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35th NACDA Convention
Orlando, Florida
June 11-14, 2000

NCAA Division III Breakout Session
Student-Athlete Development in the New Millennium
Monday, June 12, 10:45-11:30 a.m.


Don Tencher

My name is Don Tencher and I'm the director of athletics at Rhode Island College. I will be the moderator for this morning's sessions. Because of time constraints, I'd like to ask that we hold all questions until the end. Additionally, anybody that didn't get handouts, there are some in the back of the room.

When the committee was putting together this morning's session, the points of emphasis they wanted to make was to put a program together at your institution, if you don't have one, and we're very proud at Rhode Island College that we put together a Student-Athlete Development Program that would be the envy of any Division I school.

The second phase of the program is to show you some of the national programs you can get involved in. Earlier in the week, there was a CHAMPS Life Skill presentation. Today, we're going to hear from the APPLE people from the University of Virginia. Lastly, Jessica Robitaille will give her perspective on what student development means for her.

The first person to kick it off is our director of development, who is soon to be a vice president in the next few days. Extremely important where teamwork comes in, are development people. They can be either one of your biggest assets or one of your biggest pains. In our particular case, they are one of our biggest assets. She was instrumental in us getting an actual physical facility. When we came into Rhode Island five years ago, we had to prove everything we did to our president and the administration. There was nothing we could get without having to first prove ourselves. She's been unbelievable in us actually getting money. I'd like to introduce Dr. Peg Brown, director of development.

Peg Brown

It might be fair to begin my remarks this morning by answering a question that many of your might be sitting out there thinking. What's a development officer doing on a panel about student-athlete development? Did she take a wrong turn at the pool? Does she have a hangover from yesterday's conference, or does she really think the development part of a panel is about raising money?

The truth is even stranger than that. I think Don invited me to attend this conference to reinforce his belief that the investment in our student-athletes takes a concerted team effort on the campus. My role, as a fund raiser, has assisted that team in achieving a certain level of success.

One of our sports writers for the Providence Journal said, and he's not always kind, "if you're looking for purity in college sports, go look in Division III." What I think he was really saying was that Division III athletes do not deal with scholarships and other related issues and that our students compete because they want to, not for some current or future reward.

His comment, not withstanding, Division III is not exempt from the issues that face all college sports. We, too, face the needs, which have driven sports marketing on all levels -- increased tuition costs, Title IX compliance efforts and constructions and renovation of facilities. All are components that have increased athletics department budgets to record highs, or have encouraged us to seek increased athletics budgets.

According to an article in this week's Sporting News, if 49.81 percent of Division I athletics programs are operating at a deficit, what does that mean for Division III schools whose athletics programs do not have the same visibility and the same market appeal. How do we provide our students with the complete college experience enhanced by competitive opportunities? Division III athletics programs also face the tough academic issues, recruitment, retention and accountability for graduation rates. These are all in some way related to resource issues, human and material.

For Rhode Island College, the answer to some of the academic challenges is truly the result of collaboration on the part of the campus community. One component of our efforts was not collaborative, however, but accidental. In the early 1990s, the old gym burned down. We lost much of our history and the focal point of our athletics program, but we gained an opportunity to design an attractive and state-of-the-art facility.

The second key component was also not collaborative, maybe serenidipidous. Some might say it was visionary. The president hired an enthusiastic, straightaway, get out of my way athletics director, whose commitment to excellence on all levels is, at all times for us mere mortals, overwhelming, but nevertheless, motivating. What has emerged over the past three years, of which we are most proud, is the student-athlete academic center, which we're here to talk to you about today.

What do you need when you put together one of these facilities? First of all, you need an attractive and well-equipped, visible and accessible space. You need a student advisory committee that establishes higher standards for academic achievements like higher grade point averages to participate in sports. We also needed a requirement, we found, that freshmen student-athletes; transfer students, which for us are a large number and students who are in academic jeopardy attend the session as a requirement, six hours per week, both in and out of the respective seasons. We also needed a full-time coordinator and several professional staff members, like retired teachers, coaches and other professionals who provide academic counseling, tutoring, life-skills support, career advising and just the plain importance of their presence. We also needed student leadership and direction provided by students like Jessica, who you'll meet in a few minutes, to guide the development of the center. Oh yes, the reason I'm here, you need funding.

In the early stages of our program, the athletics department was responsible for generating all of the operating funds for the center. We then approached an individual who, although not an alum, was a leader in sports promotion and merchandising in the Rhode Island area. A personal gift from his family gave us the initial seed money to fund and equip the academic center. Ongoing support was also necessary. What do you do when you put the equipment in place, put the plaque on the door, where do you get the funding next year?

