Montana State University-Bozeman
NCAA Athletics Certification
Self-Study 2001-2002

Academic Integrity

Operating Principle

2.3 Scheduling

It is a principle of the Association to ensure that, in the conduct of intercollegiate athletics, student-athletes have sufficient time for their academic programs. In accordance with this principle, the institution shall demonstrate that written policies are established in all sports to minimize student-athletesí conflict with class time and/or final examination periods due to participation in intercollegiate athletics, consistent with the provisions of Constitution 3.2.4.12.

Self Study Items

1. Attach the institutionís written policies related to the scheduling of intercollegiate athletics competitions and practices and describe how they minimize interference with class time and examination periods.

The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has developed the following set of operating practices and policies in scheduling athletics practices and competitions. In the 1995 self-study, it was recommended that the department codify these practices and policies into a uniform, written document. Currently, the department is assembling these and other policies into a Compliance/Operations Manual. Evidence that the department has scheduled practices and competitions with minimal class and examination time missed can be inferred from an assessment of previous practice and competition schedules for each sport.

Practice Schedules

The procedures by which team practices are determined are as follows:

  • Proposed practice schedules are submitted by individual head coaches to the Senior Associate Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Internal Operations (SAAD).
  • With the assistance of the Assistant Director of Compliance (ADC), the proposed practice schedules are reviewed for compliance with all relevant NCAA By-laws governing the length and types of practices allowed.
  • Practice schedules are approved and facilities are scheduled accordingly.
  • Compliance with approved practice schedules and NCAA Bylaws governing practices is monitored by the ADC to whom each head coach submits a daily, signed practice log. Infractions are reported to the appropriate Department of Intercollegiate Athletics officials.

Practices are generally held as late in the afternoon as possible, evenings, and early mornings. Whenever possible, coaches recommend practice schedules which minimize conflicts with student-athletesí course schedules. In the case of teams with smaller rosters, head coaches develop recommended practice times on a conflict matrix of student-athletesí course schedules Ė selecting times with the least number of class conflicts when practice facilities are available. Head coaches of sports that are more individual than team based recommend schedules that are as flexible as possible within the limitations imposed by availability of coaching staff and practice facilities. In all cases, head coaches communicate to student-athletes that no class may be missed for practice (NCAA Bylaw, 17.1.5.5). A summary of general in-season practice schedules for each sport is included in Appendix II-J.

A review of practice schedules, as well as informal interviews conducted with head coaches for this self-study, confirms that practice schedules are in compliance with all relevant NCAA By-laws as well as designed to minimize missed class time. However, there are two problem areas that should be addressed.

The first problem area occurs in those sports that begin their practice and competition schedules before the beginning of fall and/or spring terms. The pre-term start of football, volleyball, and skiing has, in a limited number of cases, created conflicts with freshman and transfer orientation. Since this is one of the major vehicles through which new students are made aware of university expectations and resources, academic advising and course scheduling, strategies should be developed to address these potential conflicts.

The second problem area occurs in the perceived compression of a student-athleteís academic day. While practices are being scheduled late in the day and/or early morning, student-athletesí access to other related activities such as strength training appears to be limited primarily due to the availability of trained personnel to supervise their training. Tables II-16 and II-17 of the current fall and spring terms' weight room schedule illustrates the concern.  

Table II-16
Summary Strength Training Center - Fall Term: All Sports

 

Table II-17
Summary Strength Training Center - Spring Term: All Sports

The perceived compression of the student-athleteís academic day should be examined more thoroughly to determine the impact on both student-athletesí academic performance as well as general welfare.

Competition Scheduling

Conference Scheduling: Scheduling for menís basketball, womenís basketball, football, and volleyball is scheduled at the Big Sky Conference level. Each member school has input into the scheduling process through the institutionís chief executive officer.

Non-Conference Scheduling: Non-conference scheduling is done as follows:

  • Head coaches submit preliminary game contract forms to the Senior Associate Athletics Director
  • Requests are reviewed based on the following criteria:
    • Compliance with NCAA Bylaws governing numbers and dates of allowable competitions (NCAA Bylaw, 17.1.6)
    • Minimal class time missed
    • Minimal conflict with start and end of academic term (finals week)
    • Availability of transportation
    • Costs
  • Requests are reviewed by the Senior Associate Athletics Director and sent forward to the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for final approval.

