Athletes lead student body in GPA

AJ Taylor

It was only three years ago that Sacramento State had received the most penalties due to academics of any NCAA Division I school; thanks to a major overhaul of the entire athletic department, Sac State can say its student-athletes combine for a higher GPA than the student body.

After the numerous athletic penalties, Sac State athletics made a change. That change began first with a change in attitude and mindset; that led to recruiting more academically able student-athletes and setting up more resources for which student-athletes to take advantage. It all led to this rare accomplishment.

“It starts with just a basic core philosophy that this is what we’re all about. Academics is very important to us and we’re going to hold them accountable for academic excellence,” said Athletic Director Terry Wanless. “We have study halls, we have tutors, we have mentors, but most of all, I think we just have a philosophy and we have a group of coaches that also believe in that philosophy. So they recruit young men and women who are academically prepared and ready to meet this challenge.”

Beginning in the fall 2009 semester, the student-athletes posted a collective GPA of 2.957, just short of the athletic department’s goal of a 3.0. Meanwhile, the student body had a 2.93 GPA.

For the spring 2010 semester, the athletes had a 2.984 GPA while the student body had a 2.94.

In the fall 2009 semester the student-athletes beat the students by .027, and in the spring 2010 semester they improved even more to beat the students by .044.

“We always use the word “student-athlete’, which means that they are a student first,” Wanless said. “We’ve focused very hard in the past several years to make sure that all of them understand that.”

For years, the athletic department has worked to teach its student-athletes how to put the work in on and off the field, and for two consecutive semesters the work is showing results.

“I think it’s always academics first,” said head football coach Marshall Sperbeck. “But I think that our players have done a great job of balancing both ends of it, and that’s the whole thing behind “student-athlete’ – being able to take on both and be equally as successful in both.”

With all the resources made available to the 500 student-athletes, it was the athletic department’s vision that this overtaking would eventually happen.

Freshman student-athletes are required to spend a minimum of 10 hours a week in study hall at the Student-Athlete Resource Center. Tutors can be made available to any athlete on campus by request, and many teams require organizational skills meetings. Also, academic advisers are readily available for all student-athletes, as well as weekly

and monthly mandatory counselor and mentor meetings.

“With study hall and the help of our football academic adviser Bob Shook, the transition from high school to college academics was a lot easier,” said sophomore right guard Tyler Worthley.

This accomplishment not only sets Sac State athletics apart from the majority of other NCAA Div. I schools, but it helps with recruiting and helps keep Sac State from being penalized.

“This is part of a journey, not a destination,” Wanless said. “So there’s never a point where you say, “We’ve arrived and we can stop working.’ It’s something you have to be committed to on a long-term basis.”

Consistently, the women’s teams have outdone the men. In both the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters, the women’s teams came in with a higher GPA. In the Fall, the women boasted a 2.966 while the men claimed a 2.927. In the spring, the women exceeded the athletic department’s goal of a 3.0 GPA with their 3.035, but the men put up a 2.94 bringing the overall athletic GPA down to just below 3.0.

The women’s volleyball team has had the highest GPA of all 21 sports on campus. In the fall 2009 semester, the women finished with a 3.242 GPA and in the spring 2010 semester, they improved to a 3.394.

This match-up is a never-ending game in which Sac State officials hope students and student-athletes never stop. competing.

AJ Taylor can be reached at [email protected]