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Tigers rank low among GPAC scholar-athletes

Despite a low ranking among Great Plains Athletic Conference schools for scholar-athletes, Dakota Wesleyan University has made strides in the past several years to increase the grade point averages of its student-athletes.

DWU has ranked in the lower half in scholar-athletes in nine of the past 10 seasons. The Tigers ranked sixth out of 13 in the 2005-2006 school year, which was their best finish during the 10-year span.

To earn scholar-athlete honors, an athlete must be a junior or senior with a minimum grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

DWU had the second lowest number of eligible athletes for the scholar award last year, and the Tigers had 18 scholar-athletes, which was the lowest amount in the conference. But when calculating the total number of scholar-athletes with the amount eligible for the award, DWU's percentage ranked 10 out of 11. Briar Cliff University ranked the lowest."Our GPA has gone up dramatically in the last five years," DWU Athletic Director Curt Hart said. "We still may be lower than the other GPAC schools, but I really look at each team here and they are rising."

In the last five years, GPAs from all athletic teams at DWU have increased to a 3.0 or above, according to Hart.

"Our coaches are really conscious that we're really trying to improve grades," Hart said. "We do study tables and monitor grades on a weekly basis. If they need attention, we put together more rigorous study tables and that's one of the reasons we've improved our GPAs."

Hart didn't provide specific GPAs for each team but said teams generally improved from a 2.5 to above a 3.0.

Along with the study tables and tutoring, DWU President Amy Novak said the school instituted a new scholarship model two years ago, which has increased team GPAs in the last several years.

"When we developed that model, it pushed coaches to recruit students who had stronger academic profiles, and as a result, we hope they'll be able to achieve top academics in college like they did in high school," Novak said. "Secondly, many of our faculty take time out on Sunday evenings to meet individually with student athletes, along with other students on our campus."

Novak expects the increase in GPA is because of the types of students the school is recruiting. She said the football team's GPA has increased over three-tenths of a point from two years ago to last year.

"When coaches were able to distribute scholarship dollars to any athlete, not necessarily aligning them with academic performance in high school, you often didn't recruit the strongest academic student," Novak said. "What we've learned is (students) also need to have a strong academic background, so they can balance both responsibilities and still be successful."

Novak, who became DWU's president in April, said the effect of the model should be seen in the upcoming years.

"We're going to see the impact of that model in overall GPAs and retention," she said. "But that still doesn't take away the fact that we will probably never be at the same numbers as (GPAC) schools that have team sizes that are simply substantively larger than ours."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.