Is it remarkable anymore when another "first woman" is announced? Perhaps it is at the University of Arkansas, given the ill will that former Athletic Director Frank Broyles long harbored toward Title IX and what he saw as the damage expanding women's athletics had done to real sports (men's, particularly football).
Sharon Hunt, head of the department of health science, kinesiology, recreation and dance, is the first woman and first non-lawyer to serve as NCAA faculty athletics representative. She's a former UA athlete herself, in the pre-Title IX days.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Chancellor G. David Gearhart has appointed Sharon Hunt to be the faculty athletics representative for the University of Arkansas.
Hunt is the first woman and non-lawyer to hold the post. She replaces law professor Howard Brill as the faculty member who will certify the eligibility of student-athletes and will be the university's faculty representative to the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference. The appointment was effective Aug. 1.
"Sharon Hunt has taught, advised and interacted with student-athletes throughout her 33-year career in higher education," Gearhart said. "I can't think of a more appropriate person to take on this role to ensure that our student-athletes succeed both on and off the athletic stage."
Hunt has been on the University of Arkansas faculty for 20 years and has served as head of the department of health science, kinesiology, recreation and dance in the College of Education and Health Professions for that entire time except for the 2000-01 academic year, when she served as interim dean of the college.
"I'm honored and humbled that the chancellor, the provost, the athletic director and my dean have confidence in me to take on a role like this," she said. "My responsibility is to represent the faculty and to keep focused on the academics associated with athletics. I will do everything possible to help young people who are student-athletes to not only succeed in athletics but also to learn skills that will help them be successful in life. "
A high school athlete, Hunt's involvement with collegiate athletics dates back to her own college days at the University of Arkansas when she played extramural sports with the women's basketball and tennis teams prior to the enactment of Title IX.
After receiving her bachelor's and master's degrees in physical education from the university, she went on to earn a doctor of education degree from the University of Georgia, where she taught a variety of sport-activity courses as a graduate assistant. Upon the completion of her doctoral degree, she joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky for 13 years, where she taught both undergraduate and graduate courses and served as the graduate coordinator for the department of health, physical education and recreation. In 1990, she and her family returned to Fayetteville.
“We are looking forward to working with Dr. Sharon Hunt in her new role as faculty athletics representative at the University of Arkansas,” said Jeff Long, vice chancellor and director of athletics. “As a former student-athlete and a longtime member of the faculty and administration at the University of Arkansas, Sharon has an understanding of the challenges that face students including our student-athletes. We appreciate the continued support of Chancellor Gearhart, Dr. Hunt and the university faculty in assisting more than 460 Razorback student-athletes succeed both academically and athletically.”
Hunt will work closely with the athletic department, will be involved in the student-athlete advisory council on campus and will travel to represent the University of Arkansas at various SEC and NCAA meetings.
"The idea there is to make sure that chancellors and athletic directors are on the same page with faculty members' understanding of academic needs and challenges that student-athletes face," Hunt said.
Hunt was instrumental in establishing the graduate athletic training education program in the College of Education and Health Professions, and she has worked closely with athletics on that program. The athletics department provides support to students in the athletic training education program in the form of a stipend, books and travel to the Arkansas Athletic Trainers' Association annual meeting. Two endowed scholarships for athletic training students in honor of longtime Razorback trainers Dean Weber and the late Bill Ferrell were established through the athletics department.
"My family and I are very excited about this unique opportunity to give back to this institution because the education we have all received at the University of Arkansas has laid the foundation for so many of the personal and professional successes that we are able to enjoy today," Hunt said. "I think my alma mater has a very capable leadership team in place, and I am excited to have the opportunity to work with them in this role of faculty athletics representative."