Schlissel ‘regrets’ comments on UM football grad rates

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel apologized to athletic director Jim Hackett, coach Brady Hoke and the team for not giving context to statements he made about student athletes’ academic performance.

“Academic success of our student-athletes is a priority for coach Brady Hoke and all of our coaches,” Schlissel said. “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 (Academic Progress Rates) scores for the past three years are the highest in the history of Michigan football.”

Schlissel’s comments were published Wednesday morning on The University Record, a news site for faculty and staff. They were published in the format of a question and answer with university Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.

The statements come the day after Schlissel — UM’s new president who was previously the provost at Brown University — spoke before the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. At that meeting, he said the university faces a “challenge” in closing a gap between the graduation rate for football players and students overall.

The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, reported that Schlissel said during his comments that UM “admit students who aren’t as qualified, and it’s probably the kids that we admit that can’t honestly, even with lots of help, do the amount of work and the quality of work it takes to make progression from year to year.”

Though Schlissel said the past two years have gotten better, but before that, the graduation rates were “terrible,” with football somewhere in the 50s and 60s while six-year rate at the university overall is near 90 percent.

In his published comments on Wednesday, Schlissel emphasized the Athletic Department does not admit students, but the office of Undergraduate Admissions.

“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,” Schlissel said. “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.”

Though Schlissel also said publicly that it’s sad athletics get more attention than academic success, he added that he holds athletes in high regards.

“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,” Schlissel said. “I regret that.”​