Academic center, advisers helpful, student-athletes say

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    Members of TCU’s Athletics Academic Center staff said they want to ensure student-athletes are assimilated into the academic community.The staff’s goal is to oversee that all athletes earn a degree, said Chris Uchacz, athletics academic director.

    “We make sure athletes are enrolled in the right classes, passing and taking enough hours for their degree plans,” Uchacz said.

    Student-athletes have the same responsibilities as any other student, men’s basketball coach Neil Dougherty said.

    “They are just asked to play a sport as well,” Dougherty said.

    Three full-time advisers, a graduate assistant, a coordinator, hired tutors and an administrative assistant help athletes with their progress, Uchacz said.

    “Athletes are students first and athletes second,” Uchacz said.

    According to the NCAA 2006 Division I-A manual, for student-athletes to represent an institution, they must be in good academic standing.

    Athletes must have a cumulative GPA of 1.8 their freshman year, 1.9 their sophomore year and 2.0 their junior and senior years, Uchacz said.

    Additionally, freshmen are required to take 24 hours their first academic year and fifth-semester students are required to have 40 percent of their degree plans completed, Uchacz said.

    All freshmen and transfer athletes are required to complete a certain amount of study hours in the Athletics Academic Center a week.

    Study hours are determined by advisers and the individual athlete, Uchacz said.

    Freshman track and field member Neidra Covington said she understands how her study hours are determined.

    “The better my grades are, the less study hours I have to clock in,” Covington said.

    Freshman track and field member Dell Guy said he is required to study eight hours a week in the athletics study hall.

    “It helps me study and do my homework when I don’t always want to,” Guy said. “If I don’t understand something from a class, a free tutor is there to help.”

    Robert Merrill, a senior football player, said the center’s staff is useful.

    “It helps freshmen who are adjusting to college,” Merrill said.

    Freshman athletes initially may not know how to balance academic and athletic responsibilities, Dougherty said.

    “They eventually learn how to prioritize their time,” Dougherty said.

    Athletic academic advisers check athletes’ grades three times a semester and serve as additional sets of eyes to make sure athletes are passing and following NCAA rules, Uchacz said.

    Advisers become mentors for the athletes if they have personal problems or aren’t performing well academically, said Jack Hesselbrock, associate athletics director.

    “Athletes can tell the advisers things that they might not always want to discuss with teachers or coaches,” Hesselbrock said.

    A relationship is formed with the advisers when athletes enroll at TCU, he said.

    “They watch them grow, and they become invested in individuals,” Hesselbrock said.

    Dougherty said he is grateful for the basketball team’s academic adviser Judy Golden.

    “We call her Coach Golden, because she has become part of our staff,” Dougherty said.

    Because of Golden, the players don’t have to meet with a different adviser each semester. Golden advises them from when they begin as students until they leave the university, Dougherty said.

    Without student-athletes doing well academically, athletics wouldn’t exist, Uchacz said.