Art by Sacha Irick
Athletics Department cracks down on classroom attendance, student-athlete responses are mixed bag
Student athletes seldom crack under pressure, but as spring semester rolls around, a new attendance policy adds some heat to the lives of these athletes on a new playing field: the classroom.
According to the official policy: “The following sanctions pertain to the number of classes missed per semester (including summer): [upon first absence] written report to the head coach and sport administrator [upon second absence] student athlete will be suspended for the next regular season (i.e. championship season) competition and will be required to meet with the Associate Director of Athletics for Student-Athlete Services and Compliance. The student athlete, head coach and parent(s) or guardian(s) will be notified in writing of the suspension.”
Though the Athletics Department reports that they have not heard any dissenting voices from the student athletes, not everyone is enamoured with the new policy. This new enforcement has aroused some athlete’s ire due to it’s “patronizing” nature.
“It’s very high school-ish … it should be the athlete’s responsibility to go to class, not up to the sports teams to make athletes good students,” senior volleyball player Parker Kalmbach said.
More specific rules within this new restriction include requiring athletes to provide a doctors note for excused absences which then must be given to the professor, coach and athletic chaplain. Additionally, if a student athlete is viewed as “inattentive” i.e. asleep or texting in class, it counts as an absence. Gaining more than four absences will lead to indefinite suspension from play. The head of the Athletics Department, Steve Potts, explained the basic rationale behind the new attendance enforcement consequences:
“If you’re a student here, student athlete or not, you ought to be going to class,” Potts said.
Sports is full of statistics. After each game, the Athletics Department frantically crunches numbers to understand attack percentages, rebound ratios and more. Statistical analysis in sports has even inspired research of complicated algorithms designed to understand and predict athletic success, as the movie “Moneyball” attests. The bottom line is that there is a complication of variables to understanding athletic success. “Moneyball” also highlights the importance of being purposeful in selecting players in order to create winning teams. This is something Pepperdine Athletics has heavily emphasized in their dedication to recruiting well-rounded student-athletes.
“We have had instances … where student athletes have not performed well academically and it’s directly related to their class attendance … we want to make sure that they’re taking advantage of the resources of the faculty,” Potts said.
Pepperdine’s athletes’ consistent track record in stellar scholastic achievement would support that view, exhibited in October 2012 when Pepperdine was ranked No. 1 in Southern California by NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate Report.
A good number of athletes seem to view the new policy as redundant or non-applicable if they are already attending class. “It’s not really that different … we’ve always had to go to class, now they’re just being stricter,” freshman baseball player Monty Plattner said.
Whether this “two strikes, sit out” policy will affect athletes in the game or in the classroom — only time will tell.
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