Recruits still need talent in classroom

Josh Dean

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Increases in ULM’s enrollment mirrored a recent uptick in verbal commitments to the Warhawks football program, but the coaches showed a desire to be given more ‘latitude’ when it came to admissions standards..

Currently ULM’s standards are above the minimum set by the NCAA, which has raised questions over whether or not that affects ULM’s ability to recruit.

ULM was initially an open admittance school that accepted all of those who applied. That changed with the passing of a state law in 2011 that required all universities to be selective in their admissions processes.

This meant that students who fell below the required minimum would not be allowed to attend.

“What we wanted with selective admission is having more prepared, better prepared students more likely to matriculate all the way through”, said Brett Bennett, faculty athletic representative.

An exception does exist for those with a special talent under the ‘“talent exemption” policy of the school.

This includes those in athletics as well as band, dance and corral. The exemption, in accordance with the school’s motto of “seeking the truth,” also allows the school to depart from traditional admissions standards for diversity. This could relate to national origin, race, gender, and other qualifications.

As of now only eight percent of students are allowed admittance under the talent exemption policy.

Athletes that are recruited by coaches but fall below ULM’s academic guidelines must first file an exemption, and go through the NCAA clearinghouse before they can be accepted into the Warhawk community.

When first put in place, the policy was chaotic and disorganized, according to Bennett.

“We went through a time where that eight percent was being used but there was no organized way that the individuals would be admitted,” Bennett said.

Bennett, senior associate athletics director Kevin Price and director of compliance Meghan Mazza set new rules in place in February that sought to sort out the confusion.

To do this, the procedure aspect was separated from the admissions process that meant that coaches would be responsible for managing risks on their own teams.

Although talk has come up recently of lowering standards or creating a little more leeway for coaches, the talent exemption policy has been used sparingly since it was first put in place in 2011.

Approximately 64 people have been admitted through the policy since its inception, which is one of the lowest numbers in the state.

President Nick Bruno is appreciative of this statisic and believes it has benefited ULM as an academic institution.

“It has given ULM the opportunity to increase its retention, graduation rates, to attract well qualified students, and to live up to that covenant I have with the students,” Bruno said

Bruno set the current standards using data collected over a five-year period. Athletic director Brian Wickstrom feels the standards are where they need to be.

“This is the seventh school I’ve been at and each has had different admit by exception policies or standards. I think our policy is sufficient for the coaches and recruits or athletes to be able to win,” Wickstrom said.

Despite the current difference in academic requirements between ULM and the NCAA, that difference is lessening.

“The NCAA minimum requirements are going up for the fall of 2016, and it’ll be even more narrow going into next fall,” Wickstrom said.