The coaching that Joia Daniels received on the court meant extra academic attention for it.
Daniels was doing badly in chemistry. She walked into Stony Brook University’s Goldstein Academic Center, sat down with her counselor and worked out a plan. Together they set her up with chemistry tutors who came to the center twice a week and a personal tutor who met with her once a week—all free of charge.
Daniels passed the class and received a degree in Health Science in 2010, but it was her dribbling on the women’s basketball team that brought her this support
Stony Brook is a Division I athletics university. During the season, which runs for less than six months, the university’s more than 400 athletes must commit to about 20 hours per week of practice plus weekends spent away at games. In return, the school provides them with tutors and counselors who are available nearly 24/7, a large amount of money in scholarships, as well as academic and athletic facilities designated only for student athletes.
But all the extra support for intercollegiate athletics doesn’t come cheap—last year the university allocated about $18 million for it—$3.5 million more than for all of the school’s libraries combined.
Many wonder why this support is not provided to students who aren’t in athletics. Although many of them have majors that require as much time outside of the classroom, other departments leave them to struggle through their hectic schedule on their own. So while basketball players receive free tutoring for any subject, art majors are left either to hope that the school’s learning centers cover the class subject, or must hire their own.
While Stony Brook is a prime example of uneven attention and funding between athletics and academics among state universities, it is by no means alone.
Ohio State University, one of the biggest spenders on athletics, calculated its expenses at almost $105 million in the 2009-10 school year. And while its revenue at the end of the year was higher than these expenditures, nearly all of that money went right back into its athletic department.
Courtney Sanfelippo, assistant athletic director for Student-Athlete Development at Stony Brook University, explained that colleges spend so much time and money on athletics because having a common team promotes school pride and gives the surrounding community a reason to visit the campus.
“We are a sports society,” Sanfelippo said. “So in order to feed society’s want for these athletes, there has to be a place for them to grow, as people and as athletes—and college is that setting.”
But with plans for yet another tuition raise, budget cuts in most departments and even the closure of the Southampton campus, some students wonder whether the university should focus more on its academics rather than its athletics.
Last year the athletic department awarded $6.3 million in athletic scholarships, $2.1 million more than the scholarships given out by Stony Brook’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences department.
In addition to the Goldstein Academic Center, which has a study hall, library area, private tutor room and state-of-the-art computer lab, the university also provides their athletes with a plethora of support staff.
Sanfelippo said that she and the other athletic advisers send out progress reports to teachers about three times a semester. They also meet with freshmen, transfer students and those deemed as needing academic support at least four times a week.
“We are asking a lot of them,” said Thomas Chen, Director of Athletic Communications at Stony Brook University.
He explained that it can be very challenging for student athletes to balance both their academic and athletic commitments. Plus, the athletic department acts as the face of the school to the surrounding area.
“We are asking them to represent Stony Brook University, so we want to make sure that they are okay.”
One of the ways they do this is by making sure they don’t fall behind when they have away games. Sanfelippo gave the example of a Friday during spring semester of last year. The baseball team was away at a game, which meant that four of them missed their final exam.
“We talk to the teacher and get that final and then proctor it for them in the hotel,” she said.
A senior last year on Stony Brook’s volleyball team, who requested anonymity for speaking about the athletics department, said that when she was a sophomore in a chemistry course she had to miss an exam because of an away game.
She explained the situation to her academic advisor and teacher. The advisor came on the trip to the game and proctored the test at a desk in her hotel room.
“It’s great that they let you take it on the road, because normally they would make make-up tests harder or won’t let you even do a make-up test,” she said.
But some students wonder why this is only given to athletes.
Sean O’Neal, who graduated last year from the University of Oregon as a music major, calculated that on average he has devoted at least 50 hours a week to violin practice, rehearsals and performances.
During the spring of his Junior year, his playing got him accepted to the prestigious Round Top Festival Institute for the summer. But it started so early that he would have to miss the school’s finals week. He had to contact each individual teacher before the semester began to try to find classes that would let him do this.
“I ended up having to take specific classes that would allow me to do this, and took one less class than I would have liked,” said O’Neal.
Sydney Gordon, University of Washington music major, also struggles to keep up with her academic classes and music practices.
Last year, in addition to 16 credits of classes she also had private lessons, wind ensemble, orchestra, baroque ensemble, woodwind quintet and required private practice time. Taken all together, a typical week meant at least 34 hours of music commitments outside of class.
“I tend to only practice three-hours a day, even though my teacher wants me to do six to eight,” said Gordon.
Even though it is her academic major that requires such a time commitment outside of the classroom, not only did she not receive any money in scholarship from the school, but just as at Stony Brook, there are no special resources to help to make sure she keeps up with her schedule.
“We don’t get much help, the advisors don’t seek us,” said Gordon. “We’re pretty much on our own.”
While Gordon is left to struggle on her own, Kelsey Sullivan, a senior on Stony Brook’s volleyball team, said that the athletic department’s advisers basically “run our academic lives.”
“There are people there to push you and make sure you stay on track,” said Sullivan, who remembers that last year she was required by the department to spend at least 10 hours each week in the Goldstein Academic Center‘s study hall.
“If other departments wanted to provide that stuff, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t, but that’s up to them,” said Chen.
Samantha Tracy, an art major, has just started her first semester at Stony Brook and is already worried about a hectic schedule in the coming years.
“I’m nervous about the rest of my time majoring in art because it is one of the most demanding majors because of all the time it requires,” said Tracy.
This semester she is only in one art class and is already expected to devote about seven hours a week to outside class projects. In the next three-and-a-half years this commitment will only increase. But because she uses paints instead of basketballs, she will never have the resources available to her that any Stony Brook athlete has come to expect.
Latest posts by Hallie Golden (see all)
- Artistry Through Turbulence - November 30, 2011
- Challenges in Plain Sight - November 11, 2011
- The A’s Behind the Plays: The Perks of Being A Stony Brook Athlete - October 24, 2011