Athletes work hard for many benefits

So you think Division I athletes have it made?

Scholarships, trips to warm climate areas, free meals on the road, borderline celebrity status amongst their peers.

Student-athletes certainly don’t live the lives of “normal” college students. In fact, it’s often a much more demanding lifestyle than what other students of the University are accustomed to.

Between attending study sessions, missing classes for sporting events and waking up at absurd times for practices, student-athletes share many responsibilities that the average student doesn’t have.

“Being an athlete is like a full-time job with study tables, film studies, meetings, travel and weight training,” said Corey Partridge, a wide receiver on the BGSU football team.

Of the 400 or so athletes on campus, approximately 150 are on full-ride scholarships, including 85 on the football team. Athletes not receiving full funding generally are too busy to work a job, meaning it can be difficult on them financially.

Caroline Keating, a junior on the BGSU swim team, is a swim instructor during the summer in addition to participating in offseason practices and competitions. For many members of the swim team, which is mostly made up of athletes on partial scholarships, there isn’t much time to generate income through a job. The NCAA recently changed its stance on precluding student athletes from working during the season, but only about 40 BGSU athletes have jobs during the school year, according to Sid Sink, assistant athletic director for compliance and certification at BGSU.

“There are people that take out loans and work a lot in the summer too, but if they love swimming they’re willing to do it,” Keating said.

Every freshman and transfer student athlete at the University are required to attend study tables for six hours a week during their first semester at BG and must get a 3.0 GPA to be excused from the sessions for the next semester.

Academic guidelines are much more strict for an athlete compared to other students. Athletes must complete 40 percent of the requirements for their major before their fifth semester at the University and 60 percent before their seventh semester to retain eligibility with the NCAA. That makes it very difficult for an upperclassman to switch majors, while remaining eligible athletically.

“From an academic standpoint, the part that’s most restricted for a student-athlete is the demands of classes and amounts of credits they must take,” said Naomi Lee, assistant athletic director for student services at BGSU.

If an athlete fails a class or does not get the required grade for completion, they must retake the course in addition to the 12 credit hours they’re already required to fulfill, according to Lee.

And finding time for studying and homework isn’t always easy when you’re practicing twice a day and competing on the weekend. During the season Keating wakes up at 5 a.m., goes to practice for two or three hours, attends class, practices for two more hours, then finally returns home where schoolwork is completed before she goes to sleep and begins the cycle all over again. It’s a routine that doesn’t change much during the offseason for Keating, as her and her teammates are not required, but highly recommended, to stay in Bowling Green to practice during the summer.

“I think being busy helps us have very good time management skills,” she said.

Smaller-revenue sports teams like swimming, softball and golf often hold fund raising events to add to the allowance they receive from the University. BG’s athletic budget is $13 million annually, but most of that figure is allocated to teams, like football and men’s and women’s basketball, that bring in the most money.

The football program, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics do not give team members less than full-ride scholarships, while other teams have a mixture of full-ride and partial scholarships athletes.

For members of the football team, the obvious face of BGSU athletics, constant media exposure also means heightened scrutiny. Partridge said the team serves as ambassadors of the University on the road, especially when they’re greeted by fans during stays at visiting cities.

“You really have to be careful with your choice in social activities,” he said. “People may recognize you and most of the time the interaction is very innocent, however, sometimes people may try and challenge you because of who you are and you just have to be careful.”