Michigan student-athletes may soon be subject to the same academic eligibility processes as non-athletes if a plan presented yesterday to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs is approved.

Currently, when a student-athlete’s grade point average drops below the University’s required 2.0, he or she goes before the Committee on Academic Performance (APC), which makes recommendations to University Provost Teresa Sullivan about whether the student-athlete can continue competing.

The APC consists of a University administrator and all the faculty members on the Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics (ABIA), a group of faculty, administrators, alumni and student-athletes who together advise Athletic Director Bill Martin on financial and policy decisions involving Michigan athletics.

But under a seven-point plan proposed by Statistics Prof. Ed Rothman, chair of the Athlete Academic Advising Committee, the APC would be stripped of academic eligibility responsibility, and would only serve in a lesser role on the ABIA. Instead, each school or college within the University would now be responsible for making student-athlete eligibility recommendations.

Under the new plan, the provost would receive the school’s recommendation but would still make the final decision as to whether an athlete is eligible to compete.

Rothman said a student-athlete’s eligibility should be determined in the same way as all other students.

“We’re recommending that that process be transferred to academic units,” he said. “In other words, if a student is enrolled in LSA, the academic unit would determine whether the student met eligibility requirements.”

The recommendation comes as the Athletic Department is being criticized for its practice of funding trips to bowl games for members of the APC. A University audit in July 2007 said the bowl game perks practice “may appear to be a conflict of interest.”

Despite the internal audit’s findings and objection from some members of the public, University and Athletic Department administrators have defended the practice. They say that because the provost — not members of the APC — makes the final determination on an athlete’s eligibility, there’s no conflict of interest.

Though the Office of the Provost has final authority on athlete eligibility cases, the minutes before the Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics between January 2006 and January 2008 do not specifically mention the Office of the Provost overturning or changing any decisions made by the APC.

University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham declined to comment on the issue yesterday, saying Rothman presented an oral report of a draft that had not been finalized or formally submitted.

A finished proposal will be presented at the Senate Assembly’s Jan. 26 meeting, where members of the Senate Assembly are scheduled to vote on the matter.

Other recommendations in Rothman’s plan included consolidating academic advising, increasing oversight on Bachelor of General Studies students and improving the University’s Summer Bridge Program, a program for student-athletes and academically at-risk students.

Rothman also said his committee would urge the University’s NCAA representative to “speak out aggressively” against a recently revised NCAA standard for athlete eligibility.

Under the revised NCAA eligibility standard, an athlete is determined eligible or ineligible by a formula that weighs an athlete’s GPA against his or her SAT or ACT scores.

Rothman’s final recommendation would encourage student-athletes to enroll in the school or college from which they hope to graduate. By doing so, student-athletes could avoid graduation delays caused by varying academic requirements from different academic units.

Physics Prof. Keith Riles, a SACUA member, voiced concerns about some of the recommendations and whether they would create “watered-down programs” for student-athletes, leading them to less challenging academic programs.

Rothman disputed the claim, saying he would never advocate that.

“I’m not suggesting that we create watered-down programs, but that we create alternative programs,” he said. “We’re looking for more choices, not fewer choices.”

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