University to review standards for sports-related majors

A committee hopes to improve student-athlete access to Carlson and journalism tracks.

Tiff Clements

University athletes might be just as comfortable in the press box as they are on the playing field.

Earlier this month, a University committee presented ways to improve student-athletes’ success in the classroom, including broadening access to majors that appeal to those athletes interested in sports careers, such as marketing or journalism.

Accessibility to these programs is a concern for student-athletes, and the Carlson School of Management and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication said entrance to their programs will remain competitive for the foreseeable future.

Academic support and performance for student-athletes committee co-chairman Perry Leo said student-athlete major concentrations emerged after looking at the transcripts of all University student-athletes from 1999 to 2005.

“We happened to notice there were certain majors where there were a good number of successful students who were predicted not to be successful at the get-go from our statistical analysis,” he said. “The one thing they have in common is that student-athletes might be interested in them because they can spin that major in some way that involves sports.”

Student-athletes who were not predicted to succeed but did were generally clustered into six academic majors: business and marketing education, kinesiology, sports studies, family social science, communication studies and the inter-college program, which allows students to design their own majors across colleges within the University.

The committee suggested developing cross-college majors that would emphasize sports-related topics and expand access to traditional majors that could have a sports focus, like marketing and journalism.

Though the programs consider many factors when admitting students, the two schools generally require applicants to have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA.

Degree programs at the University set basic admission standards like GPA and prerequisites to deal with limited faculty, staff and classroom space.

The University requires student-athletes to maintain a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for competition.

Leo said access to programs isn’t always limited by a student’s GPA.

“In some cases, grade point average is a factor and in some cases it isn’t,” he said. “We look at it as supply and demand.”

Mary Maus Kosir, assistant dean of undergraduate admissions for the Carlson School of Management, said despite new undergraduate facilities, space in the program is hard to come by for first-year and transfer students.

“We are in a situation where we admit about one in 18 (first-year) students,” she said. “It’s just as competitive, if not more competitive, with the transfer admissions because there are fewer seats available at that point.”

Dan Wackman, undergraduate admissions director for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said that requiring students to apply for the school after acceptance to the University helps ensure students are prepared.

“The reason that we have the second level of enrollment is because of a very high demand for our program,” he said.

Wackman said it is increasingly difficult to deny admission based on current guidelines because incoming students are scoring higher on standardized tests and have stronger academic backgrounds than previous classes.

“We may actually have to tighten standards,” he said.

Leo said the committee’s recommendations are not exclusive to student-athletes.

“We feel like any student shouldn’t be excluded from a major they’re interested in because there’s no space,” he said.

Leo said he hopes University officials will work closely with deans, department chairs and faculty to make these changes.

“We recommend that students, faculty, staff, administrators talk about this to try to come up with a solution,” he said. “We just want to open a dialogue.”