Student-athletes lead the way academically at PLNU, according to a 2013-2014 report from the athletic department.
The report showed the GPA of the student body at large was a 3.26, while the approximately 230 student-athletes earned a 3.3 average. The teams with the highest grade point averages were the women’s tennis team with a 3.57 and the women’s soccer team with a 3.52. The top GPAs for the men’s teams were soccer and tennis, which tied at 3.26.
Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the athletics department has to comply to stricter rules. With the university officially completing its transition to Division II this year, the regulations became far more rigid in comparison to the former NAIA division requirements, said John Wright, the faculty athletic representative.
“The NCAA has required us to integrate these structures more carefully,” said Wright, the liaison between the student-athletes and faculty. “We have to track students’ attendance more. If they can’t add or drop classes-like they could with the NAIA-and they do, they could become ineligible and the team would have to forfeit [drop] their classes.”
Head Coach, Tim Hall, going on his seventh year of coaching the women’s soccer team, said the academic success of the squad is in large part due to the recruiting of well-rounded players, which creates an environment where obtaining good grades is encouraged.
“I truly try to recruit young ladies who have proven in their high school transcripts that they are serious about their academics,” said Hall via email. “I am also very verbal about how important it is for them to manage their lives, and do as well as possible in the classroom as I am recruiting them before they come, and after they are here…they drive themselves as individuals, and there seems to be a pride of the team, and a team culture of wanting to do well in the classroom. It is ‘cool’ to have good grades with this group.”
Hall said success for the athletes in comparison to other students is a reflection of their ability manage their time well.
“In all my years of coaching…It seems to me that any student, not just athletes perform at a higher level when they have a schedule that is busy (not too busy) and full (not too full) and are pressed to manage/discipline their time well.” said Hall. “As opposed to a student who may have too much time (free time) that is not designated to something that is more productive.”
Ethan Hamilton, PLNU’s athletic director of five years said the student-athlete GPA reflects the mission statement coaches must adhere to when recruiting players.
“Our coaches are recruiting the right type of people,” said Hamilton. “So at the end of the day, the things I am evaluating are probably three pronged. I want really competitive athletic programs that are successful. That’s why we are doing what we do. But also, at the same time, I don’t want to be bringing in anybody into this institution who will sacrifice the academic [success] for the on-field success.”
Student-athletes are also responsible for community involvement beyond PLNU.
“One of the things we’ve been doing a little bit is monitoring and tracking how many hours we’ve been putting in just engaging in the community at large,” said Hamilton. “Last year we were close to 4,000 total hours from our student-athletes. Whether that was going to Rady Children’s Hospital, feeding the homeless at the O.B. ministry down here or doing cancer walks, just different things that all of our teams were doing collectively.”
Some coaches have been taking it upon themselves to make sure their athletes are staying proactive academically as well.
mcKensey Wise-senior volleyball player and ASB board director-says first year head coach Jonathan Scott makes sure his athletes are diligent in their studies.
“Our coach mandates that we sit in the front two rows of every class,” said Wise. “We aren’t allowed to miss any classes unless it’s for our matches. Then when we’re on our road trips, we have study hours that are built into our travel itineraries. As freshmen, we have to spend eight hours in the library every week and record those [hours] with our coaches, and then this year, our coach just implemented-on Sunday nights-our whole team has study hall from 7-10.”
Hall believes that this is a result of athletes carrying the competitive mentalities they have on the field and courts into their schoolwork.
“[As an athlete] you have to understand the commitment you’re making,” said Hall. “They love their sport and in order to stay in that sport they realize they have to work.”
With the fall semester almost complete, Tim Hall said he looks to match strong athletics with academics by not changing what works for his team.
“I am going to continue to do it all the same as we move forward,” said Hall. “I am very proud of the girls and their integrity in the classroom, on the field and off the field. Great group of ladies.”
Kendall Boshart contributed to this report.