Student-athlete or athlete-student?
It can be argued that today’s NCAA Division I athletes are the latter of the two. However, WSU Head Football Coach Mike Leach is trying to break that mold.
With the Pac-12’s addition of Thursday and Friday football games to the schedule, some wonder if weekday football games will affect the athlete’s academics further. However, Associate Director of Athletics for Student-Athlete Development Chris Cook doesn’t believe that will be the case.
"With football specifically there hasn’t been much of a issue just because they’re weekend games," Cook said. "You leave Friday and you would miss half a day or at most Friday’s classes, and there’s not that many football games, so really the academic impact is pretty minimal. Of all the sports, football really has very minimal impact through travel."
Even with the addition of weekday games, Cook believes the time spent out of the classroom by the athletes can be kept to a minimum because they aren’t limited by commercial flight schedules.
"If it’s an away game we are going to continue to charter, I think that’s one of the things that’s proved to mitigate time out of the classroom," Cook said.
This coming season, WSU is scheduled to host a Thursday night game on Halloween, Oct. 31.
In order to compensate for the presumed extra traffic and to keep the student body safe, President Elson S. Floyd decided to cancel afternoon classes for the university.
"I could say that education occurs in a variety of different ways and it’s not all delivered through in-class lectures," Cook said.
On top of the actions being taken by the Student-Athlete Development department to ensure football players’ grades are satisfactory, Leach heavily values academic success.
After graduating from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in American studies, he continued on to Pepperdine University School of Law.
His next stop was the United States Sports Academy where he earned a master’s degree in sports science.
Leach believes that there is a correlation between how student-athletes handle themselves in the classroom and how they handle themselves in competition.
"If he is a reliable person in the classroom, then he is probably going to be a reliable person on the field," Leach said.
Leach described playing for his program in terms of processes, both educationally and athletically. With this in mind, Leach said that even if a player doesn’t perform or isn’t as reliable in the classroom as they should be, it is something of a process, but it can be taught.
The process has shown results, with the football team making a 2.66 GPA this past fall, the highest since it began being recorded in 1980, according to wsucougars.com.
"He’s big on academics, he told us that from the day he came," receiver Kristoff Williams said.
Williams also said there could be another incentive motivating the team to do well in the classroom.
"I’m sure everybody knows about rolling around in the sand pit, so if you miss class you’ll make a visit to Leach Beach," Williams said.