HIBBING - Hibbing Community College announced Wednesday it has suspended its football program indefinitely because of the poor academic performance of its players.
The school will use the $50,000 to $60,000 it has spent annually on football to increase diversity programs on campus.
According to school statistics, the grade point average for the 285 football players who have been on Hibbing's teams from 2000-01 to 2005-06 is 1.81. A minimum of 2.0 is needed to be eligible for sports.
Provost Kenneth Simberg said classroom performance of the football team "is significantly below that of other sports." The baseball team had the next lowest team GPA over that time, with 2.53.
Meanwhile, 90 percent of all football players have needed to take "developmental" or remedial courses. And to stay eligible for sports, players must earn 12 credits a semester - on average, football players earned half that.
As a result, less than two of every five football players came back for a second year.
Joseph Sertich, president of the Northeast Higher Education District - five community colleges including Hibbing - said Hibbing has been bringing in struggling students who may excel in football but mostly fail in school.
Three-fourths of Hibbing's players came from outside Minnesota from 2000 through 2006, according to figures from the college. This season's roster had 60 players from out of state and only three Minnesotans.
Sertich said colleges must do more to ensure students they recruit are more than just football players.
Rainy River Community College in International Falls faced a similar fate as recently as last month. But, Sertich said, the community, the school and the head coach there declared support for football and a willingness to do work to ensure football players were also students.
Meanwhile, at Vermilion Community College in Ely, a strong student life program and community and faculty support have helped the football team to a 2.4 average GPA, Sertich said.
That hasn't happened at Hibbing.
"The only thing you can really do is get the right coach who understands it's about more than Saturday afternoons," Sertich said. "Or you turn off the switch."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.