Oliver: College Athletics Exist Because of Academics

The following "Letter to the Editor" by Rob Oliver, Augustana president, appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 26, edition of the Argus Leader:

Letter: College Athletics Exist Because of Academics

I wish to commend the Argus Leader for its generous coverage recently of Augustana athletics and for memorializing our dear friend and longtime colleague, Larry Borgum. As columnist Matt Zimmer properly noted, “Borgie” loved Augustana athletics, and he thoroughly enjoyed working with Augustana students and their families. We will miss him, indeed.

As comprehensive and well-written as these pieces were, I do feel it’s important to point out the overall purpose of collegiate athletics. As the NCAA has aptly put it: “Athletics can be an important part of a collegiate experience, but academics is the reason for the experience.”

In this world where success in sports seems to garner significant attention, it’s important to remember that college-sponsored athletic programs should spotlight the success of student-athletes, not just athletes. Take Augustana football receiver Ben Parsley, a biochemistry major, who also excels in laboratory research, or nursing major Maren Werth, a Viking soccer player, who also plays in the Augustana Orchestra. These are just two examples — there are many more at Augustana.

An important factor in Augustana’s decision to remain NCAA Division II was our desire to balance our institutional commitment to excellence in both athletics and academics.

This balance is evident when examining two parameters measured by the NCAA on the national level in Division II: the Learfield Cup and the Academic Success Rates. Competing with more than 300 Division II collegiate athletic programs around the nation, Augustana College finished in third and fourth place, respectively, in the Learfield All-Sports cup standings in the past two years. This is evidence of success across many of our 18 intercollegiate sports. Even more important, among the top-10 D-II athletic programs, as measured by the Learfield standings, Augustana ranks first in the Academic Success Rate of student athletes.

We also have received the President’s Award for being one of only 24 NCAA Division II programs nationally with an ASR over 90 percent, meaning that more than 90 percent of our student athletes successfully earned their college degree.

This represents superior results in competition on the field and court and in the classroom, and is evidence of a significant commitment on the part of students, coaches and faculty members to create balanced success for young men and women who participate in collegiate athletics.

We believe that success in the classroom, and in competition, is what college sports should be about.

Rob C. Oliver, president
Augustana College
Sioux Falls