UM doing fine with academics in football, stats show

Jim Russ
The Detroit News

Does the University of Michigan have a problem with the academic performance of its football players?

The statistics say no, despite UM president Mark Schlissel's comments this week directed at admission policies for Wolverine football players and graduation rates in the program.

A decade ago, the NCAA rolled out its Academic Progress Rate formula to monitor classroom performance of Division I athletic programs. It is considered the gold standard to measure academics because it tracks progress on a rolling four-year time period so that any one-year anomaly -- positive or negative -- would be minimized.

In addition, it has been modified recently to properly reflect factors that could have a negative effect on graduation rates through no fault of the university, such as an athlete in good academic standing transferring to another college, or an athlete turning pro before graduation.

Athletic programs that do not meet the minimum APR score of 930 can be subject to sanctions, such as practice time reductions or postseason bans. An APR of 930 reflects about a 50-percent graduation rate.

For the most recent NCAA data available, for the 2012-13 school year, the Michigan football program earned an APR of 975. That's well above the national average of 951 for Division I football for 2009-10 through 2012-13. The average for all Division I athletic programs nationwide during the same four-year period was 976.

On Wednesday, Schlissel apologized for his comments and said he offered them – on Monday during a meeting of the UM Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs – without proper context. His comments Monday were reported by the Michigan Daily, UM's student newspaper.

"The football team's single-year (APR) scores for the past three years are the highest in the history of Michigan football," Schlissel said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Michigan's Brady Hoke defended the academic achievements of his players during the Big Ten coaches' conference call.

"We embrace the expectations we have here from an academic to an athletic standpoint," Hoke said. "The things that truly are special about Michigan -- it is an academic institution that has the balance when you look at the competitive side of all sports. But the football program -- the thing we're proud about since we've been here is all 69 of 69 seniors have graduated. Our APR is at the highest it's ever been, and we really look at in recruiting. We want to get guys who can academically succeed and do the work and be the best football players and best people we can put in this environment."

Schlissel was accurate on Monday in pointing out UM's previous deficiencies in the football program's APR. The score in 2009-10 was 928. But this was largely due to an inordinate number of transfers that took place in the UM program during the coaching change from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez, who took over in 2008.

Twitter: @JimRuss1