Sunday, July 09, 2000

OSU says athletes need higher grades

School has low graduation rate

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Ohio State University's student athletes have a low graduation rate because their coaches don't place enough emphasis on grades, school officials said Friday.

        “Many of our coaches feel that winning is the only criteria we go for. And we have to change that,” said David Williams II, vice president for student affairs, in a committee meeting of the board of trustees.

        Mr. Williams and members of the university's Athletic Council recently toured other colleges in hopes of finding answers to Ohio State's graduation problem.

        They visited Penn State shortly after football player Courtney Brown — the NFL's No. 1 draft pick — was signed by the Cleveland Browns.

        Mr. Williams praised football coach Joe Paterno for emphasizing as early as recruiting that his players attend class, get good grades and graduate.

        “After getting a $16 million sign-on bonus, that young man was back in class at 9 a.m. Monday morning and he graduated,” Mr. Williams said of Mr. Brown. “The coaches have to get on board. It's very, very clear that the tone is set by Paterno at Penn State.”

        Ohio State football coach John Cooper, basketball coach Jim O'Brien and athletics director Andy Geiger were all out of town Friday and unavailable to comment to The Columbus Dispatch.

        Preliminary NCAA data for this year show 50 percent of OSU athletes graduated within six years compared to 56 percent of all students.

        “We are near the bottom of the Big Ten. We're either last or next to the last for the year 2000,” said Susan Hartmann, a professor of women's studies who served on a committee that has studied the issue.

        In hopes of fostering change, OSU plans to have the department charged with overseeing academics among athletes report to the Office of Academic Affairs in addition to the athletics director. Previously, it reported only to the athletics director.

        University President William Kirwan said he supports that proposal and a number of other ideas OSU has to remedy the situation, including lowering the number of credit hours needed to graduate and creating faculty and peer mentoring programs that would begin the summer before college starts.

        “We all agree that these numbers are very disturbing,” Mr. Kirwan told committee members. “It's unacceptable for us to have a top program in athletics if we don't have a top program in academics. It has to change.”


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