2. Describe the procedures used by the institution to monitor missed class time for student-athletes.

The attendance policy at MSU is predicated on the assumption that "when students enroll in a course, they enter a contractual agreement with the instructor for the duration of the course, and both the student and the instructor are expected to honor the specified terms of that agreement." (MSU Bulletin pg. 28). The attendance requirements for a course, if any, must be clearly communicated verbally during the first or second day of class and in writing on the course syllabus. It is essential that each student acquaint him/herself with the attendance requirements of each particular course and act in a professional and responsible manner in meeting those requirements.

Consistent with the expectation that students and student-athletes alike will take ownership and responsibility for their attendance and learning, there is no uniform procedure for monitoring class attendance. However, the following strategies are employed by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to encourage student-athletes to attend class and to act responsibly in arranging for meeting all course and exam obligations missed for travel. In summary, the strategies are as follows:

  • Student-Athlete Handbook: Expectations concerning class attendance and responsibility arranging for meeting all course and exam obligations in courses is clearly described (pp. 40-41). The fact that each course may have different attendance requirements is reiterated and emphasized. These expectations are further reinforced by the Acknowledgement of Mutual Expectations Form which is signed by each student-athlete and retained in his/her file.
  • Communication with Faculty: Each individual head coach employs different strategies for communicating with faculty concerning competition schedules for a specific term. Some send letters directly to faculty; others require the student-athlete to take responsibility for delivering letters to each individual faculty. Sample letters are included in Appendix II-K. The fact that the communication of competition schedules is direct or indirect is not problematic. In fact, both approaches are predicated on the core expectation that all students must act in a professional and responsible manner in handling their absences from classes. Student-athletes are encouraged to notify faculty at the beginning of the term concerning their anticipated absences and to make arrangements to submit work, if possible, in advance of the absence. Arrangements are made between faculty and head coaches to proctor exams while traveling -- though not ideal considering the difficulty of providing a testing environment with minimal distractions. Student-athletes also have access to laptop computers that may be checked out for use during away competitions. When possible, students are encouraged to Ďstay connectedí through e-mail or the Internet while away. Submission of work as e-mail attachments and e-mail communication with faculty is encouraged. The capacity to take exams via the Internet is also being developed.
  • Grade/Attendance Checks: At the request of head coaches, the AAC conducts periodic grade and attendance checks on student-athletes. For example, this may be done for the whole team, only freshmen on a team, or student-athletes who have demonstrated academic difficulty. The purpose for such periodic checks is to reinforce the expectation that, student-athletes will be in class unless traveling, and to provide appropriate interventions for student-athletes who do not attend class.
  • Team Academic Goals: The expectation that student-athletes will perform athletically and academically at MSU is further reinforced by the establishment of team academic goals and scholastic performance goals. A majority of head coaches interviewed for the self-study provided examples of strategies they employ to communicate their academic expectations for the team as well as individual participants.

3. Analyze, explain and address missed class time that has been determined by the institution to be significant or excessive for any sport(s).

Since attendance in class is expected but not required at MSU, a quantifiable definition of Ďsignificant or excessiveí has not been established. However, in order to determine if missed class time appeared to be detrimental to student-athletesí academic performance, the following three (3) factors were examined:

Actual missed class time: Table II-18 represents a snapshot of the 2000-2001 competition season developed from the official competition schedules and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics travel records.  

