A welcome spot of good news arrived Tuesday when the University of Washington’s football team set a national record for success — outside Husky Stadium.
The Huskies’ new four-year Academic Progress Rate score — which assesses classroom success by scholarship athletes — beat the other 129 top-level college football teams and hit a historic mark in doing so.
The score, 999 of a possible 1,000 points for athletes remaining enrolled and eligible, tops what any bowl-level football team has ever achieved on this metric, created in 2003. It is a crowning achievement for the legacy of departed coach Chris Petersen. His “built for life” ethos resulted in strong academic marks for athletes throughout his career. NCAA databases show that the academic scores for Petersen’s teams at UW, and at Boise State University before that, exceeded the national average for big-time football teams every year.
New football coach Jimmy Lake and athletic director Jen Cohen should perpetuate this tradition, which requires considerable infrastructure and effort.
The UW’s work to support student athletes’ education dates back long before Petersen came to town. The school was the first in the nation to appoint an academic adviser for athletes in 1970. . Today, 17 UW staffers work with athletes in every sport, providing classroom and career-development assistance to prepare them for post-college life. Petersen, however, deserves praise for taking his players’ scholarly pursuits onto his shoulders, and his staff’s, since he was hired in 2013. He even shifted responsibility for classroom attendance checks to the football coaches, where it remains.
“The consistent message is your football coach cares about whether or not you’re in class, not just what happened on Saturday,” said Kim Durand, UW’s senior associate athletic director for student development. “Coach Pete brought that with him. It’s not a typical system.”
The extraordinary success shown by the record-setting APR score proves that system works and ought to continue. Lake has rightly opted to start his tenure as the head Husky by leaving Petersen’s system unchanged. The record just announced gives 999 very good reasons every college athletics program in America should strive to emulate it to win on the field and off.