Student-Athletes: Oxymoron?

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Student-Athletes: Oxymoron?

The latest news came from Notre Dame.  “NCAA: Notre Dame must vacate wins after academic misconduct.”

According to the NCAA, the trainer was employed by the athletics department from fall 2009 through the spring of 2013 and “partially or wholly completed numerous academic assignments for football student-athletes in numerous courses” from 2011 into 2013. It said she did substantial coursework for two players and gave impermissible help to six others in 18 courses over two academic years. The NCAA said the woman “continued to provide impermissible academic benefits to football student-athletes for a full year after she graduated.”

But the news was only surprising because of the academic excellence of Notre Dame.

A few days later it was Cal State Northridge’s basketball program.

A story from Inside Higher Education this summer argued that there was an “epidemic” of academic fraud, with 15 Division I programs being punished in the last decade, including well-known institutions like Syracuse, the University of North Carolina and Southern Methodist University.

As Ohio University professor of sport administration, David Ridpath, put it:

It’s an epidemic and a problem that will continue until faculty take control of their campuses.  This can be changed, but we simply have to want to do it. This will not stop until we define what we are: professional sports being played in the higher ed space or a co-curricular activity played by students?

It can be enough to put one off Division I sports.

Fortunately at the Division III level the picture is very different.  Sports are part of a holistic education that combines learning inside and outside the classroom.  In D3 there are no scholarships and no big money to be made through television contracts.  Students truly do play “for love of the game” and athletes must perform (on their own) in the classroom or lose their eligibility.

Saint John’s University has a long tradition of recruiting smart athletes who take their academics as seriously as their athletics.  John Gagliardi’s 60 years of football graduates and Jim Smith’s 50 years of basketball graduates are filled with doctors, lawyers, CFO’s, college professors, CEOs and PhDs.  And the same is true among all other sports. A coach recently told me about getting his own healthcare from one of his former athletes.

I was reminded of this long tradition when the 2016 Academic All-Americans were recently announced for football.  There were 24 First-Team Academic All-Americans in football across the country this fall (they are listed below).  Three of them are from Saint John’s.  The only school to match that number was Carnegie Mellon University, the #24 US News ranked research university in the country, which happens to also play D3 sports.  Pretty good company.

On the second team of Academic All-Americans, there were two University of St. Thomas players, but that was it among the MIAC schools, one of the best athletic and academic conferences in the country.

Congratulations to Carter Hanson (also the only D3 Campbell Award finalist and the winner of this year’s Gagliardi Trophy which recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and community service), Lucas Glomb and Jack Pietruszewski.  We are proud to call you Johnnies. Many thanks to you and our coaches for reminding us that college athletics can be about true student-athletes playing a sport at a high level for love and not for money – a thought to bring a little cheer to the holiday season.



Pos.   Name   School   Yr.   Hometown   GPA   Major
QB Gavin Glenn Coe Sr. Adel, Iowa 3.81 Public accounting
WR Brendan Lynch Case Western Sr. Sarver, Pa. 3.45 Chemical engineering
WR Soren Pelz-Walsh Castleton Sr. Dummerston, Vt. 3.99 Physical education
TE Travis Lankerd Olivet Sr. Battle Creek, Mich. 3.95 Insurance & risk mgt.
RB Sam Benger Carnegie Mell. Jr. Hingham, Mass. 3.65 Business admin.
RB Duke DeGaetano Whitworth Sr. Bend, Ore. 3.82 Psychology
OL Cordell Boggs Gettysburg Sr. Taneytown, Md. 3.74 Biochemistry
OL A. DiFranco Albion Sr. Warren, Mich. 3.86 Accounting
OL W. Tyler Reid Carnegie Mell. Sr. Lees Summit, Mo. 3.70 Electrical engineering
OL Kyle Stucker Wabash Sr. Franklin, Ind. 3.82 Rhetoric
OL Elliot Tobin MIT Sr. Minnetonka, Minn. 3.92 Economics
K Alex Potocko Salisbury Jr. Clarksville, Md. 4.00 Physics / mathematics
DL Tim Bahr Concordia-Chic. Sr. Hartland, Wis. 4.00 Secondary ed / math
DL Michael Daniels Augustana (IL) Sr. Geneseo, Ill. 3.99 Accounting & finance
DL Brian Khoury Carnegie Mell. Sr. Davenport, Iowa 3.49 Electrical engineering
DL   Jack Pietruszewski    Saint John’s   Sr.    South St. Paul, Minn.   3.86    Environmental studies
LB Jack Campbell Johns Hopkins Sr. Chagrin Falls, Ohio 3.88 Biology
LB    Carter Hanson    Saint John’s   Sr.   Blue Earth, Minn.   4.00   Global business
LB Andy Warsen Elmhurst Sr. Wyoming, Mich. 4.00 Finance
DB Conlan Aguirre Hardin-Simm. Sr. Abilene, Texas 3.89 Math education
DB Corey Hunsberger Marietta Sr. Washington, Pa. 4.00 Petroleum engineering
DB    Lucas Glomb   Saint John’s   Sr.   Woodbury, Minn.   3.84   Biology (pre-PT)
DB Jack Toner Johns Hopkins Sr. Western Springs, Ill. 3.78 Economics
P Ryan Anderson Olivet Sr. DeWitt, Mich. 4.00 Business admin.
By |December 16th, 2016|Categories: Higher Education, Kudos|0 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Hemesath
Michael Hemesath is the 13th president of Saint John's University. A 1981 SJU graduate, Hemesath is the first layperson appointed to a full presidential term at SJU. You can find him on Twitter [at] PrezHemesath.

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