EUGENE, Ore. - For student athletes, athletic success often overshadows academic achievements and active involvement in the community, especially among high profile athletes at the University of Oregon.
“The message behind jokes about athletes might be funny,” said Ben DeJarnette, member of the UO track and field team, “but it’s not just misleading, it is especially inaccurate.”
In the last decade, nine out of 10 student athletes who graduated from the UO left with a degree.
The NCAA recently released the academic progress rate of student athletes, measuring how they perform real time in the classroom.
The university shows a departmental rate of 96.9 percent, including five teams with perfect scores and a women’s golf team that achieved a perfect score in seven consecutive years.
Some athletes go beyond the goal of maintaining a good GPA and achieve great academic respect.
“Being a student athlete can be a burden, but it can especially be an opportunity to shine in the classroom,” said DeJarnette, recipient of the Honors College Research Award and multiple scholarships through the School of Journalism and Communication.
The fact that only a handful of student athletes participate in the Honors College reflects the challenge of coordinating academics and athletics in a limited 24-hour window.
“My coach always says there are three things to college life: athletics, academics and social life. As a student athlete, you only have time for two,” said Rabea Stueckemann, another Honors College student and member of the Duck tennis team.
Student athletes face skepticism from multiple sides.
Not only does the press tend to highlight the mistakes of an individual athlete, but athletes are also perceived to get special treatment, whether it is free gear or academic support.
The $20 million John E. Jaqua Academic Center for student athletes has especially fueled the debate.
“The Jaqua is the Taj Mahal of academic services,” said its executive director, Steve Stolp. The cost-benefit discussion of this highly expensive and innovative academic support system continues.
“People often only see the benefits and the glamour of athletic success, but they disregard the hard work, the early workouts and the late homework that come with it,” said Stueckemann.
Academic excellence is a priority for the athletic department of the university.
“We absolutely want to win championships, but we have found the right formula to also excel in the classroom,” said Rob Mullens, director of intercollegiate athletics. “We graduate student athletes with meaningful degrees, high GPAs and prepare them for life.”
Story from the University of Oregon Sports Media Workshop