Brawn and brains: Student-athletes rank as some of most successful in nation

Charlotte O’Donnell, Staff Writer

The saying, “all brawn, no brains” does not apply to the University’s student-athletes. The University is an academically challenging school, and thus athletes’ efforts to balance demanding schoolwork with at least 25 hours dedicated to a sport each week is no easy feat. It requires meticulous planning, rigorous self-control, and determination. The student-athletes here are exemplary for their success both in the classroom and on the playing field, and are regularly recognized for their efforts with awards from the University and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“I am constantly amazed by the accomplishments of our student-athletes at Bucknell,” Director of Athletics & Recreation John Hardt said. 

Amazement seems to be an accurate emotion when one considers the numerous accolades Bison athletes have earned.

The University ranks third in the country for having the highest number of Public Recognition Awards given by the NCAA, topped only by Brown and Dartmouth. A Public Recognition Award is bestowed when a team has posted scores in the top 10 percent of its sport based on a scorecard, which measures eligibility, GPA, graduation, and retention. Orange and Blue teams earned 17 Public Recognition Awards this year, tying Stanford for the No. 3 spot.

Brown accrued 21 Public Recognition Awards and Dartmouth had 19. The Ivy League has the most teams recognized of any conference, with 100 teams earning an award. The Patriot League is a close second, with 94 total teams. In the Patriot League, the Bison have earned the most awards.

“Bucknell has been at the head of the class in terms of scholar-athlete honors and championships won,” Hardt said.

Other teams in the Patriot League, such as Lafayette and Holy Cross, approached the University’s record, with 16 and 14 awards, respectively. Five Bison athletic teams have consistently performed so well as to win a Public Recognition Award every year the NCAA has awarded them; only 129 teams in the country can claim this honor, and the men’s cross country, women’s tennis, women’s golf, women’s soccer, and women’s indoor track and field teams are a part of the legacy.

Bison student-athletes also thrive according to more local standards, as 288 student-athletes made the 2015 fall semester Dean’s List. Each of these students met the criterion of possessing a GPA of at least 3.5, while 34 student athletes exceeded expectations and earned a perfect 4.0 GPA. All University teams were academically successful last fall, with 26 out of 27 teams earning a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Women’s cross-country topped the teams with the highest average GPA of a 3.66.

Sune Swart ’17 of the women’s basketball team said that despite the challenge of balancing schoolwork and practice, she would not change anything about being a student-athlete.

“I love being a student-athlete at Bucknell. There is a great sense of community,” Swart said. She cites the support and interest of her professors throughout her season as an inspiration.

Emily Becker ’16 of the women’s lacrosse team gave a more complex answer when asked if she would change anything.

“If you asked me this question any other year I am sure I would have had a whole list of things I would like to change, but now as a senior looking back on my time as both a biology major and a lacrosse player, I don’t think there is anything I would have changed,” Becker said.

Becker will graduate this May and will represent the University’s success in graduating athletes. The University holds the No. 2 spot in the nation for student-athlete graduate rate, only outranked by Stanford.

Being a student-athlete is one of the most challenging jobs a student can have, yet Bison athletes perform with confidence, earning titles and awards along the way.

“It has certainly not been easy and there were times when I wanted to give up, but the memories I have made as a student and as an athlete I will cherish forever,” Becker said.

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