The department of athletics began an annual sports auction, which was a huge undertaking for us. It not only provides all the proceeds for the student-athlete program, but it's turned into a very important social and publicly visible statement of the college administration's commitment to the student-athlete. Those of you who were here yesterday and attended the special events program will be reminded that we will do special events because they are about image. If we raise funds, so much the better. In this case, we weren't able to achieve several goals.

More recently, the department of athletics, together with the campus community, was able to convince the board of governors that a modest athletics fee would continue this kind of positive development of the whole student. The process of securing an athletics recreational fee is very politically charged at times, but the success of the academic support center played a key role in helping us to convince the appropriate people and to secure this kind of state support.

You all know the saying, the bigger the snowball, the more snow that sticks. The program has benefited from a faculty mentor program and fund raising efforts through the collaboration of the athletics department, the Alumni Association, the foundation, which I also represent, and the development office. These collective efforts have resulted in the first athletics booster club, which provides an opportunity to select where you would like your funds to go, including student-athlete support, a regular newsletter and a formal commitment to raise both restricted and unrestricted funds to support specific sports and the academic center.

We've just begun. Paul Plinsky of the University of the Minnesota recently conducted a survey of athletics fund raising at NCAA Division III member-institutions. Maybe some of you participated. The results are very interesting. Paul found that, on average, the programs that responded to the survey raised about $143,000 annually and one even generated $3.6 million.

The average Division III athletics fund raising program was only 12 years old. We're late in getting into this game. Of the 254 schools who participated in the survey, only 40 percent had any fund raising programs at all. We'd all be na´ve to think we could continue to enhance our programs without looking to the private sector.

We, and other Division III schools, are truly only beginning our initiatives and fund raising is the key. It's important for us to share the stories of how we can better assist the centerpieces of our program, the students, to have the best experience possible. As I look at where we are and where we were, it probably is appropriate to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, I look around at our student-athlete program and I see the results of many caring hands. Let us be reminded that we all have an opportunity to leave our fingerprints on these efforts as well. The fingerprints will only be lasting if they are truly collaborative and if you truly involve your entire campus in your efforts to support your student-athletes.

Don Tencher

Our next person is Joe Gieck, from the University of Virginia, where he is director of sports medicine. About three years ago, I got a brochure regarding a program called APPLE. Our student-athletes have been going to it and it's an unbelievable program. As an athletics administrator, we pay for the transportation and once the student-athletes get there, they pay for everything else. The students come back invigorated. They want to write the policy manual, they want to take on the whole campus and they want to do 27 community service projects. This has been a great thing for us.

Joe has to appeal annually to sports sciences of the NCAA to get funding. It's important for you to become involved in the program. If you're not involved, you're missing out. We need to make sure that Joe can continue for the jewels of our programs, our student-athletes.

Joe Gieck

Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. I appreciate my colleague from Purdue, Denny Miller being here today. I've been in college athletics for 43 years and this is one of the most exciting things I've been involved with. We're in this business because of student-athletes. We got involved in this about 10 years ago when I went to an NCAA conference on substance abuse. We watched slides, listened to talks and there were no student-athletes. That's what it's all about. To me, getting them involved is the most important thing.

The APPLE Conference, the Athletics Prevention Program and the Leadership Education are what it's about. Each year, we have two conferences in Charlottesville. We take about 30 schools. The first 30 schools that get their information in are the ones we take. It's a comprehensive substance abuse program designed for reviewing your policies in your athletics departments. Everybody has policies generally, some better than others, but it's a chance to review them.

You identify what your programs are, you send your materials in, we assess them, get them back to you when you come to the conference. One of the neat things is that we've got different schools. We have Arkansas help with Virginia or Rhode Island. Washington College helped us develop a program in terms of recruitment.

The teams come together. We provide structure, we provide content, depending on what programs they're interested in. It's important that we have administrators. Some of the administrators are athletics trainers, life skills coordinators, coaches, health educators, but the most important thing are your student-athletes. They're the ones that these policies are going to affect and if they don't have ownership into it, you're not going to have a very successful program or policy.

The athletics part of the administrators is providing history, support, commitment to those student-athletes and you can help create change. Unless the athletics director buys into it, it's not going to make any difference and nothing will change. The student-athletes provide the enthusiasm. They want to do all of the implementation of programs. Most importantly, they have ownership into the program and it's taking off.

We started this when Dick Schultz was the athletics director. We got with Susan Grossman who is the director of our institute and came up with a program. We had our substance abuse education programs to where athletes would come in twice a year. They were asleep and nobody was doing anything about it. We turned it over to athletes. They did one on date rape with football. Cross country didn't have much on abuse, so their deal was more eating disorders. The soccer team was into STD. Every team is charged with two presentations a year and they have to come up with them.

