Student athletes often carry a bad reputation concerning academics, but those at Dixie State University are working to destroy that stereotype.
Several Red Storm football players were recently recognized for their academic performance. The Great Northwest Athletic Conference released its annual Academic All-Conference team Nov. 13, and of the 28 players on the team, nine hailed from Dixie, which is a conference high.
The DSU football team has not always been known for its academic prowess, considering the program was marred by poor performance only a few years ago. The program has been working to improve since.
“Even though we didn’t have a great season, we had a ton of guys that have great grades,” said Jake Hardcastle, a junior communication major from Heber and member of the DSU football team. “(A lot) of players are graduating on time — or early.”
DSU football players are not the only athletes making a strong impression around campus. During the 2012-2013 seasons, a total of 125 Dixie State athletes from all 12 athletic teams earned academic All-Conference honors.
DSU student Quincy Newby, a junior CIT major from Circleville, has been impressed by the positive representation the athletes provide for DSU and the help they give to their classmates.
“It’s great seeing (the athletes) work hard in the (study) groups they’re involved in,” Newby said. “It shows they’re willing to work hard in all aspects of their lives.”
NCAA academic adviser Dabney McIntyre credited Dixie State coaches for recent improvement.
“The coaches have done a very good job (the) last couple of years stressing how important academics are,” McIntyre said. “If you do well in the classroom, it shows up on the court or on the field.”
Newby also said the academic improvement in the athletic department is helping the school progress.
“It shows that we’re a university that is working toward (a larger) academic presence in the state,” Newby said.
Aarika Andersen, a member of the DSU women’s soccer team and an Academic All-Pacific West performer, said she and her teammates support each other and work hard to succeed academically.
“We study together and like to stick together,” said Andersen, a junior communication major from Bountiful. “We take classes (with teammates) so we can help each other.”
Because Dixie State is an NCAA Division II school, there isn’t a lot of hype surrounding the majority of its athletes. Most players who choose to attend don’t have expectations of making it to the professional ranks. Hardcastle said this makes academics all the more important.
“I’m on an academic scholarship,” Hardcastle said. “It’s not just football. A lot of Division II athletes are here because we want to go to school and get the perk of being able to play. Our main focus is still schoolwork.”
McIntyre agreed with Hardcastle and stressed the importance of obtaining a degree.
“I think they all understand that to excel in life, they need some sort of a degree for their career,” McIntyre said.
Hardcastle also said Division II athletes have to take a lot more responsibility for their daily schedules as opposed to Division I athletes, who often have tutors and other academic aides plan out their days.
“I think, at our level, it’s more of a win if you’re able to (attend) all the practices that a Division I player would and then still go to class and get the grades on your own, without the attention you would get at the Division I level,” Hardcastle said.
McIntyre said larger schools have the advantages of tutors and other aides for each athlete or sport.
“The bigger we get, the more resources we’ll have for our student athletes,” McIntyre said.
Andersen wants the rest of the student body to remember the main reason athletes are here in St. George.
“Sometimes I feel like other students think we’re just athletes,” Andersen said. “[We’re] actually student athletes; student comes first.”