Athletics dept. awaits self-study results

The University submitted a self-study in the recertification process for the NCAA.

Andrew Cummins

As far as University athletics officials are concerned, the information is in, the feedback has been weighed and now it’s time to wait.

In a recertification self-study submitted to the NCAA last week, the University included recommendations to improve athletes’ graduation rates. But University officials won’t learn whether Gophers athletics faces academics-based penalties until the NCAA releases Academic Progress Rates on May 6.

Although many of the findings and recommendations in the final report appear as they did in the draft, the review process played an important role, said Gail Klatt, associate vice president for internal audits.

Klatt, who chaired the steering committee that oversaw the yearlong self-study process, said on-campus groups and people familiar with student issues were engaged, especially with the equity and student well-being section of the self-study.

“I feel really good about the broad spectrum across which we got input,” she said.

That range of input not only allows for a fielding of recommendations, but also acts as a checking device, Klatt said.

“Nobody has all the information,” she said. “It gave us an extra added assurance.”

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said that despite the feedback the University received, perhaps the most important factor is the number of people who didn’t contribute.

“The great majority of people don’t respond,” he said, explaining the lack of input and concerns could be a sign that the athletics department is doing things right.

on the web

For the complete self-study submitted to the NCAA, visit www.myu.umn.edu/metadot/ index.pl?SPSID=39778&SPID=3310 &DB_OEM_ID=8400&iid=311 4248.

Since his arrival in 2002, Maturi has placed an emphasis on student-athletes’ academic well-being, and the academic integrity subcommittee found the University is doing a good job overall in addressing such issues.

Many changes highlighted in the report stem from NCAA recommendations made during the University’s last recertification in 2001, when the school was in the midst of addressing an academic scandal involving the men’s basketball team.

Since the scandal, the academic integrity section of the self-study highlights that the University has, among other things, placed an increased focus on academic counseling and advising for student-athletes. Much of that success is attributed to Mark Nelson, director of the McNamara Academic Center.

In addition, the way that different officials and departments oversee academic integrity and compliance issues has changed, leading to various improvements, the study states.

In addressing the issue of timely graduation, specifically for men’s basketball and football, the study suggests that the implementation of recommendations from the Task Force for Academic Support and Performance of Student-Athletes will improve rates.

For example, the task force wants to increase access to academic programs relevant to student-athletes, like sports management, by adding more admissions factors than just grade point average.

A summer program launched last year, which helps student-athletes get acquainted with the college lifestyle before classes are in session, can also help in the long run.

The study also recommends the University work “to continue to support a culture of academic success” that will breed more positive off-the-field results.

The steering committee will review all recommendations and issues raised by the self-study, and the proper University offices will develop strategies to address them.

Maturi said he’s been pleased with efforts to improve the welfare of student-athletes on and off the court in his nearly six years on campus, but said finances have constricted some endeavors.

“Money controls everything in today’s college athletics scene,” he said.

However, Maturi added that he feels comfortable in being able to balance the budget in the future, and that the athletics department has been able to do so in five of the past six years; last year was the exception because of head-coach buyouts.

Although academic-related issues often receive the most attention, the final self-study also presented some gender equity issues.

The study states some of the issues involving gender equity and diversity include a decrease in the number of female coaches and budget disparities between men’s and women’s sports teams.

Despite these findings, the study found no “systemic issues related to equity or student-athlete well-being.”

Kris Lockhart, associate vice president and chief of staff in the Office of Diversity and Equity, worked on the gender and diversity equity sections of the study, in addition to working with Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart on the well-being section.

Lockhart said the self-study not only allows for finding issues, but, also, the opportunity to address and fix them, which drove officials to tackle the matters.

“Most of us really do appreciate the opportunity to think of it in an institutional way,” she said, adding that she and other officials were pleased with how the overall process went.

The next step in that process is the NCAA’s peer review reading of the study and an October campus visit.

The NCAA’s Division I Committee on Athletics Certification will decide in February whether the University will be recertified.