President Mark Schlissel said Tuesday he wanted to clarify his comments regarding student-athletes, the athletics department and their focus on academics and rules compliance. He said it became clear that his remarks during a faculty governance meeting Monday did not provide the full picture of the situation.
Schlissel was a guest Monday during a meeting of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. He responded to a number of questions about athletics in his first faculty governance meeting following the appointment of Jim Hackett as interim athletic director after the resignation of David Brandon.
Here, in a question-and-answer format, is the president’s clarification of those earlier comments.
Q. Are U-M student athletes complying with NCAA regulations regarding limits on practice time?
A. I noted this at the SACUA meeting but I want to reiterate: The university is in full compliance with NCAA practice-hour regulations. Athletics compliance officials track countable practice hours weekly and our student-athletes are adhering to NCAA rules.
Our system is designed to identify and correct problems quickly and address them before they become repetitive problems. There are other athletic-related activities that occur that are not counted toward practice hours such as leadership and time-management training. Time spent on medical treatment and study hall are other areas not counted.
A number of students choose to workout or train on their own time, outside of coach-run and organized practices. Sometimes these may be referred to as “captain’s practices.” No coaches can be present, unless permitted under NCAA safety regulations (diving coach). And that time is not counted, either.
And yet, these are real time demands on student-athletes. The athletic conferences are concerned about the overall time demands on student-athletes and I’m glad that it is a top agenda item for the Big Ten Conference. We all see this as an important topic.
Q. Have you talked to Athletics personnel about your SACUA comments?
A. I talked with Coach Brady Hoke today to apologize for not providing this full picture in my earlier remarks, and I asked him to convey that to his team. And I plan to do the same, in person, when I return from out-of-town commitments.
I’ve done the same with our interim AD, Jim Hackett, and asked him to convey those sentiments to our other coaches and their teams. I have a great deal of respect for the efforts of our student-athletes and for the coaches and others in Athletics who support them, and that did not come through in my earlier comments. I regret that.
Q. In your SACUA remarks you seemed to indicate some student-athletes are not as successful academically as they should be. Can you elaborate on that?
A. We all want our Michigan student-athletes to be successful in the classroom and on the field.
In several sports, including football, there was a period where our academic performance was not as high as we would like it to be.
But in recent years, the university and athletic department have been proactive in enhancements with our Academic Success Program and recent data suggest improvement in NCAA Academic Progress Rates, which is a real-time measure of academic performance.
Academic success of our student-athletes is a priority for Coach Brady Hoke and all of our coaches. From my first conversation with Brady, it was clear that he views himself as a teacher and mentor of the young men in his charge, and I respect that greatly. I appreciate all he and others in Athletics have accomplished, particularly the student-athletes themselves. And I might note the football team’s single-year APR scores for the past three years are the highest in the history of Michigan football.
Q: Does Athletics admit students not qualified to be at U-M?
A: All prospective students are admitted by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, not Athletics. We certainly want all admitted students to succeed academically at Michigan and work to provide the support they need to do so.
The holistic approach that Admissions uses to evaluate prospective students goes well beyond test scores and high school transcripts. It’s not a guarantee, of course, but it has certainly proven successful over time for us.
As with all students applying to Michigan we make decisions based on the best information available, but admissions is an art as much as a science. Many students find the academic rigor of Michigan challenging and this can be true for student-athletes in particular given the demands on their time. Our goal is to provide appropriate ways to support the academic success of all of our students, including our student-athletes.
Q. What are the ways that Athletics helps student-athletes succeed academically?
A. As I noted earlier, our priority is for every Michigan student-athlete to be successful in the classroom and on the field. If I conveyed earlier that there are underlying academic problems here, I want to correct that now.
Michigan has important safeguards in place to support academic performance and U-M’s faculty liaison to the athletics department, Professor Anne Curzan, plays a highly engaged role with the department, the teams and the students. It’s a more robust picture than I described earlier. For example:
We assess the academic progress of our student-athletes every term, including examining their GPA, completion of degree-applicable credits and overall progress toward their degrees.
This review is done in conjunction with the University Registrar’s Office and Professor Curzan, our faculty athletics representative.
She signs off on all the eligibility information we submit to the NCAA or Big Ten Conference, and the athletics department has an ongoing dialogue with her on those issues.
She also serves on the Academic Performance Committee, which reviews student-athlete academic performance to ensure it meets U-M standards. Our standards exceed those established by the NCAA.
This monitoring of student-athlete performance occurs to support and ensure student-athlete academic progress, not because of any concern regarding the lack of university oversight and review.
I am respectful of the talents and enthusiasm brought to U-M by all of our students, including our student-athletes. I have learned how challenging it is to pursue excellence in sport at the intercollegiate level while progressing towards graduation at a university as academically rigorous as ours.
The university remains committed to providing the support necessary for our student-athletes to find success in their sport, in the classroom and in their lives after graduation.