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MSU announces team to assess university’s programs for athletes


A 16-member team of Montana State University employees, former athletes and community members is scheduled to meet here Thursday night to begin assessment of the school’s programs and policies that relate to student-athletes.

The committee’s work follows an NCAA review of the university’s athletic programs after several current and former MSU student-athletes were arrested for serious crimes and the football team lost scholarships for failing to meet NCAA graduation standards.

“I will consider the committee’s recommendations as a starting point for developing a plan for implementing improvements in our athletic programs,” MSU President Geoff Gamble said in a statement.

Among the items to be reviewed will be athletic department and team rules regarding student-athlete conduct expectations both in season and out, drug testing, appropriate ways to monitor and enforce rules and the teaching of lasting life skills.

The 16-member “One Team,” will be chaired by former Bozeman Public Schools Superintendent Mike Redburn, who is now a member of the faculty in MSU’s education department.

“The university has been working rather energetically in addressing the student-athlete issues, the support issues, the academic issues, prior to the NCAA report and since the NCAA report,” Redburn said. “They didn’t wait until the NCAA report came to them, and they’re not waiting for us to get started on their efforts.

“But the president very much wants to have this third party review and recommendations to ensure the appropriateness and authenticity of what the university is doing and make suggestions as to additional efforts that should be pursued,” Redburn said.

The NCAA assessment, released in February, found that MSU university faculty, staff, students and members of the community were not working together in support of student-athletes. The assessment suggested the school focus on meeting the needs of students identified as “academically at-risk,” monitor the academic performance of student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility, and better review the academic credentials of prospective student-athletes to make sure they have the skills to succeed at MSU.

The review suggested the academic expectations for student-athletes be placed in writing and presented clearly in a revised student-athlete handbook.

The NCAA assessment also said the university and athletics department must recognize and work together to address the cultural and social differences faced by ethnic minorities who leave large cities to attend Montana State University in Bozeman.

“One of the first tasks that we’ll have in this committee is for all of us as members to become educated as to what’s being done; what the NCAA is recommending; looking at best practices in the field, find out what other universities are doing that appears to be working; look and see where and when those things might have a fit here at MSU,” Redburn said.

He said he expects the “One Team” to have recommendations for Gamble sometime during the academic school year.

“Because as a university we are committed to the success of all our students, I feel a great responsibility to provide the university with recommendations that will promote the future success of all our athletes academically and socially, as well as athletically,” Redburn said.

Members of MSU’s “One Team” committee are: Redburn; Jeff Adams, MSU assistant vice provost; Doug Alexander, Bozeman businessman; Corky Brittan, MSU regents professor in history and philosophy; Sarah Fowler, teacher at Belgrade’s Ridgeview Elementary School and former MSU athlete; Florence Garcia, MSU’s TRiO/Student Support Services; Will Johnson, of NorthWestern Energy and former student-athlete; Sue Monahan, chair of the MSU sociology department; Bob Oakberg, civil engineering professor and NCAA faculty representative; Godfrey Saunders, principal of Bozeman High School; Vince Smith, economics and ag/economics professor and chairman of the MSU Athletics Committee; Tom Stump, director of MSU auxiliary services; and Peter Fields, MSU athletic director.

Ex-officio members of the committee include Allen Yarnell, vice president of student affairs; Leslie Taylor, MSU counsel; and Cathy Conover, director of MSU’s office of communications and public affairs.

– Associated Press

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