North Texas Daily

Academic checks keep student-athletes accountable

Academic checks keep student-athletes accountable

Academic checks keep student-athletes accountable
October 08
11:29 2013

John Lugo / Staff Writer

Student-athletes at UNT are made aware they are exactly that – students first, athletes second.

The Division of Athletics is currently going through its first round of academic checks for each of the athletes to make sure they are doing well in their classes and not jeopardizing their opportunity to play on their respective teams.

Twice a semester, the athletics academic advisors will send automated emails to professors teaching student-athletes with questions to answer out regarding the status of the student in his or her class, which is allowed because of a waiver the student signed. A third check will occur depending on the student.

“Some professors will actually give feedback asking if the student can come by our office, and some students regularly visit their professors to figure out what’s going on,” said Cinnamon Sheffield, associate athletic director for student services. “Those checks are really important for us as we continue their academic support.”

For the most part, student-athletes know to keep their grades up so they can continue playing, and last year showed how seriously academics are seen by athletics. In the 2012-2013 academic year, the athletes averaged a 3.0 GPA, the highest in the program’s history.

“I don’t think we have a perfect way of doing [checks], but when we do both I think generally we get very good information,” assistant athletic director of student services David Bekker said. “It’s so helpful because it gets immediate information on how the students are doing.”

If a student-athlete is close to being put on suspension, the coaches will speak to the individual to see what can be done, remind them of what they have to lose and issue any punishment to the player so they know to improve before they get a university-mandated punishment.

“Advisors are the communication, coaches are the punishment.” Bekker said.

However, Sheffield notes that if a student is receiving additional tutoring or designated as “at risk,” it’s not a stigma on the student. It means the department will seek further help to make sure the student gets the proper attention.

“The term ‘at risk’ can come across as negative, but it’s just those students that we need to monitor heavily, the 2.5 under and all of the rookies,” Sheffield said. “It’s usually not a lot of surprises – usually just increasing tutoring or have them meet with their professors [helps].”

Student-athletes see tutoring as a great way to stay ahead, teaching them to prioritize.

“It’s really helpful, because in addition to the actual tutors you have to actually go there and do your homework instead of being lazy,” freshman soccer forward Rachel Holden said. “It has helped me with getting stuff done early.”

As with Holden, the results for the whole team show how much academics are emphasized and how the team knows school comes first. The average GPA of the soccer team is 3.2.

“That’s their first priority, to get their degree,” head coach John Hedlund said. “We monitor everything. Grades are extremely important and it’s really important they get their degree in four years.”

All head coaches make an effort to stay up-to-date with their players.

“I don’t know any coach who’s not involved. Our coaches cannot afford to not be involved with academics,” Sheffield said. “If their team doesn’t do well academically, they lose a kid here and lose a kid there and they don’t have a team.”

Graphic by Aidan Barrett / Senior Staff Photographer

Feature graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor 

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