The University Record, January 29, 2001

Martin asks for faculty ‘partnership’

Click here for highlights of the Senate Assembly meeting.
By Theresa Maddix

At the Jan. 22 Senate Assembly meeting, Athletic Director Bill Martin emphasized a need for the Department of Athletics to work more closely with faculty, saying, “We [in athletics] fully want to be a partner with you. There isn’t enough interplay and discussion between our coaches and faculty, between our administrators and the executive officers of the University. I’m very interested in developing coalitions that will bring us closer together, chances to walk around in each other’s shoes.”

Martin sought feedback and asked faculty to call him to discuss issues. He even extended an invitation for an Assembly member present to “be athletic director for a day.”

“As you look at the Michigan seal, it says 1817 and in Latin ‘arts,’ ‘truth’ and ‘science,’ and nowhere does it say athletics, and I recognize and I understand that. Every meeting that we have with our senior staff starts first with academic issues.”

Martin outlined ideas he and Provost Nancy Cantor have discussed, including a bridge program for incoming football and men’s basketball players, distance learning programs to help past athletes complete their degrees, assisted registration for athletes and an annual academic audit of his department.

“Many of our athletes coming in for revenue sports need a wake-up call; they come from a high school unprepared to do the work. We need to provide them a bridge program that will give them that wake-up call and prepare them during the summer, a transitional program that will prepare them for college,” Martin said.

The overall graduation rate for University athletes, Martin said, is close to 60 percent, with rates for men’s football and basketball players at 20–35 percent, Martin said. “A lot of these kids leave early to pursue professional careers,” Martin said. “Some of them make it. A lot of them don’t.” Many former U-M athletes, Martin said, would like to finish their degrees but cannot because of family and location constraints.

Martin cited Barry Larkin, MaliVai Washington and an unnamed hockey player as specific examples of athletes trying to complete their degrees from a distance. Larkin, shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, living in Orlando, Fla., called about finishing the three or four courses needed to complete his degree. Washington, a retired tennis player and ESPN commentator who also resides in Florida, called recently about finishing his degree. Martin also cited a hockey player with a 3.5 grade point average who had to stay for a fifth year at U-M for one premed course.

Martin reported that student-athletes overwhelmingly cite assistance in registration for classes as crucial to success in their U-M careers. Their 20-hour weekly commitment to their sport makes it difficult to complete their degrees in four years.

“I think there should be an academic audit of the Athletic Department on an annual basis and that it should be public,” Martin also noted. The Office of the Provost currently is working with Martin on the details to implement the audit.