Let's go through the brochure briefly. Recruitment practices. If you read the Washington Post this week, you saw there was a big article on the University Maryland. They had an athlete that was involved in drinking. Division III really helps us. They come up with policies and answers to these situations. These are the rules for recruitment. Everybody has to sign off and these are the rules. No money can be spent on alcohol. The coaches were the ones who were not for implementing this. They felt if they didn't take them out and get them drunk, how would they sign them? Student-athletes are not going to be putting Miller Lite in the machines. They have more ideas that we found about how to run an ethical department. Some schools would have, in recruitment, go out and do whatever you want to do, just make sure they sign. These were the values they have.

Expectations and attitudes, all of these seven slices of an apple have to deal with substance abuse. What are the messages that the athletes are sending? What are the messages that coaches are sending? We started a program we call SAM, student-athlete mentors. Each team would get involved. This year Seton Hall couldn't come to our meeting because the year before, they created SAM. When they had the big fire, this was what they mobilized to help them in that area. The policies were things that were rewarding for us.

The minimum and maximum standards are something you have in athletics department. There's no alcohol at any team event. Other teams go on down to where there's no alcohol at all during the year, but they have to meet the minimum standards we have.

Most people in Division III do not have drug testing. If you do, what are the specific sanctions? What are the specific information items? We give individual guidelines when putting a program together. We find that some teams can be tested except for five people on the basketball team and three people on the football team. If you get caught in football or basketball, you get a warning, but if you get caught in softball, you're gone. These are the things that the student-athletes help bring to light. What is discipline? What's involved once your have drug testing or alcohol abuse?

How do you set up a referral and counseling program? Student-athletes have been very important to us. We've had teams that keep coming back because you're going to have change, your athletes change. The four things given in life are, death, taxes, poor officiating and change. They're all going to happen. The athletes change.

The kids put a lot of effort into this program. Thank you.

Don Tencher

Thank you Joe. I heard Joe talk about alcohol and substance abuse. The first time I got the brochure, I felt this was just another substance abuse program. It is so much more than that. That's the cornerstone of the program, but it just involves the kids in the policy decisions. Your Student-Athlete Advisory Committee comes back and wants to get things done.

We had a major issue this year with a student-athlete and it was the kids that set the standard. I stayed away and they made the decisions, they brought the kid in, they spoke to him and told him about the standards they set and told him that's the way it's going to be. It can get you out of at least two or three controversies a month, by having that strong Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The last person to speak today, in my opinion, is what we're all about. She's a soccer player. She spent a week here in Disneyworld because she was part of the NCAA Leadership Conference that was held. She's the vice chair of our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She volunteers coaching high school softball in our community. She, again, is what we're all about.

Jessica Robitaille

Thank you. You have to forgive me if I seem a little bit nervous, but I'm in front of a lot of important people here and it's my first time speaking. I'd like to thank everybody for letting me be here. It's a great opportunity and I feel honored as a student-athlete to be able to present to you on student-athlete development.

I'd like to express my personal views in regards to student-athlete development and how Rhode Island College has affected my personal development. It's going to sound similar to what Peg Brown and what Joe were saying, but it is from a personal perspective.

As I entered into Rhode Island College athletics, I noticed some changes being brought about over the next couple of years. These changes included having a study hall, getting a student-athlete sports coordinator, new training staff and a sports information director.

We all always encourage all of our student-athletes to perform well, not only on the playing field, but academically. That comes from the athletics director down. Even in orientation, you hear it from the president, you've got to perform well academically. For those who do just that, they receive awards such as the Academic All-America Award or the Distinguished Student-Athlete Award, which I have received twice, I am proud to say.

The reason I decided to attend college was not so much to play soccer. That's a great plus, but I want to pursue a career in teaching. That's my main goal and that's why I'm in college. However, since I do play soccer for the college, that gives me the title, student-athlete. I'm not just a student. If I was just a student, then I would not have been given the many opportunities I have received. If I wasn't a student-athlete, I wouldn't be up here today speaking to all of you.

The fact is, I am a student-athlete. When it boils down, I'm a student before I am an athlete. I attend my classes before I go to practice. Now, just to give you a little idea of my personal development, here is my schedule during my freshman year. I would attend classes in the morning, tutor mathematics at my local high school, attend soccer practice in the afternoon and then go home drained of all energy I had. It was a long day. If you take out the soccer practices, that was my spring semester schedule. You can see that I wasn't really involved.

