Until this week, University of Montana's over 300  student athletes were on their own in finding a time and place to study between practices, travel and other athletic activities. 

Surprisingly, the student athletes have been able to keep their collective GPA above 3,0, despite the lack of study facilities. That all changed a little over a year ago, when UM officials broke ground on a new $2.5 million athletics academic center, which was completed just this month.

Located directly in front of the Adams Center, the center is designed to give student athletes a place to study, and to gather near where they practice and play.

UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam told a group of media representatives on Friday that the center will be open and monitored approximately 70 hours a week.

"It's a place for group study and three individual breakout rooms," Haslam said. "One of our three academic advisers will be stationed here, and she can do tutoring, as well. We have about 5,000 square feet that cost about $2.5 million, all privately funded."

Haslam said the response from student athletes has been enthusiastic.

"They all said wow, this is great, considering what we had in the past. The old facility was about the size of a small conference room located next to the football locker room, it smelled bad and there was no privacy to study," he said. "I compared it to putting a bathroom right in the middle of your kitchen, they just don't match. It wasn't conducive to learning or teaching."

Haslam emphasized the extra academic requirements placed upon student athletes.

"They're much greater than the regular student population," Haslam continued. "They've got to stay on pace to graduate, they can't change their major after the first year according to NCAA regulations.They have to take a full course load and there's no taking a semester off. I feel like it's our moral obligation that when we bring them here, to do everything we can to help them graduate."

The idea, Haslam emphasized is academic excellence, as well as excellence on the field or the court.