MU policy facilitates admission of athletes

Friday, December 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

COLUMBIA — MU athletes are nearly five times more likely to gain admission under a waiver of the school’s entrance requirements than their counterparts who don’t play varsity sports, an Associated Press review of university data shows.

MU exempts up to 10 percent of each freshman class from normal entrance requirements if those students — athletes or not — show academic promise. Athletes are benefiting disproportionately from that exception to the rules, although it’s unknown how the university compares with other colleges.

At MU over the past five years, 34.6 percent of all newly enrolled athletes were classified as “special admits.” That compares with just 7.48 percent of newly enrolled non-athletes.

A brief mention of those statistics is buried deep in a 179-page “self-study” submitted by MU to the NCAA as part of a 10-year certification process. The college sports governing body certified MU earlier this month.

Neither the Big 12 Conference nor the NCAA maintain statistics to compare university policies on special admissions.

Also, Lori Franz, a management professor and MU’s faculty athletics representative, noted that entrance requirements vary. She noted that unlike MU, some NCAA members grant admission to athletes who don’t initially meet NCAA eligibility requirements for participation.

“The admissions standards of institutions are not comparable,” she said.

MU’s response to questions posed by both an NCAA review committee and a peer-review panel highlight broader numbers that portray athletes as a tiny percentage of the total number of special admits.

For instance, the response notes that in fall 2004, athletes accounted for fewer than 10 percent of the 313 freshmen admitted under a waiver of normal admission standards.

But that group of 28 athletes represented 29.2 percent of all first-year athletes who showed up on campus that year. Among non-athletes in their first year of school, only 6.2 percent were special admits in 2004, the AP analysis shows.

In its NCAA report, the school noted — and the review committee agreed — that “there is no difference between the way student athletes and non-athletes who enroll at the University of Missouri as part of the 10 percent exception are treated for admission purposes.”

Not everyone on campus shares that perspective.

Rex Campbell, a rural sociology professor and member of a campus athletics oversight committee, said the athletic department’s heavy reliance on admissions waivers compromises the university’s standards.

“We have to make sure everyone who is admitted has a reasonable chance of graduating,” he said.

In 2004, the most recent year for which information is available, the graduation rate for MU athletes was 58 percent, compared with 66 percent of the overall student body.

The university’s self-study also contains a partial breakdown of the special admission waivers by sport.

Football, baseball and men’s basketball showed the highest percentages of team members who gained entrance through admissions waivers.

All students admitted under the waiver are placed on academic probation and must earn a 2.0 grade-point average to shed that status.

Until this semester, specially admitted athletes had to spend their first school year on academic probation and earn at least 24 credits. Non-athletes spent just their first semester on probation and without a minimum credit requirement.

Now, the probationary period for athletes — minus the minimum credit requirement — matches that of other students. University officials said the change was made for consistency.

Franz, Missouri’s MU’s faculty athletics representative, said that the University of Missouri s System’s other three campuses in St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla, admit a far greater percentage of students — athletes and non-athletes — who don’t meet normal entrance requirements.

At the Kansas City campus UMKC, special admission rates for all students from 2001 to 2005 ranged from 35 percent to 43 percent, according to university records. At the University of Missouri-St. Louis UMSL, special admits accounted for 33 percent to 43 percent of all new students over the same period.

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