By Caitlin D’Amore
This year, St. Michael’s College athletes earned top academic ranking in the NCAA Division II.
Being a student-athlete at St. Michael’s College means the student comes first. This motto has consistently made the college one of the top performers academically in the NCAA Division II. This year, they were tied for the number one spot and received the president’s award for excellence given by the NCAA president’s council to the division’s top academic performers.
The award is given to schools that have a four year graduation rate of 90 percent or higher. This year the average across the country was 72 percent; at 98 percent St. Michael’s College tied with Bentley University and Point Loma Nazarene University for first place.
The NCAA guidelines state that athletes must have at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible to play. For the Purple Knights men’s teams average above a 3.0 and women’s teams average above a 3.3, reflecting the student body as a whole.
“We have exceptional student athletes,” says Chris Kenney, director of athletics.
“Many people who come here from other places describe it as nowhere else,” he said explaining about how committed St. Michael’s College athletes are to success.
“Because of a lack of athletic scholarships, we have student athletes who are academically successful before and get merit scholarships,” says Carlos Vega, associate director of admissions and athletic liaison.
The school itself tends to draw student-athletes who are already strong in the classroom, says Vega.
Over the past decade St. Michael’s College has been able to rank among the top schools in the country for student-athlete academic performance which for many parents and prospective students is a major factor according to both Vega and Kenny.
“I think there is probably more pressure in balancing classes, studying with our practice, competition schedule,” said Margaret de Pont ’19, member of the women’s tennis team about expectations from coaches. For her and other athletes it is not so much the grades themselves, but balancing the class load with their athletic commitments, and succeeding in both areas.
Both Kenny and Shannon Knoych, head women’s basketball coach, said that players are very scheduled and because of this they become very good at time management very quickly.
“It’s really hard to slip through the cracks here,” says Kenny. “Underperforming students cannot fly under the radar for any coach.”
Knoych said many teams do mandatory study hall hours to make sure time is being devoted to academics, and for first years, these are mandatory at least for their first semester. With the women’s basketball team, if a player had a G.P.A. below a 3.0 after the spring 2017 semester, they are back in study hall.
St. Michael’s academic standards are more restrictive than many other schools and that draws athletes who are going to perform well with that according to Kenny. Though St. Michael’s hasn’t always been the best performing sports school in recent years, teams are seeing GPA’s they have never seen before which reflects the student body as a whole, not just the athletic department.