NCAA Division II student-athletes are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA in order to remain eligible to play in their respected season. Slippery Rock holds mandatory study tables for its freshmen athletes and upper classmen who fail to reach the university’s minimum requirements to be let out of study tables.
While some take advantage of the opportunity, others do not. Rock football offensive quality control and running backs coach Clyde Conti said that he felt like many of the team’s athletes weren’t taking advantage of the situation.
“I’m not going to be too critical, but you can just go, swipe in and put your head down,” Conti said. “We had guys that needed more than that.”
Conti brought the idea to the rest of The Rock football staff to create their own self-run study tables, but added a twist. The team uses five tutors, many of whom have past athletic experience.
Senior psychology major Nicole Jordan is one of those ex-student-athletes who was given the opportunity to help the team.
Jordan originally came to SRU as a member of the track team, but quit due to injury and poor academic performance. After overcoming her personal struggles, Jordan said she has become successful inside and outside of the classroom, now holding a 3.3 GPA with plans to graduate in May. She now uses her early experience to help guide the team.
“I’m able to talk about school, but shed light on how to schedule and break it down,” Jordan said.
That help and experience has helped SRU to see more success from its freshmen than they have seen in a long time, Conti said. Out of the 37 freshman on the roster during the 2016 season, Conti said only two had GPAs below a 2.0. Out of those 37, 20 percent made dean’s list, 40 percent had over a 3.0, and 70 percent had above a 2.5.
While the accomplishment of doing better in the classroom is a benefit in itself, Conti and the rest of the Rock coaching staff gives rewards to those who do well in the classroom.
The team is held to the same academic standards they were held to in normal study tables. Those who meet minimum 2.0 requirements will be eligible to play, but those freshmen who were able to get a 3.0 or higher in their first semester were excused from study tables.
Conti gave the highest praise to freshmen safety management majors, wide receiver Tre Douyon and linebacker Santino Birty. Duoyon had the highest GPA out of all of his class with a 4.0 on 16 credits. He and a professor of his choice will be honored at the team’s spring game in April.
Birty did not have a 4.0, but was able to get over a 3.5, make dean’s list and be excused from study tables. However, Birty still takes advantage of the study tables despite being excused.
Birty said study tables are beneficial to everyone because it forces people to step up for the team.
“You’re required to be doing work,” Birty said. “You have to be doing something here. There is no time to procrastinate.”
Upperclassmen who do not meet the GPA standards must also go to study tables. These mandatory study tables are also an opportunity for those upperclassmen who have had procrastination issues to fix their work ethic in the classroom. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Chris Larsen is one of those upperclassmen.
Larsen said he didn’t have the best attitude towards school when he first came in 2015.
“I thought, as a football player, I could just chill,” Larsen said.
Larsen quickly learned that that wasn’t the case. Though he only holds a 2.2 GPA, Larsen is working on raising his grades. It’s discouraging being in there as an upperclassman, he said, but it gives him the opportunity to do better.
“Coming in here helps me work and concentrate,” Larsen said. “I’m just looking to do what I gotta do to be eligible.”
Not everyone has the same mindset as Birty, Duoyon and Larsen. Some athletes fall off task and play around during these time periods. Another tutor, junior Piers Giles, an integrated marketing and communication major, said that it’s difficult working with the team some days when they are not all the way focused, but the results give him motivation to keep working with the athletes and get them back on task.
“It’s all about keeping them in the real world after they leave the university,” Giles said. “We are getting them ready to achieve their goals. I love helping someone succeed. These guys now have the help they need, and are now on the right path.”
Conti and the rest of The Rock staff are not only promoting excellence on the field, but also in the classroom. Conti said that he hopes that a positive environment in the classroom will not only translate onto to field for his athletes, but also throughout the rest of their lives.