Table II-18
Summary of Class Days Missed by Sport: 2000-2001 Season

 

Fall Term 2000

Spring Term 2001

Sport

# Class Days

# Days Missed

%

# Class Days

# Days Missed

%

Football

75

3

4.0

76

0

n/a

Menís Basketball

75

10

13.3

76

13.5

17.7

Womenís Basketball

75

8

10.6

76

9

11.8

Volleyball

75

9

12.0

76

1

1.3

Menís Tennis

75

6.5

8.6

76

13

17.1

Womenís Tennis

75

7

9.3

76

12

15.7

Skiing

75

0

n/a

76

13

17.1

Golf

75

9

12.0

76

12

15.7

Menís Cross Country

75

4

5.3

76

0

n/a

Womenís Cross Country

75

4

5.3

76

0

n/a

Menís Indoor Track & Field

75

0

n/a

76

6

7.8

Womenís Indoor Track & Field

75

0

n/a

76

10

13.16

Menís Outdoor Track & Field

75

0

n/a

76

3

3.9

Womenís Outdoor Track & Field

75

0

n/a

76

3

3.9

Further examination of each sport in which students missed more than 15% of the instructional days of any given term, yielded the following observations. Most of the teams missing more than 15% of the instructional days were the Ďminorí sports without set conference schedules. These were also sports that are constrained by a number of factors outside their control such as weather and the availability of venues for competition, such as golf and skiing.

When considering the constraints imposed on scheduling which are outside the institutionís control and the evidence that sports took advantage of scheduling competitions which are held when school is not in session such as Thanksgiving, winter break and spring break, it did appear that missed class time was not excessive.

Managing Missed Class Time: The second factor considered was related to any problems identified by students or faculty concerning a student-athleteís opportunity to make up work. The general consensus of informal interviews held with Faculty Council for this self-study was that from the perspective of the faculty, student-athletes encountered few difficulties in managing their academic and athletic obligations. This was corroborated by student responses in the senior exit interviews as illustrated in Table II-19.  

Table II-19
Summary of Selected Academic Questions from Senior Exit Interviews, Questions 9 and 10

Questions

2000: N = 19

1999: N = 21

1998: N = 18

 

Y

%

N

%

Y

%

N

%

Y

%

N

%

Question #9: Did you encounter any problems with faculty/staff because you were an athlete? Y/N

3

16

16

84

1

5

20

95

4

22

14

78

Question #10: Did your academic department accommodate your schedule as an athlete (letting you make up work, etc.) Y/N

17

89

2

11

19

90

2

10

16

89

2

11

Consistently over this three (3) year period, a majority of student-athletes did not experience any difficulties with faculty. Also, approximately 90% of the student-athletes interviewed reported that faculty cooperated in allowing them to make-up work or schedule alternative times for exams. Unfortunately, the details are not available for those who did have difficulties; therefore, factors contributing to these conflicts cannot be addressed. However, in general it appears that student-athletes have been successful in managing the time they miss for travel and competition.

Academic Performance: The final and key factor examined was the ongoing academic performance of student-athletes both by overall team grade point averages and the percent of student-athletes performing at a 3.00 level or above. A measure of whether student-athletes were successful in managing their missed class time would be how they subsequently performed over time and in relation to the general student body as a whole.

First, the general profile of student-athlete performance was examined. As illustrated in Figure II-4, the overall team average has been consistent and indicative of acceptable academic performance. Concurrently, nearly half of the student-athletes earned GPAs of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) or higher. In spring 2001, the overall team GPA was over a 3.00 with 55% of the student-athletes earning GPAs of 3.00 or above.  

Figure II-4
Summary of Student-Athlete Average GPAs

Second, the academic performance of student-athletes by sport was compared to the average academic performance of the student body in general. Figures II-5 and II-6 illustrate a snapshot of academic performance for student-athletes during the 2000-2001 season. Both fall term and spring term were considered in order to reflect academic performance in- and out-of-season.  

Figure II-5
Fall 2000 GPAs by Sport, Team and MSU
 

 

Figure II-6
Spring 2001 GPAs by Sport, Team and MSU

It is clear that student-athletes have consistently demonstrated academic performance which is acceptable, and in many cases above average. In fall 2000, nine (9) of the fourteen (14) sport groups performed above the MSU general student grade point average of 2.86. The overall team average of 2.90 was also above the general student average. In spring 2001, ten (10) of the fourteen (14) sport groups performed above the MSU average; the team average of 3.09 was again above the MSU average.

In conclusion, an analysis of missed class time, evidence of successful management of missed class time, and subsequent academic performance of student-athletes supports the conclusion that missed class time is not excessive or detrimental to student-athletesí academic performance.