Fontbonne University is exceptionally disappointed by the recently published article about the Sprint Football program and misconceptions about our approach toward supporting current and former students. This article excluded the substantive responses provided by Fontbonne to this inquiry. Below we have shared with you our full response to the recent questions regarding Sprint Football.
We have worked diligently to provide additional support to our student athletes to help them achieve academic success. Students learn essential character-building lessons when playing a team sport and we remain committed to our belief that the true value of team sports is much more important than a win/loss record.
During this time of transition and media attention, we appreciate the collective support and heartfelt expressions that have been shared throughout the Fontbonne community.
Fontbonne University is proud of the success of its new Sprint Football program. Fontbonne believes that athletics can enhance a student’s quality of life, while also providing valuable lessons off the field of play. The team is comprised of players who are determined to be their best in both academics and athletics.
First year of Sprint Football 2022-2023
The 2022-2023 team had 44 student-athletes, including 40 first-time freshmen, two juniors, and two transfer students. Off the field, the 2022-2023 team’s retention rate is higher than both the NCAA Division III average for football programs and the Midwest Sprint Football League average, but this cohort of nearly all first-year students weathered some academic challenges. While 27% of the 2022-2023 Sprint Football team did not fail a single course, 73% of the team failed one or more courses. This compelled the athletic department and coaching staff to refine its approach urgently and swiftly.
Second year of Sprint Football 2023-2024
The 2023-2024 team consisted of 57 student-athletes, including 3 juniors, 16 sophomores, and 38 freshmen. Off the field, the 2023-2024 team had a stronger average high school cumulative GPA than the year before – 2.76 compared to 2.72. The retention rate for the 2023-2024 team will be available next fall. On the field, the team improved to a 4-3 record which was one win short of making the conference playoffs.
With the addition of the Sprint Football team and a number of those student-athletes coming from across the state and nation, there has been higher demand for on-campus housing. In Fall 2022, with 181 students in the first-year class, Fontbonne had to be creative to solve temporary capacity challenges. For example, a few rooms that were typically designed for two students were modified and fitted with new furniture to temporarily accommodate three students.
Bathrooms and Showers
While additional arrangements were needed for the student rooms, each of the residence halls was equipped with the appropriate number of bathrooms and showers. For example, St. Joseph’s Hall has six showers on each floor for 41 residents. Carondelet Hall has a single shower for each apartment of four residents. Medaille Hall is mainly comprised of single rooms with private baths and suite-style rooms with a shared bathroom for the two residents.
New Residence Hall in 2023
A new residence hall space was developed on campus and opened in Fall 2023, which provided 47 additional spaces to alleviate the temporary accommodations made the prior year.
The same admissions criteria and process are applied to all students who apply to attend Fontbonne University. Students who apply with at least a 3.0 cumulative high school GPA are admitted outright, barring any concerns with their admission application. Students who apply to Fontbonne with less than a 3.0 cumulative high school GPA must demonstrate college readiness based on an evaluation of their high school performance. If a student’s cumulative high school GPA is less than 2.5, a committee of elected faculty and staff evaluate their college readiness, rigor of coursework, GPA trends, and other factors before rendering a decision. This committee and evaluation structure is a common college admissions practice.
Academic Expectations and Support
During the recruitment and new student orientation processes, students and their families are presented with information highlighting academic expectations and resources that support student success. This is also a point of focus and emphasis in team meetings for athletic programs, including Sprint Football. The Director of Athletics holds “Becoming a Griffin” meetings every semester for new student-athletes. During these meetings, student-athletes meet and hear from the Director of Athletics, the Compliance Officer, academic support representatives from the Kinkel Center, the Athletic Trainer, the Faculty Athletic Representative, and the moderator of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. Discussion topics include academic requirements to play sports, expectations of the student-athlete, and opportunities for campus involvement.
As a small academic community of passionate and hard-working students, Fontbonne University takes a personalized approach to working with all students in one-on-one and small-group environments. Because there are a range of factors that could contribute to student attrition, when concerns are discovered or brought to faculty and staff, Fontbonne acts swiftly and comprehensively to assist students and support their academic success and well-being.
Academic and other Support for Student-Athletes
The athletics department routinely monitors grade reports throughout the school year. This includes early term grade monitoring of 100-level and 200-level courses since they are requirements for first-year students and lead to upper-level courses. If a student-athlete is experiencing personal or academic difficulties, the athletics department initiates individual meetings where tailored measures and plans are designed, communicated, and implemented in collaboration with other departments, staff, and faculty across the university. Many teams, including Sprint Football, conduct weekly study tables throughout the school year, course-level tutoring, and other assistance such as free face-to-face or online tutoring in writing, math, science, and other core subjects through the Kinkel Center.
Additional assistance is provided to student-athletes through their coaches, athletics department staff, and a faculty athletic representative. Peer Academic Coaching is another support system used in concert with other services, resources, and actions provided by administrative staff, faculty, and the athletics department. Peer Academic Coaches are students trained to provide help to other students with organization, time management, and other skills that are essential for college success.
Academic Support for All Students through Refresh Program
All Fontbonne students can improve their grades in select English and Math courses through the Refresh Program. Refresh is a free program, offered in the winter interim, allowing students to build upon any knowledge and skills they learned during the prior semester while also having the opportunity to replace a prior D or F grade or earn a letter grade in a course from which they previously withdrew. Refresh is available to first-year students, and the courses are taught by faculty in a small setting.
99% of full-time undergraduate students receive scholarships and financial aid from Fontbonne University. Another level of support Fontbonne provides to students comes in the form of financial literacy. Starting with prospective student recruitment and continuing into new student orientation, incoming students and families are invited to presentations and individual consultation where the cost of attendance, FAFSA information, options to pay for college, smart borrowing, and budgeting is discussed among other topics. The Director of Student Financial Services also delivers a financial literacy presentation in the Introduction to Collegiate Learning course and Pathway to Achieving Student Success courses, which first-year students are required to take in their initial semester.
At key times during the school year, the Financial Services Office hosts in-person labs for students who are still missing necessary documents for financial aid. This creates an interactive setting where students and Financial Services staff members can discuss the documents and processes students are required to complete to maintain or be considered for additional financial aid. The opportunity to interact with a Financial Services staff member allows students to receive clear instructions, ask questions, complete documents, and minimize and prevent document submission errors.
Fontbonne University provides students with access to a customized portal with GradReady, which presents students with an additional financial literacy resource. The site drives students through modules where they choose their path (paying for college, money management, and real-world finance) and clarifies information and strategies through quizzes and short videos. Students can use GradReady to build a budget, learn the basics of credit, and much more.