For me, academic achievement is always a top priority. There are student-athletes who attend college just to play their sport of interest, not really caring what their grades are, as long as they could play. The college doesn't have a policy regarding low grades and suspension from competition. Sure, we all have academic provision, but there is no set standard saying, no, you can't play because of your grades. The athletics department implemented study hall. This requires that all freshmen attend, transfer students need to attend until an official transcript is shown proving that he or she is of freshman status and that their GPA is above a 2.0 after a completion of three semesters or above a 2.25 after four semesters. After that, they do not have to attend study hall. For the sophomores, juniors and seniors, their GPA, if it is below a 2.25, they have to attend study hall. They are required to attend six hours per week for 13 consecutive weeks.

Many athletes saw this as a punishment. I know I did. Somewhere in between my soccer season, I decided to put in study hall. Nobody was attending and it wasn't enforced as much as it should have been. When it boils down, I did a total of two hours the entire semester, so it was not enforced like it needed to be.

The following year, I began to realize how effective it became due to a major change. Some might say that Santa Claus came to town because of this man's appearance, but in fact, he was our new student-athlete support services coordinator. We call him Boots. He's a guy who looks like Santa Claus, he really does. He got study hall rolling and now it's looked upon as a resource center. You'll see me in there now. I'm constantly in there. It's called the Morocco Center. It's got computers in there. Since the coordinator is a retired teacher, he's able to help us with our studies.

During my second year, I found myself continuously in the training room. It seemed like I had a new injury every week. I was a goalie on the soccer team and I was always injured, but nothing serious enough to keep me from playing. A few weeks into the season, we got a new head trainer. Over the past few years, he has taught me quite a bit and I thank him for that.

Since I was in the training room so much, I learned how to take care of athletics injuries. Once the soccer season was finished, I volunteered my time with the training staff. I would have to say that was the turning point of my personal development. I became involved, not so much with just the training staff, but I got to know Mr. Tencher better and I met a lot more student-athletes.

Student-athletes need to get involved more than just playing their sport. At RIC, we require each team to do some form of community service projects and get out there, get involved with the community. It gives a great chance for the teams to go outside into the community. There are also conferences that Mr. Tencher and others have selected for the student-athletes to attend. One, is the APPLE Conference. Another is the NCAA Leadership Conference. I attended both of these and they are great. They've helped me to become a better leader.

As Mr. Tencher was saying, when we came back from the conference, we wanted to start 27 different projects. He doesn't know that since the NCAA Leadership Conference a couple of weeks ago, he's going to have a couple more projects to worry about.

We have another way to get student-athletes involved and that is the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. I can't stress enough how important it is to have. It is a great way to establish communication between the student-athletes and the administration of the athletics department. As he said, we've had issues that come up and we are capable of making decisions that will establish some form of a policy. It works out great. Issues come up whether they're big or small, and the student-athlete who isn't on the committee can approach their team representative. They, in turn, can discuss it with the athletics director or bring it up at the next meeting with all of the team representatives and the athletics director.

I've had athletes approach me with issues even though I'm not their team representative, but they know I'm on the committee, so they figure it's good enough. Depending upon what the issue is, most of the time I would simply tell them to go to Mr. Tencher about it. All of a sudden, we have this gymnast with an issue and when I told her to talk to Mr. Tencher, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. She didn't want to talk to him. It's funny, Mr. Tencher, as you can see, is a big man, has a tendency to talk loudly and he seems rather intimidating to a lot of our student-athletes. Since we have the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, it gives them another way to bring up their issues so they feel more comfortable talking to their team representative.

Above everything, academics is the major key. We have faculty staff members who volunteer their time to provide the student-athletes with academic counseling and course registration. Again, we have pre-registration at Rhode Island College. This way, we can get our classes that we need for our major so they can be completed before practice starts. This is where we put academics over athletics.

The tie between academics and athletics is closer than some may think. Without athletics, students may not even think about coming to college. It's a big factor, which drives them in. If they think they are just going to college to play their sport, right away, I'm going to tell them to establish themselves and get them in the right direction and get you through college.

With the student-athlete development, one can attend class and play a sport as I did my freshman year. If you make them part of your team, you'll see a lot of changes come about and your department will develop even better. Thank you.

Don Tencher

Thank you Jessica. I think a key, Jess, is the first year we had our academic support program, we didn't have a full-time person. Some of the people we had in there were not Santa Claus-like. We were able to pick a guy whom I knew our president would have to be sold on. Boots came in the first day in khakis and his trademark is that he wears a different set of suspenders for each day of the week. Our president is a shirt and tie guy. Boots also has a big beard. Unlike the student-athletes who I guess are scared of me, they warmed up to Boots. Our Academic Center is now handling more than 100 kids a day. It's become a tremendous resource. They key is positive people and Boots is one of those people.

When we started out, we didn't have a penny. We went out and raised all of the money. We still run an athletics auction each year and all of that money goes to academic support.

Thank you and the next session will begin in a few minutes.