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Athlete graduation rates tops in Big 12

Jan. 31, 2001

Academic services provide assistance

By REESE MILLER

Reporter

Baylor's student athletes were recently recognized as the best in the Big 12 Conference academically. Academics are important to the university, but grades are also important to the administrators in the athletic department.

'Coaches really are concerned about student athlete's academic performance as well as their athletic performance,' said David Goodfellow, the assistant strength coach at the Ferrell Special Events Center.

Baylor's student athletes are not normally noticed for their academic excellence as much as they are noticed for their talents on the playing fields.

The student athletes put in long hours practicing and honing their skills for their particular sports. After practice, they go home and continue to work and practice at perfecting another task, academic excellence.

'A great deal of society today, thinks that the scholarship athletes are seen as athlete students, not student athletes, which is a major misconception,' Goodfellow said.

Even though all of the athletic teams at Baylor did not win a championship this season, they did win a major conference award. Baylor was ranked first in the Big 12 Conference academically with 71 student athletes graduating in 1999-2000.

In Neil Morris Hall the athletes get coaching when it comes to their schoolwork in the form of tutoring. According to the study hall supervisor, Bart Byrd, Baylor is the only school in the Big 12 that has one-on-one tutoring available for its student athletes.

This fall, 491 tutor requests were made and filled by only 71 tutors. These 71 tutors held more than 2,500 tutoring sessions during this time.

'Baylor does many unique things to help their student athletes,' Byrd said. 'One of the things that we do here at Baylor that no one else in the Big 12 does, is we go to the bookstore and buy the books for our scholarship athletes. All the athlete has to do is come to the Academic Development Services Center and we have their books sacked and ready for the athlete to pick up.'

Another service that the Academic Development Service provides for the coaches as well as the student athlete is study hall monitoring. Study hall hours are given to athletes depending on academic performance in the past and the difficulty that they may face in a given subject. Student athletes are required to fulfill the number of hours that their coach gives them or face punishment that is decided by the coach.

Byrd is a busy man. On top of matching tutor strengths with athlete hardships, he helps monitor each athlete's eligibility, and works with the needs of the tutor as well as the student athlete. To be an athletes' tutor, a person is required to have had the class before, and having had the same professor is another plus. Also, the tutor must be willing to spend a semester working with the athlete, because the tutoring assignment is a semester-long commitment.

Byrd said 'helping the athletes be their best in the classroom it is a multi-phased task.'

'The first thing I do is encourage the student and build them up because they may be struggling on the field, so I feel that it is part of my job to build them up,' Byrd said.

'They definitely have their hands full,' assistant men's basketball Coach Brian O'Neill said when asked about what it takes for the student athletes to excel even when they are on the road. 'We do have a lot of time on the road and they are constantly playing catch-up during the season. In order for them to excel, they must be organized and stay on task.'

Some of the members of Academic Development Services also travel with the teams.

Byrd said 'this serves two purposes. First of all, we want to get to know the athletes and to know why they are there. Also we get to understand what it is that the student athlete goes through during an away game trip. The second reason is to learn what other schools in the Big 12 are doing.'

O'Neill gives a great deal of the credit for Baylor's academic success to what he calls the support staff. This includes Byrd, academic advisor James Jarmon and Don Riley, who is the head of the Academic Development Services.

O'Neill says that this excellence is because of a lot of effort.

'We have to constantly monitor the athletes' class attendance. [men's head basketball] Coach Bliss preaches academics at the end of every practice as well,' O'Neill said. 'We do, however, have to give credit to the student athletes, because we may put them in a position to excel, but they have to do the work.'

GRADUATION from page 4