The Bobcat fifth year plan


The past year or so I have noticed a new theme emerging from recruit prospects as they talk about their recruitment by the Montana State athletic programs, and that being – the fifth of education. I decided to look into exactly what this “fifth year program” was. After talking with a few folks at MSU, I think the term “fifth year” is a not quite correct it could be looked on as an extra year of education after an athlete has used up his eligibility.

One thing you will notice, if you are as kooky about recruiting as I am, is how often MSU’s major sports seem to be recruiting against the service academies and higher end academic schools like the Ivy League. As I have mentioned before, back in mid 2000 when MSU was struggling with the new APR standards, the athletic department instituted new guide lines that affected the type of athletes the programs could recruit. It was an effort to insure that any athlete that enrolled in MSU would graduate. One of the big changes to transfer student (JC and/or drop downs) was that the coaches needed to be able to prove that those students, with the credits that they have earned else where, could get a degree from MSU with in their remaining eligibility. This of course limited some of the athletes that the MSU coaches could go after and shifted the focus to high school recruits. Along with the shift to high school based recruiting you are also seeing a shift the better and high character students, thus you find the prospects the MSU coaches want are also the prospects the Service Academies and the Ivy League type schools also need to recruit.

What the fifth year does is that it gives the MSU athletes every opportunity to finish out their degree. How it works is basically simple. After an athlete has completed his eligibility and is still short of the credits to finish out their degree, they can be provided with additional academic scholarship money that will allow them to finish up. I believe the student athlete needs be in good academic standing to qualify. I also believe that some of the students taking advantage of this program also work as interns in the athletic department.

The coaches are actively selling the fifth year program to prospects, and with the type of athlete and parents they are now recruiting it can be a very important factor in their decision. It also evens the playing field a little bit. The other thing it does of course is really helps our APR which makes the administration happy also.

Now the one thing that was stressed to me by more than one person I talked to was that the fifth year was available – if it was needed. It was stressed that the idea was not to stretch out a student athlete’s college career but to make sure they graduate. With the students they are now recruiting, plus possible redshirt years and summer school a lot if not most can graduate by the time their eligibility is exhausted. With the summer program alone if a student wished they could gain a whole year of schooling. In both basketball programs I know that it is required that athletes take some classes the second session of the summer. Prime example of this is senior to be Brandon Johnson of the basketball program who completed his degree this summer and will be doing graduate work this next season.

Like I said at the beginning of this post “the fifth year program” is a little bit of a misnomer it can as it can be used in a variety of ways. James Hennessey, who blew out his knee last year and had to retire, is using the program to finish up this year. I believe a handful of football player are/have used the program to finish up their degree similarly. There have also been a few players who have chosen not to return for their senior years who have also gotten some help to finish up their degree.

Over all it is a great program instituted by Fields that insures that MSU student athletes who attend MSU have every opportunity to get their degrees.


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