This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Athletics a key player for UB's national image

Published: March 24, 2005

Contributing Editor

Although two UB athletics teams failed to earn acceptable scores in a still-provisional program that measures academic performance, UB's student athletes overall are doing well in university classrooms, William Maher, interim director of athletics, told the Faculty Senate Executive Committee yesterday.

The NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) won't be implemented until 2005-06. But the tool is being given a test drive during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years to provide Division I schools a snapshot of how they fare in terms of eligibility, retention, graduation rates and academic performance of their student athletes. UB's football and women's basketball team fell short of the minimal performance mark in the 2003-04 report released this month.

"While the APR is a concern, the overall performance of our student athletes continues to be very positive," Maher said, adding that the report gives UB and other Division I schools the chance to evaluate and improve their teams' performances before the APR officially goes into effect.

Maher pointed out that UB's athletic teams include scholar athletes and other students who are doing as well as their peers academically.

"The grade-point average of our student athletes and how our student athletes perform in the classroom compares very favorably with other students across campus," Maher said.

Forty-eight percent of student athletes carry a grade-point average of 3.0 or better, while 32-35 percent of the general population of UB students carry that GPA on a regular basis. The overall GPA for UB student athletes is 3.003, he said.

The six-year graduation rate for student athletes stands at 62 percent, compared with the 54 percent rate for the overall student population at the university, Maher said. Student athletes who remain at UB for four years graduate at a rate of 92 percent, the second-highest rate in the Mid-American Conference, he added.

Maher cited the men's basketball team's successful season as an example of how the Division of Athletics is "one of many tools that further the academic goals and objectives of the university.

"Athletics excellence is something we need to have, must have and must continue to grow," he told the FSEC. "The role that athletics plays in assisting in the shaping of UB's brand is something that we feel is important."

UB athletics "broadens the boundaries of the university," added Maher who said that between 2000 and 2004, 33 percent of all media coverage attributed to UB was of athletics events and programs. Last year, the men's basketball team played four nationally televised games and the men's football team had three regionally televised games.

On-the-road exposure also can have a positive impact on "students in other communities who are making college decisions.

"The Division of Athletics can be, in my opinion, a key driver in increasing our out-of-state enrollment," Maher said, noting that UB "is by far the lowest, at 3 percent" in this category among comparable Association of American University public institutions.