Recruit student athletes

The Star Tribune recently reported that the Gophers football team had the lowest average ACT scores for incoming recruits in the Big Ten conference. One argument that stood out of a flurry of online comments debating the merit of accepting football recruits with an average ACT score of 17.2 is that the University is an educational institution with an athletics program, not the other way around. With a strategic positioning plan to become one of the top three public research universities, and coming off of a 1-11 season, itâÄôs beginning to look like these athletes are not having the impact the University brought them here to have. As the stateâÄôs major land grant institution, the University cannot justify accepting athletes at the expense of accepting students with a better academic record. Still, entrance exam scores should be contextualized in terms of graduation rates. According to 2007 NCAA Division I Federal Graduation Rate Data, University student-athletes have a slightly higher average graduation rate than the University student population. Moreover, studies have shown that students who are involved in school-sponsored activities are more likely to graduate than those who are not. The football team, however, has a 48 percent six-year graduation rate, compared with the UniversityâÄôs overall 61 percent. The outlook seems bleak for an incoming football player âÄî already entering a program where relatively few athletes go professional âÄî with an ACT score 10 points below that of the average incoming freshman at the University. Instead of funneling money into student-athlete support programs like McNamara Academic Center and Summer Bridge, and instead of funding the education of athletes who arenâÄôt willing to be students, the University should do more to recruit athletes who are ready to be college students. Too many good students who want an education have been turned away, and too many who have been accepted carry the burden of debt for this practice to continue.