By Will Houp,
Without noticeably affecting the growth of academic scholarships, the athletic program and athletic scholarships are growing; however, concerns remain about the lowered academic expectations for athletes and the impact this has on the campus atmosphere.
During the 2011-2012 academic school year, Asbury handed out 425 academic scholarships to the 1250 undergraduate students and gave 324 athletic scholarships to around 300 student athletes—unlike academic scholarships, athletic scholarships are not exclusive. Financial Aid Director and Assistant Athletic Director Ron Anderson said that 25 to 30 athletes receive multiple scholarships. On the other hand, students can only receive one academic scholarship.
The 425 academic scholarships given this year totaled $2.5 million for an average of $6,226 per student. The 324 athletic scholarships totaled $1.5 million with an average of $4,779 per scholarship.
“I work in the administration offices, and [Asbury]’s motto is Academic Excellence and Spiritual Vitality,” Anderson said. “The academic side of the motto is clearly being upheld here. We’re spending over a million dollars more on academic scholarships than athletic scholarships.”
Anderson conducted research comparing Asbury’s athletic scholarships to the 10 schools from the Appalachian Athletic Conference. He took 12 different sports from each college and placed Asbury’s athletic scholarship against the other colleges, and, out of the 120 teams, three of Asbury teams offered more scholarship money than the other colleges.
Anderson said that athletic scholarships were first approved in the early 2000s. “What [Asbury] did was allot a certain amount of money that they said can be athletic scholarships,” he said. “This would go above and beyond what a student would qualify for with their need base amount.”
During the initiation of the athletic scholarships, some were not in favor of the idea; Dr. Glen Spann was one who was opposed to the idea. He said that he wasn’t sure with Asbury’s limited resources that it would be best to use the money to fund athletic scholarships. He was also against the increased influence of the culture of intercollegiate athletics at Asbury.
“I am not against sports or athletics,” Spann said. “I participated in them when I was a student here, and my sons played basketball here. However, because I have been heavily involved with athletics all my life, I know something happens to a culture when sports and athletics are elevated; I just wasn’t sure if that would be best for us here at Asbury,” he added. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to see us attract a lot of students who came here to play ball.”
He said that a couple years ago there was a class offered in the history department that every history major had to take. It was later in the afternoon and conflicted with enrolled students’ sports schedules. The decision was made that these students were allowed to miss a majority of the class over the course of the semester. He didn’t approve of this, saying, “[The history department] thought the students would miss, and did miss, a large part of the academic experience.”
However, basketball coach Will Shouse said his team uses basketball as an avenue to add to the community at Asbury. His players dedicate an average of three hours a day to basketball. “We want to push that our players are Christian community members who happen to play basketball,” he said. “Not a basketball player who happens to go to a few classes. But there are pressures that come with being an athlete, and keeping your grades up is tough.”
The academic responsibility of the athlete is to maintain a 2.0 GPA. “2.0 is an Asbury rule,” Anderson said. “The reason we came up with it was that you need a 2.0 to graduate, so we just said a student keeps his athletic scholarship if he is on track to graduate.” Even with poor performance or injury, a student athlete will maintain his athletic scholarship.“If they are doing what the coach asks them to do, then they will keep their scholarship,” Anderson said.
However, with academic scholarships, the minimum GPA is 3.3. “There is a higher academic requirement for academic scholarship, but it is academic in nature,” Anderson said. “It’s tough to get an academic scholarship at Asbury. Thus, we want to make sure [the students] are doing good work in the classroom.”
“I do think it’s unfortunate that a 2.0 GPA is a little low to maintain an athletic scholarship,” Spann said. “But since they are not academic scholarships, there is a rationality. I would like to think as an institution that anyone on a scholarship [desires] to achieve more than the minimum.”
“The pressure on the athlete is considerably different to the pressure on the general student,” Volleyball Coach and Assistant Professor in Education J.P. Rader said. “If you’re on academic scholarship and you’re not an athlete, you control your time. You can join choir, student government or any club you want, but you are largely in control of the study time you’ll have. That’s not always the case with an athlete; it doesn’t excuse the athletes, but at the same time it puts context to the scenario.”
As a professor and a coach, Rader said he is able to see both worlds. He said he fully understands the frustration with keeping scholarships, but scholarships are skill based. “If you have a particular talent, that’s going to allow you to get a scholarship,” Rader said. “With academics, it is narrowed down to your cognitive abilities getting you this scholarship.” He added that it’s hard to judge whether or not to water down the academic side and lower the requirements or add to the athletic requirements.
Spann said that he has had some students who seem more interested in their athletics than their academics, and he gets the impression that some athletes are not as academically conscientious as they once were. But some athletes have been among his best students. He said, “I don’t know if there is a trend that can be substantially supported for either side.