Athletes excel in the classroom

When Brittany Carnago was a freshman on the Oakland University women’s basketball team, she found a role model in former teammate Jessica Pike.

Carnago watched Pike stay after practice to work on her game. She’d watch her shoot extra and always give 110 percent. But Carnago also saw something else.

Pike was a student first and an athlete second.

“I played with Jessica Pike my freshman and sophomore year; she was a phenomenal basketball player and she did amazing in the classroom,” Carnago said. “Pike is definitely a huge role model on and off the court. Her academic success and her athletic ability — she has the best work ethic in both areas. I’d always see her on our road trips studying.”

Carnago followed in Pike’s footsteps on and off the court and joins a number of student athletes at OU who have excelled not only on the court, but in the classroom as well.

“That’s what they’re (at OU) for,” Eric Stephan, women’s basketball associate head coach said. “They’re student-athletes first, athletes second.”

A number of athletic teams and athletes from OU have earned special recognition as scholar athletes.

The women’s basketball team  were recognized as sixteenth in the top 25 in Division I grade point average.

Also, the women’s swim and dive team, among others, as a College Swimming Coaches Association of America All-America team, respectively.

“They’ve done that ever since the college swim coaches association has been recognizing this particular thing,” Pete Hovland, women’s swim and dive head coach said. “I’ve been here 32 years and I don’t know of a semester the swim team hasn’t been academic All-American. It says a lot about it them. It says they’re very focused, they’re very dedicated, they’re very, very serious about their studies and they do a very good job managing it.”

Carnago, who earned the Division I-AAA Athletic Director’s Association Scholarship in April,  and posted a 3.9 GPA after her first semester in her Master’s program attributes the academic success to tradition.

“I think that comes from our coaches and just tradition,” she said. “The people around me, the people Coach Beckie (Francis) recruits and I think just the way we’ve been trained, being super disciplined and great work ethic, that goes for everyone of our teammates they all go above and beyond.”

Along with tradition, Stephan believes the dedication of the Oakland Athletic Department plays a huge part in the athlete’s success.

“We have all sorts of different things,” Stephan said. “First it starts here with the department with Holly Kerstner is in charge of Student Services, she does a lot with freshman, a lot of mentoring, a lot of meeting with them, Evan who’s our academic advisor does a great job and then they have to meet with the coaches once a week, so we know what they’re doing.”

According Oakland’s Year In Review for 2011, OU Athletics led the Academic All-Summitt League with 215 selections for the sixth consecutive year.

“This is one of the reasons I’ve been at Oakland for as long as I have,” Hovland said. “We seem to do things, we have the right perspective, we have a very balanced approach when it comes to academics in athletics; I think it’s a good balance.

“When people say academics is important at Oakland I believe it, I’ve seen it for all the years I’ve been here,” Hovland continued. “We feel it is something important, our alums go on to do really fantastic things and go on to be great representatives of this university and the education and athletic experience they get really prepares them to be outstanding individuals in their communities.”

Carnago continues to work hard in the classroom, boasting a 3.4 GPA as she continues working towards her master’s degree in counseling.

“She’s a great example just as a role model for other players,” Stephan said. “They say ‘here’s a team captain, here’s one of our top players and she’s studying, she’s working hard in the classroom,’ it just rubs off on them,”

The athletic department also has many student athlete services dedicated to academic success.