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Volume 24 No. 219
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Orange Crush: Syracuse Officials Discuss Difficulties Balancing Academics, Athletics

Officials from Syracuse Univ. held a discussion on “Balancing Academics and Athletics” on Day One of the ’17 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, addressing the often negative perceptions about D-1 athletic programs. Syracuse Vice Chancellor & Provost Michele Wheatly said athletics is very much a part of the Syracuse brand. Wheatly: “We have to embrace that and work together to reemphasize that we give athletes a road to a bright career. We have to partner with an athlete the same as we would with other students. Athletics is all about a pathway. You have to recognize what it brings to the school.” Wheatly, who spent an earlier part of her academic career at Florida, credited that experience with opening her eyes to what a major sports program could bring to an institution. Syracuse AD John Wildhack tells parents of prospective student-athletes that he wants their children to look back at the school as a place that helped them achieve their fullest potential in both academics and athletics. Wildhack: “That story needs to be told better.” He added that it has been refreshing working with young people since leaving ESPN, where he worked for more than 30 years before rejoining his alma mater in July ‘16. Wheatly said that Wildhack’s successful career in the media landscape can inspire not just student-athletes but the entire student body.

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: Syracuse hurdler Tia Thevenin talked about sacrifices required when it comes to time management as a D-1 athlete. Thevenin: “You have to determine what you’re going to do and when you’re doing to do it. You have to be willing to say, 'Maybe I’ll skip out on this for a career fair or a networking opportunity.' … Make sacrifices for yourself to better set yourself up for your future.” She also credited the university for helping coordinate schedules best suited for the student-athlete, not the sports program itself. Syracuse Assistant Provost/Academic Support Tommy Powell noted his office is “open six days a week, past 10 at night” and is located directly across from Wildhack. Powell: “I could throw a football across the hall to John’s office.” Powell said of his approach to the student-athlete role dilemma, “You have to have a gameplan. Coaches spend so much time getting ready for each and every game, my staff and I have to do the same for each class/assignment. … We go through conflicts of schedules with all of our coaches at the start of each season, and it creates a better experience for everyone.” Powell was also bullish on the subject of athletes forming connections with faculty members, not just coaches throughout their Syracuse careers.