Pushing athletes, U to a higher standard

Three years ago I was privileged to be offered the opportunity to serve as the University’s director of athletics. In that capacity, I view my primary responsibility as providing our student-athletes, coaches and staff with a vision for the future and the resources necessary to obtain that vision. A second equally important responsibility is to serve as a spokesperson for intercollegiate athletics and, in turn, the University. It is in this capacity that I would like to add clarity to Than Tibbets’s Monday article, “GC cut may hurt athletics.”

Though my comments regarding the positive role that General College has served athletics were accurate, the headline and tone of the article implied that I have reservations about the plan to integrate its programs into the College of Education and Human Development. Nothing could be further from the truth. The athletics department is fully supportive of the University’s goal of becoming one of the top three research universities in the world. Indeed, Gopher athletics has set its own goal of becoming the model Division I-A athletics program in the country. To reach this goal we must graduate student-athletes at high rates and maintain highly competitive teams. This is consistent with University President Bob Bruininks’ and Senior Vice President and Provost E Thomas Sullivan’s goals for the University.

I have been regularly apprised of the initiative to integrate General College programs into other academic units. The president and provost have been very understanding of the prominent role General College has played in the academic careers of many student-athletes, particularly those who are deemed “at-risk” because of precollege academic credentials. I am convinced the restructuring will provide the necessary support for less academically prepared student-athletes and their peers in the general student body to be successful.

At no time in my discussion with Tibbetts did I express a concern for the future of our student-athletes’ academic needs. To the contrary, I expressed my confidence that our student-athletes would continue to be well-served by the University.

The athletics department is a proud member of the University community. We are committed to attaining unprecedented levels of excellence in academics as well as athletics. Be assured that I share the philosophy of Bruininks that the pursuit of academic excellence and athletic excellence are mutually reinforcing concepts, not mutually exclusive.

Joel Maturi is the University athletics director. Please send comments to [email protected]