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OSAD Feature: Academics Have Stayed Strong in Challenging Times

Mar 8, 2021
In the fall 2020 semester, Sun Devil Athletics achieved a 3.29 cumulative GPA the highest in school history despite COVID-19.

by Ashley Engle, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Class of 2023

In the fall 2020 semester, Arizona State University's athletic program achieved a 3.29 cumulative GPA, the highest in school history despite COVID-19.

The fall semester looked a bit different for the majority of athletes throughout the athletic department. Many sports teams dealt with cancellations, COVID tests, and much more.

Within the 3.29 GPA average, female student-athletes had a 3.50 average cumulative GPA while male student-athletes had a 3.10. Overall, 96 student-athletes earned a 4.0 semester or cumulative GPA.
Throughout the semester, athletes and coaches were uncertain about how their seasons were going to play out. With classes moving from all online in spring 2020 to ASU Sync in the Fall, the academic coaches were a bit concerned as to how the athletes were going to continue transitioning to online classes.
Denzel Burrell, associate director of academics, praises the athletes for their hard work and dedication and how they acclimated to the changes quickly and smoothly. 
"I was a bit concerned with the changes happening and I didn't know if we would fare as well academically. We weren't able to see the students to give them our services in person on a day-to-day basis," Burrell said. "To see that we reached an all-time high in our overall GPA during a pandemic speaks volumes."
Burrell also commented that the athletes had to become more "independent" when it came to their academics and figuring out what they needed in order to be successful in the classroom.
The majority of the athletes were happy with the new temporary classroom setups giving them more time to study and turn in assignments early. Volleyball player Madi Berkholz felt she was more organized when it came to doing assignments and communicating with her professors.
"I am a nursing major, it is important for me to keep my grades up," Berkholz said. "I was able to participate more in class and communicate with my professors well via email and zoom."

Volleyball always sets goals for themselves when it comes to what they want their team GPA to be each semester.
"Every time we set this goal; we always exceed our expectations. Last semester we wanted our team GPA to be a 3.4 and we did better than tha,t" she said.
Some sports teams were fortunate enough to have a season this past semester despite the changes. The hockey team had their season, but they were "on the road the whole time and even traveled for 36 days straight.

Head coach Greg Powers had high expectations for his team when it came not only hockey but academics. He mentioned how the team had to learn how to use their time wisely more than ever before because of the hefty playing schedule they had.
"We recorded our highest cumulative semester GPA this past semester," Powers said. "The road didn't hinder us at all. The guys really buckled down and focused."
Powers also said that the team had a lot of "downtime" at the hotel and on the bus rides to games. 
With online classes going on since Spring 2020, many teams had their whole season canceled due to the pandemic. Many of which had freshmen joining the team but joining an academic learning environment that they were not used to.
Women's tennis Coach Shella Mclnerney mentioned how it was an easy transition for the team to continue their online schooling through zoom and mentioned that the freshmen were able to quickly learn the new zoom setup.
"The team definitely had more time for academics in the spring since we could not train at the facility," Mclnerney said. "It's not ideal to have classes on zoom but they did save a lot of time when it came to not walking to class this semester and just doing everything at their living space."

Each sports team either met their team's GPA goal for the semester or surpassed it. Many athlete such as wrestler Cade Belshay were proud of their team for not only pulling through a pandemic but knowing that they were students first before athletes. They were able to manage their time, schoolwork, and sporting events well.
Belshay mentioned that if it wasn't for the team sticking together, he doesn't know how they would have gotten through the semester and pandemic.
"We agreed as a team that we would buckle down and take this head-on because we know that everything has to go right in order for us to complete including our grades and being safe with COVID," Belshay said. "The team culture and how close we are as a team got us through all of this and we will continue to fight through and excel on the mat and in the classroom."
All Sun Devil teams will look to continue their scholarly ways.

Ashley Engle is a sophomore in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism who will graduate with her bachelor's and master's in the spring of 2023. Originally from Lake Placid, FL and Lake Placid High School, she is interning in Sun Devil Athletics Media Relations.