University of Colorado response to Buffs football scholarship article


Regarding “Backdoor Buff Bucks” (cover story, Nov. 8), I would like to set the record straight on a few points, some of which may have been miscommunicated to the Weekly by me as CU-Boulder spokesperson.


The Presidential Scholarship II — later renamed the “Athletic Merit UCB Scholarship” in 2009 — did have specific criteria for student-athletes to meet: student-athletes receiving the scholarship were required to be nonresidents, holders of an athletic scholarship and subject to the NCAA-mandated grade point average standards listed by the Weekly on page 13 of its story.

In a point made several times to the Weekly, the Athletic Merit UCB Scholarship was merged seamlessly into CU athletic scholarships — commonly known as “full” or “partial” scholarships. The funds were awarded as part of, not in addition to, allowable NCAA scholarship amounts, and all of it is and has been reported to the NCAA.

Second, a point also made to the Weekly: the Athletic Merit UCB Scholarship was separate in concept, execution and intent from the academic Presidential Scholarship proposed by then-President Brown, it simply had a similar name. The tone of the Weekly’s story suggests that the athletic scholarship was a set aside from the academic scholarship, and that is not accurate.

Third, it seems clear that I did not offer a careful explanation to the Weekly regarding how student-athletes receive the Athletic Merit UCB Scholarship. Here is how it works: the head coach of a team determines whether or not a student-athlete receives an athletic scholarship. The director of athletics eligibility then selects the nonresident student-athletes in good standing who are getting a full or partial scholarship for the Athletic Merit UCB Scholarship, based on having certified their nonresident and enrollment status. The scholarship is then merged into the student-athlete’s full or partial scholarship as one award by our Office of Financial Aid, which works to ensure that a team doesn’t exceed its NCAA scholarship limit or that the student doesn’t receive an award amount that exceeds the allowable individual NCAA scholarship amount.

The awards are not targeted by sport, but in order to reduce administrative burdens, sports that have student-athletes who receive full athletic scholarships are evaluated first. If we are unable to spend all of the allocation on this population, we then start reviewing student-athletes in sports that award partial scholarships. Since the inception of the Athletic Merit UCB Scholarship program, student-athletes from 12 sports have been represented in the distribution of the awards — numbers and percentages vary by year across different sports. Note: the Weekly also reported on page five of the story that the $1 million represents about 25 percent of the athletics department’s total [scholarship] budget. I believe I explained to the Weekly that the figure represents about 25 percent of the scholarship support for football scholarships, not all athletic scholarships.

Any student-athlete who receives (or received) the Athletic Merit UCB scholarship must be eligible by NCAA standards to receive an athletic scholarship.

Students returning from either academic probation or disciplinary suspension by the University, once cleared to return to the team and to the University, would have had their Athletic Merit UCB Scholarship restored as a part of the restoration of their athletic scholarship funding. Again, any combination of athletic aid cannot exceed the NCAA award maximums, and we work to ensure that all student-athletes meet all NCAA standards at all times.

Finally, the suggestion in the Weekly’s piece, both in artwork and in reporting, of an under-the-table financial arrangement for student-athletes is both inaccurate and unproven by the evidence put forth in the story. The University, due to the dictates of the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), is unable to comment on scholarship awards to any specific student-athletes. What I can assure your readers is that the University of Colorado Boulder made a comprehensive set of athletic reforms in the early part of this decade under Chancellor [Phil] DiStefano. Those reforms have continued, and among them are a strict adherence to reporting scholarships to the NCAA and adhering to that body’s rules on distributing them.

—Hilliard is the director of media relations and spokesperson for CU-Boulder.

Editor’s note: The Presidential Scholarship II was, in the words of its creator, former CU President Hank Brown, intended for “exceptional students who made contributions to the university.” CU-Boulder’s own rules say it was intended for those who remain “positively involved” in athletics. It was then renewed for students who had been arrested and charged with crimes like assault.

In addition, despite the fact that CU’s own scholarship rules say that students must be continuously enrolled to continue receiving the scholarship, BW’s report showed at least two instances where this was not the case.

Regardless of how the original award was later splintered to include things like the Presidential Scholarship II, at its inception it was a single program approved by the Board of Regents with the understanding that it would require recipients to “demonstrate adequate progress and commitment to excellence.”

Documents indicate that the scholarship was improperly awarded to some. BW stands by its report.