School First

Florida A&M students may have a better chance of graduating if they are student-athletes. FAMU student-athletes are beating the general student population in graduation rates.

Forty-four percent of FAMU student-athletes graduate compared to the student body’s 41 percent. Strict polices set by the NCAA and FAMU are a part of why student-athletes are graduating more than the rest of the student body.

“When you take a look at how they have to meet the mark that is set each year, it pushes them toward getting a degree,” FAMU athletic director Derek Horne said.

With coaches and the athletic department closely watching student-athletes, they may have an advantage over the general student population.

Antonia Bennett, a 6’1″ guard/forward for the FAMU women’s basketball team, said there are many resources provided and rules that she and her teammates must follow to be successful academically. She explained how the coaches keep a close eye on the team to make sure players are on the right track academically.

“Tutors are offered, and when we’re on the road everyone is required to study,” Bennett said. “We have to submit progress reports every other week with our grades and any comments from our professors.”

Head coaches mandate that their teams spend a certain number of hours, depending on sport, in study hall.

In her experience, FAMU softball coach Veronica Wiggins said that going to study hall four days a week has been effective for her players.

Faydre Hawkins-Brown, assistant athletic director for academics, said meetings with student-athletes are held every semester and provide them with knowledge to help them stay on track to graduate.

“If someone asks how many hours a student-athlete has left to graduate, that athlete should know,” Hawkins-Brown said.

Closely watched by coaches, and with the mandatory progress reports and studying, Hawkins-Brown said student-athletes don’t have an advantage over the general student body. “They have to practice, and figure in study time. If they missed days due to road games, they have to find the notes, and still find time to enjoy their college career.”

Horne played basketball for the University of Mississippi from 1983 to 1986 and said that many policies have changed to increase student-athlete graduation rates. Student-athletes now have the 20-hour rule, which means coaches are limited to 20 hours a week to dedicate to that sport.

“It’s important that student-athletes graduate because sports have short shelf lives and their career will have a longer one,” Horne said. “Student-athletes’ eligibility will expire but they still have a life to live, and we need to make sure that they are prepared for it.”