New AD will face hurdles

The athletics department must focus on academics and amateur values.

With the University of Minnesota now in search of a new athletics director, the chosen candidate will face numerous hurdles when they arrive this coming summer, including graduation rates, academics and the increasing professionalization of major college sports.

Basketball, football and hockey have long been fraught with volatile rates of academic achievement and graduate success. In recent years, the athletics department has seen a positive trend in these areas. In the 2010-11 school year, the University’s student-athletes posted a record 80 percent Graduation Success Rate. While commendable, this success is still back-of-the-pack in terms of Big Ten schools. The new athletics director must remain focused on this continued upward momentum.

All too often, collegiate sports become little more than development for the pros. This can especially become the case with basketball, football and hockey.

While winning is important for recruiting, brand development and fundraising, athletics at the University must not become merely a stepping stone to a professional athletic career. In fact, most student-athletes will never set foot on the professional stage after their collegiate experience.

The University’s next athletics director must keep the balance among the many teams on campus. As the big three collegiate sports generate the revenue, smaller sports such as wrestling or women’s hockey must not fall by the wayside. This is an institution where opportunity is meant for all.