When Camber Hayes joined Miami University in 2020, she made her presence known instantly: She was made a captain of the Miami soccer team in her first year and recorded two goals and 14 assists in her career. Off the field, Hayes has received various academic accolades. Last spring, she received the Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar Award, which is awarded to athletes who maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5 and are active in their campus and community.
This story shouldn’t be surprising for Miami athletics. Last semester, the university announced that the RedHawk student-athletes posted a combined GPA of 3.22, with 69.4% of student-athletes earning a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the spring. More than 40 athletes, including Hayes, earned a GPA of 4.0 or higher. This marked the 37th semester in a row that athletes maintained this level of academic success.
Miami seems to excel at supporting athletes academically, with several resources and support services in-place solely for the athletes to utilize. For sophomore linebacker Luke Myers, the support that Miami has provided has been more than adequate for his academic success.
“I would say that the resources are definitely there,” Myers said. “I know who I would need to reach out to and everything.”
Myers, a finance major, is a part of the 69.4% that has maintained a GPA above 3.0. In the fall, he dedicates around 30 hours each week to football, including practices, watching film and traveling. This left him with the difficult task of managing his time to ensure that he stays on top of his homework. To do this, he tracks his assignments each week and marks due dates in advance.
“Planning out my week is really important,” Myers said. “If you have practice or something in the morning, you can’t be staying up till 3 or 4 in the morning doing homework and getting three hours of sleep, or you’re not going to perform the way you want. Planning and organizing is really key.”
In addition to managing his time, Myers uses the resources provided by the Student-Athlete Academic Support Services. Each athletic team is assigned an academic coordinator that helps the players register for courses and find tutors among other things. The football team’s academic coordinators are Tanner Below and Ryan Swallow, the latter of whom is the Director of Student-Athlete Academic Support Services.
Swallow worked as an academic adviser in the College of Arts and Sciences from 2011 until 2019, when he began working in student-athlete academic support services. Since 2019, he has helped athletes develop effective time management and studying skills, assisted them through registration and collaborated with teams and coaching staff in regards to players’ academic wellbeing.
Swallow and Below work closely with the football team, which have benefited heavily from their assistance. Myers realizes that both have a clear interest in the athletes’ well being.
“They make sure that you’re in the right courses and help with scheduling,” Myers said. “We always go to them first. If you’re having trouble in a class, you can go to them and they’ll show you the resources that you have and show you where to get tutors. They’re both very easy and accessible to reach out to. You can tell that they care about us.”
Swallow’s department tracks their athletes’ progression and ensures that they’re on track to finish their degree. To accomplish this, the academic coordinators work closely with the athletes and their academic advisers.
“We work with [their advisers] very closely,” Swallow said. “We track along with their plans and studies. We’re always looking at their audit and making sure their classes make sense because they have to meet progress towards degree requirements that the general student doesn’t have to.”
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When many students get to college, they are caught off guard by the changing nature of academics compared to high school. The workload becomes heavier and the time required for homework is extended. Swallow acknowledges that for many athletes, this shift can make or break their grades and eligibility
To combat this, Miami provides incoming first year football and men’s and women’s basketball players the opportunity to participate in the Redhawks Summer Bridge program. This program prepares student-athletes for the academic rigors at Miami by teaching them study skills, informing them of the resources available on campus and showing them how to use Miami services, such as Canvas.
Once their athletes are acclimated to Miami, they can begin to take advantage of the resources that Swallow and his department highlight during the Summer Bridges Program and recruitment. These services range from free tutoring to individualized assistance through the Individualized Learning Specialist (ILS) program led by Emily Bruns.
Bruns began her current position as Senior Individualized Learning Specialist last spring, but has worked with Miami and ILS since 2021. According to her, the ILS program intends to help students that require additional assistance with academics.
“A lot of the challenges that our students face have to do with the academic requirements here at Miami being very different from the academics that they’re used to in K-12 education,” Bruns said. “For a lot of our students, their backgrounds and education aren’t necessarily the same as what others are that come to Miami on non-athletic scholarships.”
ILS is designed for students who require additional academic support in balancing their academics and athletics than provided by other Miami programs. Bruns and the other specialists work to identify athletes who are struggling more than usual and point them in the right direction. They do this by reviewing athletes’ scores in high school and working with the academic coordinators, who have already worked with the athletes during recruitment and orientation.
Through her work with ILS, Bruns helps athletes reach the level of success they desire. In a program with excellent average academic performance, the students that are struggling may get overshadowed, which ILS attempts to correct.
“There are some students at 4.0 and some at 1.0 or below,” Bruns said. “I think that’s why the program that I oversee is very important: we want all of our students to be successful. Sometimes success can be a 3.0, a 3.5, or a 4.5. Sometimes, success is remaining eligible to be on the team.”
Miami athletics, on average, thrive in academic performance year after year. This is accomplished through abundant resources provided by the academic-support and programs like ILS, as well as the hard work of the athletes and those who want to see them succeed. The most important skills that athletes need to succeed in their sport and academically include time management and utilization of the resources available to them through the Student-Athletes Academic Support Services and ILS.
While there is room for improvement in many areas, such as offering the Summer Bridges Program to more sports, the RedHawks have continuously shown academic excellence, and Miami is always adapting to new conflicts.