U hopes to improve male student-athletes’ grades

Liz Kohman

The University wants to make it clear: Academics come before sports.

Some student athletes might be focusing more on sports than academics, according to the results of an academic progress report put before the Board of Regents’ Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee on Thursday.

The report showed the men’s athletics program is stagnant and lagging behind the grade point average and six-year graduation rate of the rest of the University. The figures were based on the 2000-01 school year.

“This is not where we want it to be, and it needs to get better,” said Regents Chairwoman Maureen Reed.

While male athletes’ academic performance was below average, the women’s athletics program had higher GPAs and graduation rates than the rest of the student body. The program improved on last year’s rates, which also were above average.

“We’re happy that most data shows we have dedicated athletes,” said Chris Voelz, director of the women’s athletics program.

The report was created in compliance with NCAA rules and only tracked scholarship athletes.

“I don’t think anybody feels very proud of the numbers brought before you today,” said Tom Moe, men’s athletics director.

He said it is important to examine the big picture and the numbers for the highly visible sports such as hockey, basketball and football, which have improved over the last 10 years. He also said the goal of the program is to improve student athletes’ GPAs.

Moe said graduation rates were even more important and athletes, who are eligible to play for four years, should be earning their degrees.

Regent Dallas Bohnsack asked the men’s and women’s directors about the possibility of dropping freshman eligibility.

“I can’t think of one good reason not to do it,” Moe said. It’s too much to expect an 18-year-old to start in a highly competitive athletic program and keep their grades up, he said.

Sam Stiedl, a baseball player in his third year at the University, said taking away freshman eligibility would be terrible.

“People recruit them to come in here and play, not sit on the bench for a year,” he said.

She said most women do well academically in and out of season.

Carol Gruber, director of academic counseling, said the department is working to improve academic support for student athletes through supervised study programs and learning groups.

Regent David Metzen said student athletes should be performing at higher levels than other students because they are offered more academic support.

“There are a large number of student athletes who excel,” said Vice Provost Craig Swan.

He said the University had three Academic All-American, 11 Academic All-District, and 148 Academic All-Big Ten athletes for the 2000-01 school year.

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]