Athletics misses graduation goal

Student-athletes are forced to choose between school and sports.

Of all the sports at the University, only four fall short of the NCAA’s goal of a 60 percent graduation success rate. But three of those teams that don’t meet the goal – men’s hockey, basketball and football – fall severely short. Respectively, the teams have graduation success rates of 43 percent, 38 percent and 49 percent.

These statistics show serious shortcomings in the athletics department and, perhaps, the success of the athletes. Several of the University’s major sports, including women’s basketball and men’s hockey and basketball, came in last in the Big Ten for graduation success rates.

The official mission of the University is to promote research and discovery, teaching and learning, and outreach and public service. The NCAA graduation success rates indicate a place where the University misses its own mark.

Student-athletes have to deal with two oftentimes competing interests: doing well at school and doing well on the ice, court or field. But pressure doesn’t come just from the NCAA or coaches; it also comes from the University and community. When teams do well, the University sees the hiring of new coaches as a payoff. Fans and the community also appreciate the new coaches and would likely feel more compelled to support the new stadium if they saw success on the field.

As fans or fellow Gophers, we take pride when our teams do well. We might even feel that sense of heartbreak when the team can’t pull through in overtime. But our concern for the success of student-athletes only covers their lives as athletes.

Placing a high value on the success of athletics teams means not only paying a high price for coaches but also supporting the student-athletes when it comes to balancing sports and school. Providing scholarships is one route to help student-athletes balance. As reported in an Oct. 5 Daily article, scholarship renewal can make or break student-athletes.

While winning teams are great, the University must do more to foster athlete success off of the field.