Northern Kentucky University athletes are held to a high standard when it comes to academics. Not only do they have to be in good standing with the university, but they also have to meet the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility requirements, goals they set for themselves and that coaches and the athletic administration set for them.
The NCAA requires student athletes to have a certain number of core courses based on the division of the school, have a qualifying SAT or ACT score, etc. By 2016, NCAA requirements will change for college athletes because they will have to attain a 2.3 GPA in all core courses, which is 0.3 points higher than what NKU requires the average student to have to stay in good standing with the university.
In fall 2012, NKU’s student athletes received their highest semester GPA ever, a combined total of 3.11. All student athletes, athletic trainers and cheerleaders also got their highest semester GPA of 3.10. Three of NKU’s athletic teams earned their individual highest GPA: women’s volleyball, men’s tennis and men’s soccer.
“I think it’s extremely impressive that every semester the grades have improved,” NKU women’s volleyball coach Elizabeth Hart said. “First and foremost the kids worked extremely hard maintaining strong grades, especially in the season. The athletic department and the professors make themselves available to work and communicate with them.”
Within the last two years the athletic administration has expanded greatly. They have added an associate athletic director, a graduate assistant and a full time athletic academic adviser to help directly with the student athletes and focus in on their weaknesses and help improve overall. Consequently, in the last three years the athletics program has produced much higher GPA’s as a whole, improving by almost .5 percent, according to NKU Athletic Director Scott Eaton.
“I think that between the additional people put into place, the study table structure and being able to target high risk student athletes helps benefit all the teams,” Eaton said. “Every single semester, GPA’s have gone up.”
According to Eaton, NKU coaches try to look for the best student athletes out there, emphasis on student.
“We want all our students to have a great experience and represent us well on the playing field,” Eaton said.
NKU athletic administration meets with head coaches to identify students who need to attend study tables and work out schedules. Tutors have also been brought in from NKU’s on-campus tutoring department to help athletes with writing, math, etc.
“It’s all about us going that extra mile to make them successful,” Eaton said. “Some of them end up doing so well they don’t have to attend study tables anymore.”
According to Kathy Steffen, NKU associate athletic director, the student athletes motivate themselves.
“I think they want to be successful,” Steffen said. “Their four years here are going to be what catapults them into the next chapter of their life. For most of them, their athletic career ends here, although a few go on to play professionally, they motivate themselves as student athletes.”
Seventy-six percent of female student athletes earned a 3.0 or higher GPA last semester and 52 percent of male athletes did as well. All nine of the women’s athletic teams for NKU received a 3.0 or higher as a team. The women’s volleyball team achieved a 3.64 GPA overall, leading them to the highest team GPA last semester.
“I think pride motivates them,” Hart said. “They always want to do the best they can, they are very competitive on the court and in the classroom and try to do everything the best they can do.”
Twenty-two student athletes received a 4.0 and were appointed to the President’s Honor list and 50 achieved Dean’s List recognition. Over the past three years, student athletes as a whole have come from a 2.5 to almost a 3.0 for overall GPA’s.