It’s funny how actually going to class can raise a student’s grade-point average.
Making sure Kansas University football players attended classes was one of the standards set by new coach Charlie Weis. Near the end of the fall 2011 semester, it was reported that members of the KU football team were carrying more than 50 failing grades in their classes. The coach instituted new standards for class attendance, including public reprimands and special 6 a.m. Saturday workouts for players who skipped a class.
The coach’s zero-tolerance policy apparently paid off. Just before spring break, the staff reported just five class absences among players in the spring semester. At the end of the semester, the team recorded a stunning improvement in its overall GPA, which rose from 2.46 at the end of the fall semester to 3.0 at the end of the spring semester. That was the highest GPA in the KU football program’s history.
Paul Buskirk, KU associate athletic director for student support, said he’d never seen such a dramatic increase in a team’s academic performance. The credit for that achievement, he said, belongs mostly to Weis and the high priority he places on academic performance.
It’s just one aspect of Weis’ overall higher standards for his players’ behavior. A number of players have left the team for various reasons, including the violation of team rules. Perhaps some of those exits also helped boost the team’s overall GPA, but the main factor, as Buskirk confirms, is the coach’s attitude toward academics.
Buskirk points out that setting academic expectations is the first step, making academics, in his words, “a big stinkin’ deal.” For many players, academics always have taken a back seat to athletic accomplishments, but when they accept the challenge and make the grades, they develop a new sense of pride for their academic work, he said, and “they want to do it again.”
This is the real goal of working with student athletes, most of whom won’t play football at the professional level. The best possible outcome for members of the Jayhawk football team is to leave KU with a degree and an academic record that will serve them well whether or not their future includes professional sports. Even before the Jayhawks play their first game of the new season, Weis is taking steps that pay off for students and impress KU fans and friends.