Smarty ‘Cats succeed in class and competition

Illustration by Adriana Macias Photo credit: Adriana Macias

If Chico State student-athletes ever had time to create their own version of iconic rapper Wiz Khalifa’s “Work Hard Play Hard,” they might want to name their rendition “Play Hard, Study Harder.” A record 64 Wildcats garnered Academic All-California Collegiate Athletic Association recognition during the 2014-2015 school year.

This marks the seventh straight year in which Chico State upped its number of student-athletes posting a 3.40 GPA in at least 24 units for two full semesters. Nine teams had at least three of its members earn recognition for their outstanding work in the classroom. Women’s soccer could have filled the entire field with Academic All-CCAA recipients with head coach Kim Sutton’s 14 standouts, the most out of any Chico State team. Women’s track and field had 13 award-winners, followed by the men’s team with eight recipients.

Only a single ‘Cat has been a recipient of the Academic All-CCAA all four years in a row. Wildcat volleyball fans will remember the now graduated and much-decorated middle hitter Lindsay Quigley for her wonderful career on the hardwood, but she hit the books just as hard. Eight other ‘Cats took in their third consecutive scholar-athlete award.

“Women’s volleyball is a pretty high academic sport. How we recruit is by bringing in good students who tend to take care of business on their own,” said Cody Hein, women’s volleyball head coach. “We do have study hall and tutors for them, but they are diligent in getting their work done.”

Hein’s squad also could have put out a full team of scholars. Six members of the women’s volleyball team were Academic All-CCAA last year.

Athletic Director Anita Barker has watched Chico State’s student-athletes steadily improve academically over the better part of the past decade. The 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years saw 38 Wildcat student-athletes garner Academic All-CCAA awards. Since then, Chico State has steadily increased that tally.

“There are many factors that have played into this increased success. First being our coaching staff’s commitment to academic success of our student-athletes,” Barker said. “Additionally, we’ve partnered with Academic Advising to help student-athletes stay on their path to graduation. Finally, the commitment of the student-athletes themselves to their academic achievement.”

It is a communal effort in fostering a culture where student-athletes perform well in both competition and class, Barker said.

“Our coaching staff understands that academic success is important. Their commitment to academics begins with the recruiting process, bringing students to Chico State that understand this responsibility and have a chance to be successful,” she said. “Also, we partner with other departments on campus to identify resources for student-athletes when they are struggling.”

So while outsiders may jump to conclusions regarding the student-athletes at Chico State, the fact remains that they are students first and have the grades to prove it.

“Chico State Athletics has always been committed to the academic success of our student-athletes,” Barker said. “The recognition we are receiving now really just provides evidence to everyone else that the academic success of our student-athletes is a real priority.”

Now all they have to do is rap about it.

Nick Reddy can be reached at [email protected] or @NickIsReddy on Twitter.