April 11, 2012

NCAA DIVISION III WEEK PART 2: Academics and Athletics

(PRESQUE ISLE, ME) -- NOTE:  The inaugural NCAA Division III Week is this week (April 9-15).  Each day throughout the week, articles will highlight the impact of Division III athletics and the unique Division III student-athlete experience at UMPI, which offers a highly competitive athletics environment, a commitment to academic excellence and leadership/community service/campus involvement.  Today in Part 2, we look at the impact participating in Division III athletics affects student-athlete academics.

Proud of their focus on academics, folks in Division III have long boasted that athletes at their institutions perform just as well as—if not better than—their fellow students. For the first time, NCAA officials say they now have evidence of that dearly held (but largely unproven) belief.

Recently the association released preliminary results of a two-year pilot program designed to measure the academic success of Division III athletes. The findings, gleaned from information submitted by 115 of the division's 444 member institutions, show that athletes graduate at rates higher than other students: Using the federal graduation rate calculated by the Education Department, 66 percent of Division III athletes finished college within six years of enrolling, compared with 63 percent of the overall student body.

But the NCAA prefers to use its own metric to measure graduation rates. Just as it has done with Divisions I and II, the association has calculated an "academic-success rate" for Division III. This method, unlike the federal one, accounts for students who leave an institution while still in good academic standing.

The NCAA applied this calculation to data from the participating colleges. It found that the academic-success rate was 89 percent for Division III athletes: 85 percent for men and 95 percent for women.

ASR=  Academic Success Rate  (Source:  NCAA)

 

Lesser informed people will talk about how student-athletes get preferential treatment, are allowed to miss multiple classes, and are granted undeserving extensions on homework assignments.  And while stories that originate mostly at the NCAA Division I level do not help to alleviate those beliefs, academics at the Division III level is a completely different story.

At UMPI, student-athletes are proactive with upcoming missed class time due to road trips, letting professors know at the beginning of each semester when they will be gone.  Often, while other students are studying for an exam in their dorm room, Owl student-athletes are combing through text books and study guides while on a bus, returning from a road game sometimes as much as 6-7 hours away.

Given Presque Isle's proximity to other colleges, coaches often have to schedule longer trips during holiday, between semester, and spring breaks. This means the time the general population of students have to unwind from the grind of academia or even work to earn money to remain in college, our student-athletes are sacrificing to represent their sport and university. 

Twenty-one UMPI student-athletes have received some "All-Academic" recognition this year already (baseball and softball recognition will not be announced until after their seasons finish) with at least 2 on every team.  To reach All-Academic standards student-athletes must reach and maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

How do they do it?  Why do they do it?  Here is what some of them had to say:

In what ways does playing intercollegiate athletics help you as you pursue your degree and beyond that, enter the job market?

Brennen Morton (Sr./Chepachet, RI) Men's Basketball:  "Playing intercollegiate sports has helped develop several key character traits that have helped me in the classroom and I believe, will continue to help me upon graduation.  Those characteristics include dedication, teamwork, and above all, self-sacrifice.  Prior to playing basketball I possessed these traits, but playing at the college level has helped these traits grow tremendously and become assets in my academic life."

Kati Christoffel (Jr./Clifton Park, NY) Cross Country & Nordic Skiing:  "Being on the skiing and running teams has helped me forge connections with teammates and people in the community, brought me to unique places in the Northeast, and taught me a lot about interpersonal skills and time management."

Lucas Bartlett (So./Bradley, ME) Soccer & Basketball:  "Playing on an team helps us in that we learn to communicate with others as well as work on our leadership skills. With these experiences we are better prepared to enter the job force when our education is done."

 

What are some of the qualities that you have found essential to finding a balance between academics and athletics?

Taylor Ussery (Jr./La Vern, CA) Soccer & Basketball:  "Athletics actually helps me find my balance. Without sports I would get too wrapped up in academics, be more stressed about them, and likely less social.  Athletics gets me active, gives me my team for support personally and academically, gives you people to socialize with, and an outlet to relieve stress. You have to remember not to put too much emphasis on neither your sport nor academics and it's often your teammates or your coach that can help you do that."

Carly Langley (So./Truro, Nova Scotia) Nordic Skiing & Cross Country:  "In order to balance academics and athletics, I've found that the ability to focus is extremely important.  "D3" athletes generally have great personal skills as well, because they are used to working in a team setting and encouraging fellow athletes."

 

Did you know?

*Division III student-athletes report active academic engagement and participation in academic "extras," such as research with faculty, study-abroad opportunities and capstone/senior thesis projects.

*Division III student-athletes report significantly greater gains in time management when compared with non-athletes.  Male student-athletes also report significantly greater gains in leadership when compared with male non-athletes.

 

Source:  2009-10 CIRP College Senior Survey