December grads show commitment to degree
'Tis the season -- to be graduating.
Such was the case for 28 University of Texas student-athletes in December.
Dr. Randa Ryan, the senior associate athletics director for student services, who is responsible for all student-athletes other than football, had 13 of her men and women picking up their sheepskin last month.
"As a group, this shows a strong commitment to getting their diploma, to finishing their coursework in some cases even when they already have completed their eligibility," Ryan began. "Brendan Hansen, a swimmer who won medals in the World Championships and Olympics, came back to finish his work on his kinesiology degree. This is just a super thing.
"Each of them reflect a desire to complete their experience at Texas. Each of them made a commitment to playing athletics on the highest level and to get their education. This is an example that you can do both with the dedication each of these men and women has shown."
Ryan also mentioned Danielle Kowalski of the rowing team, a radio, television and film (RTF) and public relations major, who was an intern for the Late Show with David Letterman.
"She came back to finish," Ryan said. "And we're very proud of her."
Brian Davis, an assistant athletics director for academic affairs who handles football, notes that this is the biggest group (15) ever to graduate in December since he came to UT from the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1998.
Davis, who has spent the last 17 years as an academic counselor for Mack Brown's teams, credits this rise to a change in the climate created by Brown with regard to finishing degree work before leaving for the National Football League.
"Today, I think we have a sense of urgency (among the players) when it comes to getting your diploma," Davis explained. "Why not do it on the front end? Why not go ahead and get your degree while you are here?"
That's evidenced by Will Allen, Michael Huff and Jonathan Scott, all of whom likely will be high draft choices in next spring's NFL Draft, and all of whom leave UT with their diplomas.
Tight end David Thomas is a real success story, earning his degree in kinesiology in just three and one-half years.
This culture change is part "Brian Davis 101."
"I talk about that to the people coming in," Davis said of finishing their course work before leaving. "And the players who have done this in this senior class have provided an excellent example to those already here. We just feel as though there is no reason to put it off when you are here."
Davis praises those who have left and returned to finish their class work. He notes that he is all about getting the diploma, even if that comes after time in the NFL and other activities. He appreciates those who have done it that way because it does show a resolve and does exemplify those players' beliefs that their degree is important to them.
"It's just that it seems good to get it done while it is fresh, while studying is still part of your routine, your habits," Davis stated.
No doubt that Brown having players in summer school has been a part of the push, as well as the opportunity, for players to finish their degrees while still having eligibility.
"Summer school also puts players in a position to have a manageable course load for their final season of eligibility," said Davis.
Thus, this likely won't be the last December with these kinds of numbers of student-athletes graduating.The Graduates
Will Allen (football), government/economics
Monica Askew (softball), kinesiology
Brian Carter (football), accounting
Matthew Caterisano (track), government
Alex Gagarin (soccer), Plan II Honors/history
Mike Garcia (football), youth and community studies
Brendan Hansen (swimming), kinesiology
Liz Hoffman (swimming), finance
Bethany Howden (volleyball), corporate communications
Michael Huff (football), kinesiology
Anthony Johnson (football), youth and community studies (medical scholarship)
Braden Johnson (football), kinesiology
Danielle Kowalski (rowing), radio, TV and film/public relations
Laura Kram (soccer), applied learning development (ALD) – early childhood – grade 4
Monica Maxwell (diving), social work
Karim Meijer (football), honors business/pre-med
Matt Nordgren (football), kinesiology (in master's program, having graduated with a degree in government in December 2004)
Kyle Phillips (football), youth and community studies (non-scholarship student-athlete)
Brad Poronsky (football), sports management (non-scholarship student-athlete)
Mariana Salazar (golf), kinesiology and health
Heather Schreiber (basketball/volleyball), kinesiology
Alisa Schuknecht (swimming), nutrition
Jonathan Scott (football), radio, TV and film
Cody Stavig (football), management information systems/anthropology (non-scholarship student-athlete)
David Thomas (football), kinesiology
Wynter Turner (softball), psychology
Will Winston (football), youth and community studies
Terrance Young (football), government (medical scholarship)