SU expands, reorganizes academic support services for student-athletes

first_img Related Stories What we know: A synopsis of the findings of the NCAA investigation into SU In the midst of a NCAA investigation in July 2012, Syracuse University began an overhaul of its academic services for student-athletes.Over the course of the next year, the university made changes that included an increase in tutoring staff and the creation of a new position—the assistant provost for student-athlete development. Tommy Powell filled that position starting in August 2013.Powell likes to say he’s competed at the highest level in the country on the academic side.Before coming to Syracuse University, he worked at Louisiana State University as a tutor coordinator for student-athletes. In his time there, LSU won two national championships in football and made a Final Four in men’s basketball.At SU, he oversees academic services provided for student-athletes, while also organizing the tutoring services provided within his department. He reports solely to the academic side of the university.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHis arrival marked a turning point in the revamping of the way student-athlete academic services work at SU. That overhaul can be traced back to when Andria Costello Staniec became associate provost for academic programs in July 2012.When Staniec took the job, she was informed of the NCAA investigation into SU and tasked with looking at the structure for student-athlete academic support, she said in an email. The NCAA released the findings of its investigation on March 6 and the 94-page report notes instances of improper academic assistance that include a tutor and an academic services mentor revising papers for student-athletes.Staniec changed the reporting line to her office, doubled the number of staff and hired Powell. Since then, the number of tutors has grown to more than 120, and those tutors hold more than 800 appointments per week with student-athletes.“In the past three years, our tutoring population was around 30 and we had less than half the appointments we are currently running,” Powell said.In order to manage the expansion of tutoring services, Powell hired a full-time tutorial coordinator who is responsible for hiring, training and monitoring the tutors who work with student-athletes.In addition, Powell put a three-phase system in place to assist student-athletes both in their day-to-day responsibilities, and to set them up for long-term success. The first phase deals with helping student-athletes balance their academic load with their sport and making sure they’re progressing toward a degree, he said.The second phase is focused on the actual support services provided to student-athletes. Powell said there are academic mentors who help with time management, and map out objectives for student-athletes in their classes. The final phase is a “life skills” component that prepares student-athletes for life after college, Powell said.This three-part process is aimed at doing more than just keeping student athletes eligible, however. Rick Burton, the faculty athletics representative and a professor in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, said there’s a perception that schools are just trying to keep athletes academically eligible.“That’s not right and that’s not what Tommy is trying to do,” Burton said.Powell added that if the three phases are all followed and done right, “eligibility comes as a natural byproduct of these things.”However, the way SU has kept a few of its student-athletes eligible in the past has come under fire with the release of the NCAA’s report on the school.Ultimately, Powell said ensuring compliance with NCAA rules comes down to hiring people who will follow the rules.“While we have a lot of checks and balances in place, we want to hire good people who want to do good work,” he said. “It’s real black and white to me — it’s either the student’s work or it’s not, and we want to make sure our tutors understand that.”As an additional measure, there are monthly compliance meetings between Staniec, Powell, Burton, Erlease Wagner, SU’s director of compliance and senior members of the athletics administration. The meetings are held so that everyone is informed about activities in each person’s department, Staniec said.But these steps aren’t just a result of the NCAA investigation, Burton said. Rather, it’s part of the measures the school has taken in the past few years to be proactive about providing services, and providing them in the right way.“This report and this process with the NCAA has been going on for a long, long time,” Burton said. “We’re not making a bunch of knee-jerk reactions since the findings came out. This is not all suddenly being put in place today because of what happened (March 6).” Comments Published on March 16, 2015 at 12:01 am Contact Brett: [email protected] | @Brett_Samuels27center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img