On Sunday, Oct. 1, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an investigative report on the ACT scores of University of Minnesota athletes in comparison to other schools in the Big Ten conference. The article reported two findings, both reflecting poorly on the Twin Cities institution.
One, the University of Minnesota "provides athletic scholarships to more students with very low college entrance test scores than most schools in the Big Ten." Two, the university "has admitted more scholarship athletes who scored 17 or below on the national ACT exam" than any of seven other Big Ten schools that responded to requests for information.
How did the University of Wisconsin-Madison end up looking in the report?
The UW fared well compared to the other responding Big Ten schools. For instance, 14% of UW scholarship football athletes from 2001 through 2005 scored a 17 or lower on the ACT. This is about three points better than Indiana and Iowa, about four better than Ohio State, and a whopping 20 points better than Minnesota.
The article sampled ACT scores for scholarship athletes in seven major sports: football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's hockey, wrestling and baseball (Wisconsin has no baseball team). In that group at Wisconsin, 10% scored a 17 or lower on the ACTs, compared to 12% at Iowa, 14% at Illinois and 23% at Minnesota. More details about these figures, including the raw numbers of scholarship athletes and students scoring below 17 and 15 on the standardized test is available here.
"Test scores are test scores," says Vince Sweeney, the UW's senior associate athletic director for external relations. "By that I mean they are one indicator of academic profiles of incoming student athletes. There are a variety of other measures going to incoming student athletes, and in our case, the scoring on the ACT was favorable. I think you take that with a grain of salt."
The Star Tribune report also includes a listing of the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate for Big Ten schools, based on NCAA figures that were released on Wednesday, Sept. 27. The UW ranked eighth out of the 11 schools in that list, with a 62% graduation rate compared to a 91% rate at Northwestern (the highest) and 44% at Minnesota (lowest). The UW figures for both men's and women's sports are available here [PDF], and includes the graduation rates for many more programs, including track, golf, soccer, tennis and swimming, among others.
The schools that responded to the requests from the Star Tribune were Minnesota, Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Declining to respond were Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan. The reason for Wisconsin's response was simple. "We have a pretty comprehensive open records law in the State of Wisconsin, and we respond accordingly," says Sweeney. "The information that the reporter asked for is deemed to be public record and we provided the information."