GC cut may hurt athletics

Than Tibbetts

As University officials begin sorting out the implications of a recommendation to dissolve two colleges, athletics officials are wondering what the change might mean for their student- athletes.

Approximately 22 percent of the University’s 657 student-athletes attend General College, and the University’s most visible sports are more likely to have a higher percentage of students in the college, according to the athletics department’s tally.

The football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey teams have the highest portions of General College students.

“I think that’s understandable,” Athletics Director Joel Maturi said. “Some of those sports have had to take some more academically at-risk student-athletes.”

A task force appointed by University President Bob Bruininks recommended last week that General College and the College of Human Ecology be dissolved.

The recommendations are part of Bruininks’ larger initiative to become one of the top three research institutions in the world. The Board of Regents will review the recommendations in May.

Maturi said he was not sure how the proposed changes would affect the athletics department.

“Quite a few of our freshmen and sophomores are admitted into General College. That’s a fact,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure there is a place for those people.”

The football and men’s basketball teams, which have the highest ratio of General College students, scored the lowest on the NCAA’s academic progress rate standard, which attempts to gauge a team’s graduation rate.

Nationally, football and men’s basketball teams, along with baseball teams, scored lowest among Division I institutions.

Maturi said General College has served the University extremely well and that athletics have been part of that.

“Whether they’re student-athletes or not, General College has been a place for people who are a little bit more academically challenged,” he said. “You can’t take academically at-risk kids and throw them into calculus tomorrow, because that’s not fair to them, and they’re not necessarily prepared to do that.”

Laura Coffin Koch, interim director of Academic Counseling and Student Services for intercollegiate athletics, said she has heard concerns throughout the athletics programs about what the recommendations mean to the department.

“But it’s hard to say, since we don’t know enough about the recommendations,” she said.

Maturi said the athletics department will continue to do what the University asks regarding admittance procedures and policies.

“We will respond to it and make sure our athletes are taken care of,” Maturi said. “We won’t take anybody – and we haven’t – and we will continue not to accept anybody who doesn’t have a chance to get his or her degree.”