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Student-athletes succeed in class

Mike Chambliss | Friday, January 30, 2004

When the NCAA and USA Today honored Notre Dame with the 2003 Academic Achievement Award, it was just the most recent addition to Notre Dame’s long tradition of academic excellence among athletes. Patrick Holmes, director of academic services for Student-Athletes, points to the fact that Notre Dame is ranked second on the all-time list of universities with the most academic all-Americans. “Notre Dame tries to make sure that each student maximizes his or her potential and receives the education he or she was promised,” Holmes said. Women’s golf coach Debby King agreed, saying the classroom success of Notre Dame athletes is due to a combination of the caliber of student that chooses Notre Dame and the University’s high expectations for athletes. “The students that come here are already committed to graduating in four years and getting good grades,” King said. “Once they are here, the standards are so high that we just get high quality kids.” Although the University grade requirement for eligibility is a 2.0 average after the third semester, King assigns mandatory study hall hours to golfers whose grades fall below the 3.0 mark. “It’s a tough commitment for them with class in the morning and practice in the afternoon,” she said. Swimmer Courtney Choura feels that Notre Dame offers a supportive atmosphere for student-athletes. “The coaches and the Office of Academic Services for Student-Athletes are motivational, but they also try not to put too much extra pressure on us,” Choura said. “During busy times of the semester, the coaches are pretty lenient and make sure we have time for studying.” The Office of Academic Services for Student-Athletes is an important aid that offers tutoring and mentoring for varsity athletes, cheerleaders, managers and trainers. The program helps student-athletes who are struggling in class, and provides faculty mentoring for exceptionally high-achieving athletes. The program, which began in the mid 1950’s, was one of the first of its kind. “Fifty years ago, Notre Dame was on the cutting edge in providing academic guidance to student-athletes; now it has become an NCAA requirement,” Holmes said.Holmes is pleased with his office’s role in ensuring that student-athletes excel and graduate in four years. “We can’t control playing time or transfers,” Holmes said, “But over the last measured ten-year period, we have graduated either 99 or 100 percent of the athletes who exhaust their eligibility at Notre Dame.”