12.11.06

SPECIAL TUTORING CENTERS PROLIFERATE notes the New York Times.

Few in college athletics doubt the importance of helping student athletes succeed. But while college officials say these programs are necessary because athletes must devote so much time to their sports, few other students whose time is consumed by jobs or activities receive as much assistance. Another issue is oversight: The educational support centers often report to the athletic director, who has an interest in keeping athletes eligible to compete, instead of to the academic leadership.

“I think that the people who work in it should be working for the provost,” said Jim Delany, the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.

Amen.

The article goes on to note that the Beer and Circus football schools of the Old Confederacy are engaged in a positional arms race to build athletic tutoring facilities that make Northern Illinois's computer lab atop a locker room look shabby, for an extravagance. The Drake Group is not going to lack for work.

Louisiana State’s academic center for athletes opened in 2002 and has a corporate sponsor, Cox Communications. A review in Architectural Record called the ornate design by Victor Trahan III “sleek,” “inspiring” and “almost monastic in character.”

Georgia’s $1.3 million budget for academic tutoring for its roughly 600 athletes is the same amount that the university spends on its centralized campus tutorial program for its 25,000 undergraduate students. Dell Dunn, the university’s vice president for instruction, said the budget for all of Georgia’s tutoring services outside athletics rose by $200,000 when programs in individual departments were included.

Georgia’s center for athletes, which was built in 2002, features rows of computers, plush furniture and an electronic check-in system to make sure athletes put in their minimum study hours. The center has 17 full-time staff members and more than 60 tutors.

“It’s getting competitive — that’s one of the reasons why we have this center,” said Becky Galvin, an academic counselor and tutorial coordinator at Georgia. “The coaches started hearing from kids that so-and-so had a nicer academic center. We had a good academic program, but we didn’t have all the bells and whistles.”

And look at what's going on at the Mid-American's eastern outpost, this weekend's recipient of Joe Paterno's frustration with Bielema's Offside Kick.

Colleges without the money to pay for such programs can find it harder to recruit and to compete. The struggles at Temple, a public university in Philadelphia, illustrate what can happen.

Last year, the university’s football program lost nine scholarships because of its athletes’ academic shortcomings, the most of any Division I-A program. In what Temple’s athletic director, Bill Bradshaw, called “crisis management,” he said all five Temple academic counselors either resigned or were not rehired for their positions. That led to an overhaul that included luring a counselor from Notre Dame and the 34 percent budget increase for academic support.

“How does Wendy’s succeed when it doesn’t have McDonald’s budget?” said Temple’s coach, Al Golden. “We have to be creative.”

Creativity doesn't have to include fancy facilities. Sometimes it's a matter of instilling the Habits of Highly Effective People.

When Mr. Golden was hired last December, he made his entire staff build two and a half hours into their daily schedules to help the players personally, with a special focus on academics.

Mr. Golden took the pool table out of the players’ lounge and replaced it with more computers.

He posted a list of players not attending class or handing in assignments on the door of the Temple football facility for everyone to see. He takes one shift a week himself to check players’ classes personally.

He made his players get to know their professors, sit in the front row, and not wear hats to class. “If you’re not going to class, you’re going to be suspended,” Mr. Golden said.

Temple increased its academic support staff to nine from six. Peter D’Alonzo, the lead coordinator and a learning specialist at Temple, installed the same program he used at Notre Dame. Freshmen are now mentored by students in Temple’s law school. Students below a 2.4 average are given mandatory study hours and intensive tutoring; Mr. D’Alonzo compared it to doing homework in front of Mom and Dad at the kitchen table.

Paid Jewish Mothers, forsooth. Or is it Minnesota Moms? Do Your Part. Make Something Of Yourself.

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