“It”s not that hard.”
That”s what Jeremy Schneider, a junior on the men”s track team, said about balancing his academics and athletics as a student athlete at Michigan.
Schneider, one of the University”s top middle distance runners, spends between 12 and 25 hours a week training and competing time comparable to that of a part-time job. But this computer engineering major still manages to maintain a 3.69 grade point average despite his athletic time commitment.
The responsibilities Schneider and other student athletes have at Michigan to both their academics and their respective sports are aided and somewhat compensated for through certain perks and assistance. It is no secret that the most talented athletes may receive scholarship money and training clothes, sunglasses, backpacks and multiple pairs of shoes for their athletic abilities.
In addition to its assistance in athletics, Michigan also provides its student athletes with a controlled study table four nights a week for two hours each night, equipped with free tutors in all subjects and a computer lab.
With all of their academic assistance, Michigan”s athletes are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA to be eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics. This is the same GPA an ordinary student at Michigan must maintain to remain a student at the University.
While the National Collegiate Athletic Association endorses Michigan”s 2.0 standard for it”s athletes, the Big Ten has standards substantially lower than Michigan”s for all athletes in the conference.
According to Big Ten Rule 220.127.116.11 under the Rules of Eligibility, conference athletes must present a 1.65 GPA during their freshman year, a 1.80 for their second year, 1.90 for the third year, and a 2.00 for their fourth and fifth years.
The theory that Michigan prides itself on its academics, and therefore holds its academic standard above the rest of the conference, occasionally creates problems within the system. The gray area between the Big Ten”s academic standards and Michigan”s academic standards is problematic in determining an athlete”s eligibility who may have a GPA that suffices the Big Ten but not Michigan.
WHAT TO DO?
That”s where the Academic Performance Committee comes into play. Established by the University to oversee any student who dips below Michigan”s 2.0 GPA standard, the Committee is made up of faculty members of the University. In October 1977, the Committee enlarged its authority in determining the eligibility of student athletes.
Student athletes who fall in the gray area of academic standing may appeal to the Committee to regain their eligibility. Upon hearing an athlete”s explanation, the Committee may:
ndeclare the student ineligible
ndeclare the student eligible, but direct the coach not to permit the student to compete and/or practice for a specified period
nwaive the Michigan rule and declare the student eligible with or without conditions involving grade point improvement, counseling and reporting
Bonnie Metzger, chairwoman of the Committee, said the Committee can make suggestions about time management, help in relationships to some particular learning problem, or even mandate that a coach reduce his or her athlete”s practice time.
“We really are there as faculty members to advise the athletic department and the academic department, and to provide faculty advice,” Metzger said.
A POPULAR TOOL…
For all of the sports competing during the winter semester of 2001, more than nine student athletes appealed to the Committee at the beginning of the semester, including three athletes from the men”s track team, four from the men”s basketball team and two from wrestling. All of the student athletes were determined eligible to compete, according to the coaches of their respective sports.
Unconfirmed reports state that members of the men”s swimming team also utilized the Committee for this semester. Men”s swimming coach Jon Urbanchek was unavailable for comment.
Does this indicate that all student athletes who appeal will be determined eligible?
… OR A SCAPEGOAT?
According to Associate Director of Athletics Warde Manuel, not every student athlete who utilizes the Committee will regain eligibility.
“It”s not always a foregone conclusion if that is the case, there wouldn”t be a need for that board,” Manuel said.
Manuel stressed that the Committee takes each individual case brought to the board into careful consideration.
“Each student athlete brings to bear different circumstances to lend why they are in the situation they are in it is not a cookie cutter type situation,” Manual said.
Baseball coach Geoff Zahn confirmed Manuel”s statement. Throughout his six years at Michigan, Zahn has had two athletes appeal to the Committee. One was turned down, while the other was approved to continue competing.
However, there is not a limit on the amount of times a student athlete can utilize this board. If a student athlete dips into the gray area of academic standing more than once, he or she may appeal to the Committee several times.
“We wouldn”t be happy about it,” Metzger said about student athletes utilizing the board more than once. “We don”t expect to see them back, and in most cases we don”t. But we have had students come multiple times.”
A POPULAR REACTION
Women”s basketball coach Sue Guevera”s opinion of the Committee speaks for the majority of the coaches at Michigan.
“It”s a real tough job, but I think they do what”s best for the students, and I think they do what”s best for the University. I say thank goodness for the Committee.”
As Michigan is traditionally known for its excellence in academics, the Committee may be seen as another asset in academics to student athletes.
According to hockey coach Red Berenson, the Committee is “a way that Michigan has shown that they”re concerned about kids who are on the borderline, and they try to give them some individual attention.”
In a populous school like Michigan, individual attention may be hard to come by, in both academics and athletics. The Committee provides its athletes with that individual attention and helps them get their academics back to par.
Softball coach Carol Hutchins summed up the Committee”s role for the athletes at Michigan.
“They”re here to help, but if you don”t help yourself, they”re not going to let you do the one thing you want to do and that”s play.”