Athletes trying to make the grade

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Story, Video and photos by Ryan Penney, NewsNetNebraska

When Huskers closing pitcher Casey Hauptman takes the mound, fans don’t much care about how he will do on an accounting exam. But Hauptman, who boasts a grade point average of 3.7, does. So, too, do his coaches.

While doing well on field is crucial for Husker athletics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials work to make sure the classroom work doesn’t suffer. They provide tutors, study rooms, counseling and help with academic planning and scheduling.

“It is tough. Coach[Mike Anderson] is always harping on us to go to class, if we don’t go to class he makes us run. Guys are always doing what they have to do, if it is drinking a Red Bull or whatever to make themselves get up and head to class,” said Hauptman. “That was a tough road trip like that, missing a lot of classes. There is a lot of work you need to make up.”

The close attention to academic performance applies to players ranging from the lowliest freshman bench warmer to Heisman hopefuls. This is especially present on the football team.

“The outside public probably isn’t really concerned what exam Taylor Martinez has on Monday, they’re probably more worried with him running the read-option,” said Senior Associate A.D. Dennis Leblanc “Fans are great, and we couldn’t have what we have at Nebraska without them, but they aren’t concerned [about academics].” Leblanc is in charge of academic compliance, his main goal is to help Husker athletes graduate.

While being a strong team on the field is important, being strong individuals in the classroom is even more important

While the production on the field is what fill box scores, it’s the numbers that fill grade print outs that matter to the academic staff at Nebraska. Leblanc is one of many whose sole job is to help students achieve academic success. While many athletes have very limited free time with their sport, studying and classes, they still have found time to be successful in the classroom.

Nebraska led the Big 12 in academic All-Americans with eight in the 2009-2010 school year, and leads the way with 277 all time Academic All-Americans. With the constant success in academics, scheduling and support for Nebraska athletes is vital.

While athletes at Nebraska and other schools might not have as much free time, many are getting scholarships in order to further their education. Many look at sports as the way to help further their education, but understand sports might not be there after they graduate.

The Husker baseball team is currently in the middle its season and one of the biggest problems is the time commitment that it costs to play baseball. One example of a stretching out its time is when the Huskers had a weekend series in Lawrence, Kansas. After that it had a Tuesday game in Wichita, Kansas against the Wichita State Shockers. The Husker players were gone from Thursday afternoon till Wednesday at 2:00am. Players were still expected to be in class Wednesday morning, and this is a common occurrence for the baseball team during their season. Missing this many days can create a problem but also forces the players to be proactive by communicating with professors.

Student athletes frequently use tutors to help enforce the information they already know

With time being a factor, the academic advisors travel with the baseball team at times to help bridge the gap. Associate Director of Academic Programs Katie Jewell, is the one who helps the baseball team both at home and sometimes even joining the team on road trips. Jewell does everything from helping create schedules, to tutoring all the way to proctoring a test if it needs to be taken on the road.

“The number of class days that they miss [baseball] means that they have to be very organized and communicate really with all their professors,” said Jewell.
Jewell isn’t the only thing that offers help to students. The new student life complex offers students at UNL the opportunity to succeed in a brand new state of the art location that has everything from academic advisors on hands to study rooms. While the Student Life Complex is great, sometimes the team isn’t in Nebraska and is forced to study anywhere from a bus to a hotel lobby.

“It is nice to sleep on the bus when you have free time because we are up early, and up late. There is not a lot of time in between relax. The Bus is quiet for the most part, so you can get a lot of your homework done and studying done” said redshirt freshman Pat Hirschberg who has a 3.9 GPA as an accountant major, Hirschberg is an outfielder from Colorado.

Nebraska will leave the Big 12 as one of the strongest schools for high academics for athletes

While studying can be done on the road, missing class is still an issue. Some professors don’t allow for absences, excused or unexcused, which can be an issue for the athletes, especially the baseball team.

“I had one or two professors who said the policy is if you miss this many two classes your grade goes down. Just have to make sure you either get out of that class or make sure you get there,” said Hauptman.

While trying to juggle class, homework and baseball can be an issue Hauptman has had four years of practice, and four years of understanding how to manage his workload during the season.

“I have learned to schedule my classes in a way to make it easy on myself. I try to take my easy classes during the season, since I wont be there as much,” said Hauptman.

As Hauptman’s 94 mile per hour fastball hits the back of the catcher’s mitt for strike three and Huskers win, Hauptman’s mind is now on to graduating. The fans might celebrate well in to the night, but Hauptman’s accounting book will be open as he prepares for the final class of his college career.

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