Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GRADE-A EXPECTATIONS Strict Rules for Classwork for UNF Team

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GRADE-A EXPECTATIONS Strict Rules for Classwork for UNF Team

Article excerpt

North Florida volleyball coach Mike Welch is fed up with

colleges coddling athletes. They should be responsible for

their own future, he says, without being babied by an athletic

department more concerned with stats than grade point averages.

"The big-time programs, they spoon-feed the student-athletes

too much," Welch said. "If we don't give the kids the

opportunity to make choices and live and die by those choices,

they haven't learned anything."

Welch admits it's easy for him to feel that way with two former

high school valedictorians and a former salutatorian on his

roster. But Welch stresses academics as a big part of his

program.

"We're active in recruiting real strong students," he said.

Junior Jennifer McPherson and freshman Alysia Kern, from

Bellevue (Neb.) East High School, were valedictorians, and

junior Becky De Jong, who attended Henley High School in Klamath

Falls, Ore., was salutatorian.

Those three are the epitome of the players Welch wants to build

his program around. Good athletes -- De Jong set the school

record for kills in a match and season last year -- and good

students.

"It [balancing academics and athletics] is easy for someone who

wants to do it," De Jong said. "I've had to learn how to budget

my time to do the things that I need to do."

Welch uses strict team rules to ensure good classwork. Players

must have at least a 3.0 grade point average or they're stuck

with equipment duty -- picking up balls, carrying bags and

attending a mandatory study hall.

Welch implemented that rule during his tenure at Morehead (Ky.)

State, and the Dragons' team GPA was the highest in the country

the following semester.

Last season's UNF team GPA was 3.16, and 10 of UNF's 12 players

had above a 3. …

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