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Jocks get free socks: Athletes receive perks unavailable to other students

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Struggling with your course work? Request a tutor.

Wishing you could park on campus for free? Buy a parking pass; you’ll be reimbursed.

It’s that easy if you play for one of Ohio State’s 36 varsity sports teams.

In addition to varying levels of scholarships to offset tuition costs, student-athletes at OSU receive numerous advantages that are not available to the general student population. These perks include access to the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund, a “C” parking pass, preferred scheduling and use of the Student-Athlete Support Services Office (SASSO).

Though all student-athletes can receive these perks, there are some differences between sports.

Only athletes in men’s and women’s basketball, football, men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis and women’s volleyball are able to receive full scholarships at OSU. All other athletes can only receive partial aid. NCAA rules dictate that Division I schools make this distinction, said Leann Parker, OSU associate director of athletic communications, in an email.

“The only difference between a head-count and a non-head-count sport is the ability to parcel out the grant-in-aid,” said Doug Archie, OSU associate athletic director for compliance.

Equivalency sports receive a certain number of scholarships that are fewer in number than the athletes in that sport. Those scholarships are divided among the athletes based on ability and determined by their coach during recruitment, Archie said.

In-state tuition with room and board for the 2010-2011 school year is $19,584 and out-of-state tuition is $33,768, according to the university website.

Despite the scholarship discrepancies, the athletes notice little difference.

“I think nobody really thinks about who’s on what scholarship,” said former OSU men’s golfer Vaughn Snyder. “I think a majority of the football and basketball players wouldn’t even know what kind of scholarships the men’s golf team is on.”

Both head-count and equivalency student-athletes are eligible to seek employment outside of their scholarship obligations so long as they are compensated in the same manner that non-athletes would be, according to NCAA legislation.

Though student athletes are permitted to work, some said it can be hard to balance the work load.

“It’s actually really hard. It involves a lot of time management and scheduling,” said Letecia Wright, a senior on the track team who works part-time. “There’s a lot of us who do it but it’s just the majority don’t get a chance to because of their athletic schedule.”

Regardless of scholarship or work opportunities, one source of the perks student-athletes have access to is the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund (SAOF).

This fund is used to cover health insurance, educational needs, such as Graduate Requirement Exam (GRE) fees and extreme circumstances, among other things, said Jessica Olms, assistant director of compliance.

“I’m going to be a strong proponent for putting more dollars into those funds so that schools have more flexibility to be able to do more things for the kids,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith told The Lantern in September. “They should be able to get that money in some form or fashion.”

The current lack of flexibility might come from the size of OSU’s athletic department.

“Here at Purdue, we have 18 sports as opposed to 36 (at OSU),” Purdue compliance director Tom Mitchell said. “We can do some things and be a little more flexible with the SAOF.”

Some students would like access to a similar fund.

“Why shouldn’t regular students get at least some of those perks?” said Eric Louderback, a third-year in communication technology. “I know some of my friends are considering going to graduate school. I feel like the university should cover some of the GRE and LSAT (fees).”

The fund also provides a clothing allowance for student-athletes that is “either $500 or $750” and needs to be increased to help students moving from warmer climates buy winter clothes, Smith said.

It can also be accessed to make travel arrangements for a student-athlete who has had a death in the family or a similar extreme circumstance.

Smith offered former OSU defensive tackle Nadar Abdallah, whose family was affected by Hurricane Katrina, as an example of such a hardship.

“We were able to bring his family here and we put them up at the Holiday Inn, paid for it, gave them per-diem for breakfast, lunch and dinner until they could get themselves back up on their feet,” he said.

Though the university has often gone to the NCAA in the past to discuss the use of the fund, doing so is now less common, Olms said.

Both Purdue and OSU use the fund for parking passes. At OSU, student-athletes with the appropriate amount of credits can be reimbursed for a “C” pass for their parking needs. The cost of such a pass for Sept. 1, 2010, through Aug. 31, 2011, was $237.60. The decision to use the fund for parking passes came from student-athlete feedback, Archie said.

“I didn’t think I really needed one,” said junior tennis player Kelsey Haviland. “(But) every day after practice we have lifting … and I’ve gotten a couple tickets from being lazy and not getting a ‘C’ pass. There is really no way around it.”

Student-athletes can use the pass to park in the lots within a short walk of the Younkin Success Center. On the third floor of the center, SASSO offers free tutoring and mentoring services to all student-athletes.

Haviland said these advantages are necessary for student-athletes.

“I’m a firm believer that … most student-athletes would not be able to succeed without the support services that SASSO provides us,” she said. “I know a couple of other schools, I have friends on the tennis team and they don’t have student-athlete support services and they have to quit the team.”

Each coach can determine a set number of hours that the athletes are required to spend at the center every week, which generally decreases over time with good academic performance. Haviland was required to spend eight hours a week at the center her freshman year and fall quarter of her sophomore year but is no longer obligated to log hours, she said.

“I think it set you up to be a lot more successful if you took advantage of it,” said Snyder, who golfed at OSU from 2007 to 2009. “I know that a lot of guys would go to SASSO early on and that would get them started in the right direction and then they would be able to figure things out on their own from there.”

The mentor and counseling services SASSO offers help students balance their academic and athletic schedules, which their ability to schedule earlier than the general student body aids.

“We have to do block scheduling,” Haviland said. “So we really have to be careful about scheduling all of our classes so that we graduate on time, hopefully.”

In addition to the academic assistance the center offers, student-athletes can print for free in the second floor computer lab designated for SASSO use.

SASSO director David Graham said he thinks all students should have access to the types of services his organization provides.

“I think they are important for all students to receive,” he said. “I think … anybody who has extracurricular activities, I think if they can have someone who can help them balance those commitments that’s great, but the university just doesn’t have the resources to provide 50,000 students with that type of service.”

Free math tutoring is available to students at the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center and certain offices, such as the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, offer free tutoring services to their members.

Through SASSO, student-athletes are also able to participate in the Student-Athlete Advisory Board Leadership program. The program focuses on self-awareness, team awareness, skill building and the theory and application of leadership through monthly meetings and off-campus retreats, according to their leadership plan.

In addition to having a program equivalent to SASSO, Purdue has the John Wooden Leadership Institute.

“Essentially, it’s kind of a pyramid thing where you have different speakers come in and speak on each of the blocks of the pyramid,” Mitchell said. “In addition to that, there are community service projects.”

Though such advantages may not be as accessible to general students, some athletes said they feel they have earned them.

“You’ve got to understand that all the extra time that we are putting in, that we have to dedicate to the university,” Snyder said. “I think the general population has a bunch of opportunities anyway.”

Whether the opportunities are available to the general population or not, students are ambivalent about the system.

“To a certain extent, they deserve the perks,” said Paul Apisa, a fourth-year in math. “They bring in money and revenue for the school. The university attracts them with these perks.”

Louderback questions the systems fairness.

“Why shouldn’t (all students) be eligible for those same benefits?” he said. “Just because we aren’t student-athletes?” 

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