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The Daily Tar Heel

Fewer athlete exceptions let in at UNC

Number admitted to UNC almost cut in half since 2006

Correction (October 5, 12:50 a.m.): Due to a source error, a previous version of this article misstated the average high school GPA and SAT scores of incoming football players during the 2008-09 school year. The The numbers were 2.9 and 999, respectively. The article has been changed to reflect the correction. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

The University is making fewer exceptions for student athletes whose high school academic records don’t meet minimum admission requirements.

UNC and the NCAA mandate minimum admission standards athletes must meet. Coaches can ask for exceptions, but admissions director Stephen Farmer says that happens about half as often now as 10 years ago.

“The number is very small — mainly, I think, because the athletics department understands the expectations of the faculty committee and is reluctant to present candidates who don’t have a good chance of meeting those expectations,” Farmer said.

This year’s freshman class includes 14 athletes who were granted admission under the exception process. About 30 were being granted a decade ago, he said.

Most “committee cases” — those that come before faculty seeking an exception — are football players.

“It’s fair to say over 10 years’ time that the football team has probably brought the most committee cases,” he said, in part because of how large the team is.

News of a tutor giving football players unethical help has prompted questions from trustees and faculty about whether academics are being stressed enough.

Administrators have defended head coach Butch Davis’ priorities. Chancellor Holden Thorp has cited a 47 point rise in SAT scores among football players since Davis arrived as one example. The decrease in exceptions confirm he and other coaches are recruiting academically stronger students.

Freshmen football players during the 2008-09 school year — the most recent year for which there are data — posted an average 2.9 high school GPA and combined math and reading SAT score of 999. The overall UNC freshmen class that year had a 1301 SAT score. UNC doesn’t release an average GPA for all incoming freshmen, but 79 percent were in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

“Many student athletes would have been admitted without their special talent and many are admitted because of their special talent,” Farmer said. “We’re looking for people who contribute to the University and incoming class in different ways.”

Athletic director Dick Baddour told trustees last month that coaches are aware of the requirements when recruiting players and are looking for students who are a good fit both athletically and academically.

When a recruit doesn’t meet admission standards, the coach must go before faculty. The faculty group is a subcommittee of the Faculty Advisory Committee, which regularly gives input on admissions.

Anyone who isn’t in the top half of their high school class or has an SAT score below 900 automatically is considered by the committee.

Students who haven’t met minimum high school course requirements are also reviewed. UNC’s minimums haven’t changed in at least the last six years since Farmer’s been admissions director, he said.

The coach can explain why the student hasn’t met the minimum criteria and as well as any extenuating circumstances. The committee then makes a recommendation on whether to grant the exception.

Admissions doesn’t track how many exception cases are rejected and denied, Farmer said.

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