GW answers athletic concerns

Some universities nationwide are giving student athletes illegal considerations that allow them to keep up academically.

Athletes are made out to be superstars, said GW freshman Danielle Moskalenkel, a member of the GW crew team. I mean, we get to register early, and sports are such a big thing on campus. Athletes’ names are in the paper all the time, and, obviously, recognition comes with being a college athlete. It’s always been like that, and it always will be like that.

The student-athlete relationship took a turn for the worse last March when an investigation began into the University of Minnesota athletic department about several members of its basketball team receiving illegal academic assistance, according to a Sports Illustrated report. The department expected tutors to write entire papers for players falling behind in their classes, and one secretary claimed to have written more than 500 papers for basketball players, according to Sports Illustrated.

The incident is still being investigated.

A similar case occurred at the University of Tennessee, where the perennially ranked Volunteers almost lost their national football championship because a player received academic aid strictly prohibited by both NCAA and university policy, according to Sports Illustrated.

With these cases in mind, a group of four-dozen college professors and university officials attended a Corruption in College Sports: The Way Out conference at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 21. Designed to examine the rigors of maintaining a code of academic integrity while sustaining competitive teams, the conference ended with several proposals left on the table, according to an Oct. 23 article in The Washington Post.

Suggestions from the committee include stricter standardized test standards, a removal of academic counseling from athletic departments, the replacement of faculty representatives for athletics with appropriate academic officials and the public release of grades, test scores and other academic information of student-athletes, according to the Washington Post.

GW Athletic Director Jack Kvancz said the Athletic Department reviewed the conference proposals and points to graduation statistics as evidence that GW does not share the problems of other universities.

Yeah, I read that stuff, Kvancz said. There’s a problem when we begin to set certain bars for kids – if you don’t have these scores you can’t go here, and so on. What really matters are graduation rates. If a student-athlete graduates from college, did the kid and the university do its job? You better believe they did.

GW graduates 97 percent of its student athletes, a number that puts the University in the top tier of Division I schools, Kvancz said.

The athletic department graduates a higher percentage of students than the rest of the University, Kvancz said. In my book, that says a lot.

Denise Wernle, a Thurston Hall community facilitator, was a tutor in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletes at the University of Illinois. She said rumors of special treatment for athletes rings true at the University of Illinois.

I tutored mostly male athletes – football and basketball players – in subjects like pre-algebra – stuff you should know going into college, she said. I couldn’t believe some of the things they didn’t know how to do. It was a joke. It’s a shame that some of these athletes will graduate with a degree they didn’t deserve, Wernle said.

While GW does admit players with below-average academic records, Kvancz said the recruitment policy allows for a more diverse student body.

Most schools attempt to diversify their student population, and a diversified school system does not always allow for the best students to be admitted, he said. Here at GW I would say we have about half-a-dozen risk kids, student-athletes whom we have to carefully monitor.

GW does not follow the practices of other athletic departments in major divisions, Kvancz said. The University has not received an NCAA rules violation in the six years since Kvancz has assumed his current position.

We make it clear to our tutors that all completed work is to be done solely by the student-athlete, Kvancz said. Any non-compliance would result in the termination of that tutor’s position and penalties for the student.

Despite attempts at reform, many collegiate athletic programs like the one at the University of Minnesota will be tarnished for not living up to NCAA regulations.

A one time occurrence – OK, it could happen, Kvancz said. But something like that must have been going on for a long time, and there’s no excuse for that.

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