An outside review of Northern Arizona University’s Department of Athletics found “real strengths” in the program, including impressive achievements by student-athletes in the classroom and in community service.

The reviewers also cited strong management of the budget and the absence of fiscal deficits at the end of budget years.

The review and accompanying report was commissioned by NAU President John Haeger after discussions by the Arizona Board of Regents concerning the need for a program review of the three state universities’ athletics programs. It was completed by Mellenbrook Policy Advisors of Maryland.

The report also was complimentary of NAU’s performance on the field. “While NAU teams have not won at the rate that some supporters would like in football and basketball (the ‘Montana’ standard that we heard so much about), the Lumberjack athletics program has been, overall, very competitive in the Big Sky Conference and the Western Athletic Conference in most sports,” it says.

The report also makes 22 recommendations for strengthening the department and its contributions to the NAU mission. The recommendations include increasing fundraising opportunities in the Flagstaff and Phoenix areas and boosting communication and marketing efforts to the campus, boosters, alumni and potential fans in Phoenix.

“The consultants did a great job in identifying the strengths of the department, including the wonderful job our student-athletes and coaches have done,” said Jim Fallis, NAU athletics director. “They have identified the next steps in what we need to do in terms of more broadly marketing and letting people know just how well we do what it is we do. It is exciting to move in that direction and developing that strategic part of our program.”

NAU athletics recently recorded its highest cumulative grade point average since 1997, recording a 3.16 GPA among its more than 300 student-athletes at the completion of the fall semester.

“Intercollegiate athletics historically have been an important component to the residential university experience, and it’s no different at Northern Arizona University,” Haeger said. “What is different here is the academic success and dedication to community that our student-athletes demonstrate.”

To read the full report or executive summary, click here.