The University of Montana Athletic department came out on top where it really counts, in the classroom, with 72 Academic All-Big Sky Conference selections in the spring semester.

Associate Athletic Director Jean Gee was bursting with pride on Friday when she spoke of the academic accomplishments of her student athletes.

"To have that many achieve that level of success, it just really made my day," Gee said. "Montana had the highest number within the conference of the spring all-conference academic awards. Montana topped the list at 72, followed closely by Weber State at 71. The thing that I love about the Academic All-Big Sky is that it really epitomizes the student athlete."

Gee details the qualifications for the Big Sky honor.

"For a student athlete to qualify, they have to have participated in at least half of the competitions within that sport," she said. "Plus, they had to have at least a 3.2 GPA. The spring sports include men's and women's track and field, men's and women's tennis, golf and softball."

Gee outlined the challenges student athletes face to keep their scholarships and ensure their continued participation in their sport.

"With student athletes their added requirements to meet NCAA academic eligibility rules are very stringent," she said. "And, when it comes to travel, with golf, that can't get competitions on the weekends when the courses are so busy, so their matches are on Monday and Tuesday, when there are many things they're missing in the classroom. Then softball, with so many games on the road allowed by NCAA rule, they're traveling all the time. I've traveled with softball extensively and the amount of time they study on the road is pretty impressive."

Gee said the number one designation in the Big Sky by the spring sports coaches won't be forgotten anytime soon.

"Our coaches, obviously are super competitive, and so I'me sure these spring head coaches will be poking at our fall head coaches," she added.

Hear that, Bob Stitt and Travis DeCuire? Consider the academic gauntlet thrown.

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