Oct. 25, 2012
Their impact in the competitive arena is no longer being felt, but the scholarship athletes who entered the University of Montana as freshmen in the fall of 2005 are still making the Department of Athletics and the University look good.
The NCAA announced federal graduation rates Thursday for scholarship freshmen who matriculated for the 2005-06 academic year, and those 65 Grizzlies graduated at a glowing 77 percent, the best rate for the department in recent memory.
Federal graduation rates count student-athletes as a success if they graduate from their original school within six years.
"In theory it's a pretty straightforward formula. Recruit the right type of student-athletes, help them achieve both in the classroom and in competition, and applaud when they graduate four or five years later, but we all know it's not that easy," said first-year UM Director of Athletics Kent Haslam.
"This type of graduation rate only happens because of a lot of hard work by our coaches, academic staff and student-athletes. This is fantastic recognition for everyone who plays a role in the process."
Montana matched Montana State for having the best mark in the Big Sky Conference for the league's 2005-06 classes. NCAA Football Championship Subdivision schools had an average graduation rate of 63 percent, and UM's overall campus rate for the 2005-06 class was 47 percent.
Montana's most successful program for that class, both athletically and academically, was football. The Grizzlies won Big Sky Conference regular-season championships in 2005, '06, '07, '08 and '09 and played for the FCS national championship in both 2008 and '09.
Ninety percent of the players in that class graduated from Montana within the required six-year window, the highest rate in the department.
The NCAA on Thursday also announced the larger-snapshot four-class averages, which takes into account the federal graduation rates for scholarship classes from 2002-03 to 2005-06.
Montana's four-class average was 65 percent, the best mark in the Big Sky Conference and 22 points higher than the campus average of 43 percent.
Among Big Sky Conference athletics departments, Montana had the best four-year rate among the league's football programs at 68 percent. The Griz women's track and field program also led the Big Sky at 76 percent.
It was heady news for Haslam, who is in just his second month on the job. "This sets the bar for future classes, and I don't want to apologize for having high expectations of our coaches, our staff and our student-athletes.
"As we move forward we will continue to focus on the department's three pillars of academic success, athletic excellence and community service."
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