Academics at forefront of athletics

Despite the high demands of Division I athletics, Butler has been very successful with placing students on the Horizon League Honor Roll.

This past fall, Butler had eight students on Academic All-League teams.  Last year, 34 athletes received this honor between all of Butler’s athletic teams.

Butler also had an Academic All-American last year in basketball player Matt Howard, bringing the school’s all-time total to 45.

This is high in comparison to universities like Connecticut, which boasts a student population of more than 22,000 and has only 48 Academic All-Americans in school history.

In some cases, athletes come to Butler for academics first.

For junior golfer and pharmacy major Matt Vitale, his education was the priority in his college choice, and he later decided to walk on to the golf team.

“I came to Butler very educationally focused,” Vitale said, “and that is definitely the feel I got from the athletics department as well.”

The athletics department places an emphasis on academic success.

Student-athletes are required as first and second-year students to attend study tables and have both their academic and athletic advisers monitoring their academic progress.

The mission statement of the Butler University athletics department maintains that its goal is to support the university’s purpose by providing exceptional educational and athletic experiences for all student-athletes.

Student-athletes must meet the requirements of any student at Butler. They are each required to take at least 12 credit hours, but they average 15 hours per semester.

The average GPA of all 359 Butler athletes is 3.24.  The minimum GPA required to remain eligible to play is 2.0.

“In general, we want to make sure we continue to maintain the same level of success or higher than our student body does,” Beth Goetz, associate athletic director for administration, said. “For a school[‘s athletes] to have a 3.2 GPA is really impressive.”

Last year, there were 127 student athletes enrolled in majors within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 121 in the College of Business, 50 in the College of Education, 33 in the College of Communication, two in the Jordan College of Fine Arts, 17 declared as pre-pharmacy  and nine in graduate studies.

There is a 76 percent graduation rate over a six-year average for student-athletes, the same percentage as Butler students overall.

Junior volleyball player and chemistry major Rachel Barber said that she will be taking 18 credit hours next fall and that many of her teammates will be taking summer courses.

“You definitely load up [credit hours] in the spring and summer,” Barber said. “Our coach highly advises us to take summer classes.”

This helps ease the stress of performing both in the classroom and on the court.

Barber said she thinks of volleyball as a job and that she spends 30 to 40 hours in the gym during the season in addition to travel.

“You have to be so mentally tough to do this,” Barber said. “You just have so many people that want you to succeed.”

Athletes are never allowed to miss class for a practice, which results in many teams being forced to practice without all of their members most of the time.

“[Student-athletes are] here to be students first, so when they’re in class we adjust and either practice without them or try and move practice around,” Goetz said. “I don’t think we have one team that practices with everyone every day of the week.”

One of the biggest testaments to the success in the classroom for Butler’s student-athletes is their own satisfaction with their education.

Even in 2007, when senior exit reviews revealed that only 50 percent of student-athletes would come back to Butler to participate in athletics, many said they still enjoyed their academic experience.

“There was almost unanimous favorable opinion of their educational experience while they were here,” Athletic Director Barry Collier said. “If there is anything to be happy about, that’s it.”

In the past decade, Butler teams have captured 26 conference championships and have made appearances in NCAA national championship tournaments in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s soccer, volleyball, men’s cross country, lacrosse and baseball.

Butler has won the James J. McCafferty trophy a league-record eight times, most recently in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. It is awarded annually by the Horizon League for excellence in all sports.

In addition to the athletic success of Butler’s teams, there has also been individual academic success by the school’s student-athletes.

According to Goetz, the athletics department takes pride in its student-athletes for both their work as athletes and as students.

“Butler is really a special place in that the institution attracts people that are dedicated to their academic endeavors,” Goetz said. “To be successful at [athletics and academics] is just something that we just get to be so proud of.”

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