While all students at Bellevue College have certain academic standards to uphold in order to complete their certificates or maintain financial aid, BC athletes have to abide by an additional set of standards as well.
BC itself does not set the academic standards for student athletes. The Northwest Athletics Association of Community Colleges has its own rules and guidelines that member schools are obliged to follow. NWAACC’s academic standards rule is popularly known as the “12-12-36 + 2.00” rule. NWAACC athletes are required to be enrolled in at least 12 credits during the quarter they are participating in a sport and to have been enrolled in at least 12 credits during the previous quarter, regardless of sports involvement. Before competing in the same sport for a second year, the athlete must have completed 36 credits. During all this, the athlete must maintain a 2.00 GPA during any given quarter of sports participation.
Athletes who are struggling academically do receive support from the athletic department. Bill O’Connor, director of the athletic department, explained, “We use the advising department for help and they’re usually good about setting up tutors for us, for the athletes that need help.” The coaches also get involved with their athletes, said O’Connor. “Each coach also about six weeks into the quarter period will send a notice around to the teachers that their kids have about how they’re doing in their class.” Soccer Coach Tao Shen has his own set of standards for his players. “I think Tao has a pretty high standard with grades because we have mandatory study sessions everyday that we have to go to and he even hired tutors for us,” said BC soccer player Michael Koceja. “He never really said an [expected] grade point average, but you can tell it is high, because of all the effort he is going to for us.” Shen clarified on the point about tutors, saying that he and Physical Education Department Chair Ray Butler were working closely with the Academic Success Center to get tutoring help for athletes.
Kim Culliton, coach of women’s volleyball, explained more about services provided for struggling athletes. “We have a lot of tutors, we’ve got a math tutor[…] who helps us out in the math department, just free tutors that let us do stuff. We have study halls in the off season…We do a lot of grade checks throughout the year, and we encourage [the players] to go to their instructors and introduce themselves, get to know them, so they know what their grades are and be in good standing with their instructors.” Volleyball player Laura Friar said, “I really think it’s good that we hold ourselves to a higher standard, because all of us want to transfer to a four-year, so we need a high GPA to get into the next level.” Another player, Kylee Cooley said, “I think it’s great because we hold each other accountable not only on the court but off the court, in the classroom. Volleyball is not going to be here for the rest of our lives, we’re going to need to do something in the workforce, and so getting good grades in the classroom is also important.” “It’s a first priority for us,” added Friar, “good grades, because we’re student athletes.”
O’Connor has his own standards with regards to cumulative GPA. NWAACC rules hold that to receive a sports scholarship, players must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 (also required to participate in sports). However O’Connor has unofficially set the bar at 2.25. “I expect our athletes to get a 2.25, and if it’s below a 2.25, I will make the decision on whether they’ll be eligible for scholarships or not, even though the NWAACC states that they have to have a 2.00 grade average,” said O’Connor.
The athletic department also combats truancy among student athletes. “We try to get on that as soon as we possibly can,” said O’Connor, “after we know those things are happening.” If class-cutting becomes habitual, O’Connor steps in with disciplinary action. “If a person is having long term academic issues and still attendance in class is not good, I’ve taken the position that I would maybe think about suspending that player for one practice…if I find it’s really not very good I would think about maybe suspending that player for a week of practice,” he added. O’Connor personally follows through on this; he can be seen waiting outside athletes’ classrooms to see if they show up. “I’ll take it from there. If they’re not there, they better have a pretty good excuse.”