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Athletes balancing sports, succeeding in classroom

Published May 9th, 2013

According to UWRF campus data reports, there are 386 student-athletes at UW-River Falls, all of whom must balance both sports and studies.

Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) President A.J. Sutter is one such student who must balance his academic schedule along with his athletic one.

“I’m a much better student because I’m an athlete because our athletic department holds us to a super high standard,” Sutter said. “I have to meet GPA requirements and study hour requirements just to be able to compete. If I don’t perform well in the classroom, I don’t get to compete in the sport that I love.”

Sutter falls right into line with other Div. III athletes who have success in the classroom, in addition to being in a college sport. A study done by the NCAA in 2011 showed that student-athletes graduate at a rate of 66 percent. According to the study, non-student-athletes graduate at a 63 percent rate.

The study also showed that women student-athletes graduate at a 75 percent rate, compared to non-student-athletes who graduate at a 67 percent rate. Male student-athletes graduate at a 60 percent rate, while non-student-athlete men graduate at a 59 percent rate.
According to UWRF campus data reports, the graduation rate for all students at the University is 51 percent.

At UWRF, and all Div. III schools, athletes must maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) to be able to compete in a varsity sport.

Sutter is currently a member of the men’s cross country team, but is not a member of the men’s track team this semester, something he said has affected his GPA.

“I took a semester off of track and I’m doing significantly worse in all of my classes because of it,” Sutter said. “I have too much free time and I don’t know what to do with it.”
Amanda Rothbauer, a member of both the women’s cross country and track and field team, echoed what Sutter said.

“Practice obviously takes up more time from your day, but it actually helps me manage my time,” Rothbauer said. “Since I don’t have as much free time to do things, I spend the free time I do have doing homework and studying.”

A.J. Hansen, the Student Senate athletic representative for the 2012-13 academic year, said that being involved in at least one sport helps athletes stay organized. He also said that being on a team contributes to athletes having a higher GPA.

“Being on a team, you help each other out,” Hansen said.

The study also showed data on the Academic Success Rates (ASR) of athletes. The ASR indicates the success rate when including students who transfer off of a Div. III campus who competed in a sport during their time at the Div. III school.

“I know a couple swimmers and hockey players who have transferred to the [University of Minnesota] or UW-Madison because they are getting their pre-med or pre-engineering degrees,” Sutter said.

The overall ASR for student-athletes is 89 percent. It is 85 percent for men, and 95 percent for women.

In addition to higher success rates, being in a sport also helps get students more involved on campus, said Sutter.

“I wouldn’t care as much about what goes on around campus,” Sutter said about getting involved if he was not in a sport. “I put myself out there in others things to help make [UWRF] a great place for everyone.”

The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), in which UWRF competes, names schools to its All-Academic team each year.

According to the WIAC website, “The academic honor is presented to those institutions in which the grade point average for its student-athletes is equal to, or greater than, the grade point average of the overall student body.”

UWRF has made the All-Academic team every year since the 2001-02 academic year.

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