Sam Wargolet, For The Miami Student

Miami University athlete GPAs hit an all time high of 3.185 last semester. For the third consecutive semester, the combined GPA of the student athletes at Miami has increased, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Craig Bennett, assistant athletic director of Academic Support Services, cited several reasons for the increase in academic success.

“I think our coaches continue to recruit academically talented athletes,” Bennett said.

Head Men’s Basketball Coach John Cooper said students are initially recognized for their athletic ability, but the reason kids come to school is to get a college education.

Junior John Harris, who plays for the men’s basketball team, said athletes are encouraged to do well in and out of the classroom.

“The coaches push us to strive on and off the court,” Harris said. “We’ve got guys at the study tables working hard, and they just stress the importance of being men and focusing on education while we are here and keeping our options open.”

According to Cooper, he feels it’s important to keep student athletes focused.

“You have to make sure your priorities are in place,” Cooper said. “Our kids need to understand our expectations as far as it pertains to academics.”

Cooper said he holds his athletes to certain standards.

“[It’s important that they’re] on time [for class] and that they participate, that they don’t walk in and sit in the back of the classroom with baseball hats,” Cooper said. “It shows the professor that you care about your performance.”

When Bennett took on his position last fall, one of his first steps was to initiate a Student Athlete Advising Week (SAAW). This week was set aside to give athletes the time to meet with their assistant dean or academic advisor to ensure they’re taking the right classes, Bennett explained.

“This semester 93 percent of student athletes saw their academic adviser,” Bennett said. And this was just the first step in raising the RedHawk GPA.

In addition, learning specialists are available to help student athletes organize their time and act as tutors.

“We have a team of learning specialists that work with our students, specifically those who may not be prepared for the rigor of Miami,” Bennett said.

Women’s Head Basketball Coach Maria Fantanarosa cited Craig Bennett and his staff for the success of her athletes.

“Craig is exceptional, he is very conscientious and cares about each one of the students individually and puts them in positions to be able to succeed and makes sure they build relationships with professors,” Fantanarosa said.

The coaching staff at Miami can also be credited for the GPA record. “We [the academic service office] work together with the coaches to make sure every student can stay on track,” Bennett said.

Fantanarosa made it clear that students are here to get an education.

“Our students, our couches, our advisors and our professors do a great job,” Fantanarosa said. “It’s a continued focus to expect excellence in every area.”

The NCAA, according to Fantanarosa, has stricter standards than they do for the normal student.

“[The coaches] want us to do the best we can on and off the court,” Haley Robertson, a junior on the women’s basketball team, said. The coaches are very supportive.

“They really push us, especially for the freshmen, to do study table hours at the Gross Center,” Robertson said. Freshmen are required to go to the study tables for at least eight hours a week, and if they earn a 4.0 GPA, the requirement is lifted. On travel trips, sometimes the whole team will have required study time.

According to Robertson, with sports, academics and having a personal life, being a student athlete is extremely busy.

“I have a schedule, and keeping a planner and staying organized all help,” Robertson said.

In order to be eligible to play, Miami student athletes must earn at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA.

“We work around their class schedules with our practice times,” Fantanarosa said. “We have players who come late and leave early from practice because we know how important it is to be in the classroom.”

Beneath the plethora of resources available to the student athletes, their hard work is what really makes them successful, according to Bennett.

“Ultimately, our students are the ones who are getting it done,” Bennett said. “I just know that I feel lucky that I get to work with outstanding coaches who truly care about the development of the athletes on the field, academically, and in their personal lives.”

As for the future expectation of Miami student athletes, Bennett said, “I think this trend will only continue to get better.”