values as a leading higher education institution, Brown athletic teams have consistently ranked among the highest in the nation with respect to NCAA Academic Progress Rates (APR), an annual scorecard of academic achievement calculated for all Division I sports teams. Individually, Brown student-athletes have excelled in the classroom, earning CoSIDA Academic All-American recognition.
However, in the decade from 2009-2018, Brown garnered only 2.8% of Ivy League titles, the lowest in the Ivy League. This is inconsistent with the Ivy League principle of competitive balance across schools, and with Brown’s commitment to excellence.
In January 2020, University President Christina H. Paxson charged a committee to make recommendations to enhance the quality of the Brown student experience in athletics. Departing from past reviews, the Committee on Excellence in Athletics developed recommendations focused on maintaining budgetary resources and distributing them strategically across the Department of Athletics to advance competitiveness and building community. The committee explored new opportunities for students across the Brown community to play competitive sports through varsity teams and also an enhanced roster of club sports.