Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre was allowed to sign more recruits in February who were deemed academically at-risk by the school than the program signed in recent years.
An at-risk recruit at Colorado is one with a predicted grade point average in CU classes between 2.0 and 2.3, according to Chancellor Phil DiStefano.
Some might see it as a sign the school is lowering its expectations in the classroom for the program in order to boost performance on the field, but DiStefano said that isn't the case. DiStefano said the reason he signed off on a higher number of at-risk recruits was because MacIntyre was simultaneously raising the bar on the opposite end by adding more above-average recruits than the program had recruited in recent classes as well.
"What Mike MacIntyre has done is he has recruited some really top-notch academic players, more so than what we've seen in the past," DiStefano said in an interview earlier this spring. "So when I take a look at the whole roster and he's bringing in student-athletes with predicted grade point averages of 3.0 or above, I'm willing to take a look at more of the at-risk because it's not going to be so much of a strain on the academic services in athletics."
DiStefano added he also was willing to allow the program to sign more at-risk recruits in the 2014 class because several of those recruits who were deemed at-risk through the fall semester of their senior year of high school, were very close to not falling into the at-risk category and still had a semester of high school remaining to improve their profile.
"I would say that a number of them will move out of the at-risk into the no-risk category," DiStefano said.
While CU might deem a recruit at-risk it does not mean the school is lowering its basic entrance requirements to allow that recruit in to school. DiStefano said all at-risk recruits CU offers scholarships to meet the school's basic requirements.
CU fans and some of its previous coaches have long bemoaned the school's entrance requirements preventing the football program from recruiting players who didn't meet certain criteria. At times, recruits CU coaches have been prohibited from pursuing because they wouldn't qualify at CU have ended up on the rosters of conference opponents both in the Big 12 and the Pac-12.
It has been particularly tough for CU to successfully recruit junior college players in the past, but the playing field has been leveled significantly there by new standards put in place for all schools by the NCAA last year that more closely resemble what CU has used.
Faculty athletic representative David Clough sent a letter to DiStefano in August advising him of recommendations made by the Athletics Academic Assessment (AAA) Committee for the maximum number of at-risk recruits the football and men's basketball programs should be allowed to sign in the 2014 class. The committee recommended no more than one for the basketball program and no more than five for the football team.
DiStefano acknowledged the number of at-risk recruits in the football recruiting class was closer to 10 but he and athletic director Rick George were comfortable with it for the reasons already mentioned.
The AAA committee was formed three years ago in response to both the football and men's basketball programs being penalized by the NCAA for failing scores in the Academic Progress Rate system.
The committee uses analytics to review each prospect's academic record and help predict, based on previous performance and the difficulty of their academic track record in high school, how successful they might be at CU. It generates a predicted grade point average for each recruit.
The committee included Clough, a representative from the office of the registrar, another faculty member and representatives of the athletic department's academic support staff.
DiStefano and George recently modified the committee to include a representative from the office of admissions. There is also a representative from the faculty and a member of the academic support staff in the athletic department on the new committee, DiStefano said. Clough now helps DiStefano and George oversee the committee and advise coaches based on the information generated by the committee.
"I think the analytics that committee does is really helpful to know where we are," George said.
The committee also tracks the overall team APR performance using a system created by Clough that numerous other schools have since adopted. The goal in the past has been not to exceed more than 20 at-risk players in the football program at any time with a total of 85 scholarship players allowed on the team at any time. Clough's letter noted 27 at-risk players were expected to be a part of the team last fall.
"I don't know that anyone is uncomfortable with it," George said of using the committee to help in recruiting. "It's a different time. We just had the best GPA of our history in the fall and our football team just had their best semester GPA. So we're doing some great things with our academic support and the quality of people that we have and our APR ratings are excellent right now.
"So it was a different time when it was implemented than where we are today. So where it goes, we'll just see over the next year or so."