According to Wittenberg’s website, “Participating in athletics at Wittenberg University is a privilege all students must earn.” However, the interim athletic director Jeff Ankrom said, “Currently, the policy is that if you are in school, you are eligible to participate in athletics.”
For most Wittenberg athletes, there isn’t much of an issue as they recognize the importance of their academic work. They realize that school comes first and their sport comes second.
“We’re here for a degree first and foremost,” said Benjamin Dobrowolski, a freshman on the baseball team. “Because we’re here and we love the sport, that’s why we play.”
“Grades are my top priority as a college student,” said Katherine Zito, a sophomore on the volleyball team. “I luckily get to play sports while going to school.”
“I think a lot of people have a perception that athletes care about their sports first over their academics, but I think, for a matter of most of the sports here, we’re here because we want a degree,” said Dobrowolski.
If there is a GPA requirement for athletes, it is not implemented by the university, but rather the coaches. Any athlete who fails to meet eligibility is told they are ineligibly and they can’t play. “It’s pretty much cut and dry,” as Dobrowolski puts it. “If you don’t have the grades, you don’t play.”
Seven Dawson, the men’s soccer coach said, “I follow general university policy. I have no special rules for my players. I do not believe in separating athletes from the rest of the student body. Especially at the division 3 level.”
Many sports teams have study tables that the players can go to as a way of helping them to maintain their grades. According to Melissa Hascher, a junior on the swim team, if their coach receives midterm grades then those people are required to attend study tables.
“Our policy for grades include keeping above a 3.0 GPA or we have to attend study tables,” said Zito. “Our coaches implement study tables on the buses during traveling to away games and help us sent academic goals.”
“From my personal opinion, it’s not really the coach’s responsibility,” said Dobrowolski. “It’s about individual accountability.”
Occasionally, athletes have to miss class for their sport. But they work hard to make sure that this does not cause them to fall behind. “We’re told to give our team schedule in advance to professors,” said Dobrowolski. “It’s a matter of priorities.”
“Usually everyone tries to work ahead or stay on track with their school and we talk to our professors ahead of time to figure out how we don’t get behind,” said Zito.
According to Ankrom the policy currently allows for students to miss up to four Monday, Wednesday Friday classes and three Tuesday, Thursday classes. “Our coaches work with the NCAC and the CAPR to schedule in a way that minimizes missed classes.”
In 2009, a policy was proposed to implement a sliding scale for continuing eligibility. This was based on GPA and credits accumulated, but it was never implemented.
Ankrom said, “The Committee on Athletic Policy and Recreation (CARP) will propose at the January faculty meeting that the Board of Academic Standards be empowered to impose restrictions on athletes who are on academic probation.”
In response to some rumors that athletes might receive academic scholarships they don’t deserve because they play for a sport, Ankrom said: “we have an awarding strategy that uses only academic ability and demonstrated financial need to give students a reduction from our sticker price…The NCAA DIII Financial Aid Committee has given us a squeaky clean report since it has been collecting our data to determine whether financial aid is linked to athletics participation. While some athletes may get large aid awards, it is because of their academic ability and/or need—not their ability as athletes.”