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Washington Football Makes History In the Classroom

Jan 15, 2015

By Mason Kelley

There is a wall in Washington’s football offices featuring photos of a special group of students. To be on that wall is to be a part of something special.

It has nothing to do with football.

After fall quarter there are 56 names who have earned a photo on this wall, a spot for each player who earned a 3.0 or better.

For the first time in school history the Huskies have a 3.0 GPA as a team. As far as Huskies head coach Chris Petersen is concerned, these victories in the classroom will lead to wins on Saturdays.

“We’ve always found through the years that our best students, our most squared away students, when their academic house is in order turn out to be our best players on the football field,” Petersen said.

When he was hired to take over Washington’s football program, Petersen knew he was going to place a premium on academics. The 3.0 wall was created to incentivize the Huskies to spend as much time on school as they do football.

The idea is working. Those who make the wall want to stay there, and those who fall short have something to strive for. In fact, after falling just shy of adding his name to the list, linebacker Azeem Victor took to Twitter to announce his goal for the next quarter.

“I’m determined to get that 3.0,” Victor wrote in the tweet, adding a few emojis for emphasis.

When grades were announced to the team, players cheered as if they were in the middle of a postgame celebration.

“They try to compete,” Petersen said. “They’re competitive guys. We have a 3.0 board and they want to see their pictures on it. We make sure their parents know about it. We make sure their high school coach knows about it when they’re doing those things. All those little things add up to say this is an important piece to our program. The guys are responding.”

When asked if he thought his players would buy into the idea so quickly, Petersen admitted he expected it to take time.

“I was surprised how quickly we jumped and I was surprised how the guys really responded and want to be on that,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a little bit longer. It’s a work in progress, so it was awesome. It was a really, really nice surprise that they did respond so quickly.”

The success in the classroom is a key piece to the culture Petersen is trying to build throughout his program.  

“We’re at an elite university and I think we’ve got some very good students who, at times, can underachieve and get by, unless they’re challenged,” he said. “We put a big premium on getting a 3.0, and our guys responded.”

Like any coach, Petersen is impressed with the academic success, but now he wants to see how his players improve on their achievement.

“I think they have even more in them,” he said.