Postgame: Former Syracuse athletes fight stereotypes in struggles for graduation, employment after end of playing days

first_imgThey’ve become teachers, businessmen and athletic trainers.In their college years, these men played for Syracuse football or basketball. Some of them made it to play professionally. Some didn’t.With so much time in college spent traveling, training or playing, the academic strengths and post-graduation success of student-athletes are often questioned. The “dumb jock” stereotype could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to a study released by researchers at Michigan State University in April.“They feel threatened that people think they aren’t as smart because they’re an athlete. In fact they don’t have to think that. It’s in the media all the time and it’s in the classroom,” said Deb Feltz, lead author of the study.The study surveyed more than 300 student-athletes and found that the more student-athletes identified as an athlete, the less confident they were in their academic skills. It also found players in high-profile sports were more likely to feel like they were weak students.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThere are 19 former Syracuse football players in the NFL and six former Syracuse men’s basketball players in the NBA. Many are working outside of professional athletics, relying on their degree — not their game stats.Keeping on trackSyracuse University reports graduation statistics to the NCAA, but does not track whether student-athletes continue playing post-graduation, said Kevin Wall, director of student-athlete support services. He said that information is hard to find since former student-athletes may be playing semi-professionally or abroad.The NCAA’s graduation success rate, or GSR, measures the percentage of first-time, full-time freshmen that graduate within six years of entering their original four-year institution.Nationally, the average GSR for Division-I men’s basketball and football are 74 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Syracuse’s football GSR, 79, is better than the national average, but men’s basketball, at 58, is much lower.This was the second season in a row that an SU men’s basketball player became academically ineligible.Wall said there are many student-athletes doing well academically. Of SU’s 550 current student-athletes, about half have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and about one-third are dean’s list-caliber, Wall said.“It’s easy to focus on a student who has academic difficulties and easy to focus on a specific sport, and some people lose sight of those student-athletes who are doing well,” Wall said.An entrepreneurThere is a stereotype attached to being a former college athlete, said Donte Davis, a Syracuse wide receiver from 2006-09. But some of those football skills could be ones an employer wants in an employee.“It depends on how you portray yourself,” Davis said. “They could take it as, ‘This guy played college ball. He must be dedicated. He must be a hard worker and he must be a competitive worker.’”Davis graduated in 2010 with a dual degree in sociology and communication and rhetorical studies. He graduated with a 3.1 GPA and made the dean’s list several times, he said. Now living in Chantilly, Va., he runs his own business, the Good Boy Committee clothing company, and recently started working as a paralegal.Having been a CRS major helped him promote his business to investors, he said. Clothing from the company’s women’s line was recently featured on the Oxygen program “Bad Girls Club,” he said.Davis said he owes his success to what he learned at SU. There were classmates who seemed to think student-athletes would be handed grades, but that never happened to him.“I know every class I’ve been in, if I didn’t do my work I would get a zero and I would fail,” Davis said.A continuing studentIn just a few weeks, Derrell Smith will graduate with his second degree from SU.“I was an outlier — not in the locker room — but to people who didn’t know me they would automatically see the jock,” Smith said.Smith, a linebacker for Syracuse from 2006-10, came to SU to study engineering. After struggling to balance engineering with football — he has an F on his transcript — he became a dual major in information technology and marketing.He said his senior-year schedule was his busiest. It started at 6 a.m. for football and ended at 3 a.m. with class projects. He graduated from undergraduate school with a 3.3 GPA, he said.Smith is working at a local IT startup and aspires to go into the advertising industry. He played briefly in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans.“As a child my dream was to play in the NFL. I have an NFL helmet at my house that clearly says I played in the NFL. On that level I am successful,” Smith said. “I had a dream to graduate college; I have a degree on my wall. I am successful.”A high school teacherWhen high school students meet Dave Siock, the first question they usually ask is how tall he is. The next question is whether he played basketball.Siock, who is 6 feet 10 inches tall, graduated from SU in 1993 with a degree in mathematics. He is now the student activities coordinator at Landstown High School in Virginia Beach, Va.After graduation, Siock worked out with the Philadelphia 76ers, but burnt out, he turned down an offer to play overseas in favor of starting his career. His wife, who he met in a math class at SU, had a teaching job in Virginia. The two went south, and Siock started coaching and teaching.Every year, some of his students sign to play college athletics. He advises them to stay focused on academics in college.“Basketball doesn’t last forever,” Siock said. “Eventually you’ve got to find a job in the workplace.”Getting back on trackJim Jerome didn’t make it big in the NFL, but he will always have the experience of being an Orangeman.“I like to say I had a cup of coffee or two in the NFL,” Jerome said.Jerome, president of the Syracuse Football Club, graduated in 1976 with a degree in education, and participated in a preseason with the New England Patriots from 1976-77 and the New York Jets from 1977-78.Since then, he’s been a teacher, football and track coach, and worked for Niagara Mowhawk.At Syracuse, Jerome stayed for an extra semester to complete his degree. He remembers frequent travel and feeling constantly beat up. He had teammates who were only at SU because of the scholarship and could not even afford to buy a pizza.Now as president of the club, he has found jobs and apartments for former players. Last fall, when local media reported former Orange linebacker Luke Cain was begging in downtown Syracuse, he found Cain and took him out to lunch.“It just astounded me that a former Orangeman was living on the streets,” Jerome said.Cain never completed his degree and now lives in an apartment downtown, Jerome said. Many former players have sent Cain cards and new clothes.Cain is dealing with medical issues, and his caseworkers have asked that he stay out of the spotlight, Jerome said.For every SU player who makes it to the NFL or NBA, there are those like Cain who don’t make it or pursue non-athletic jobs.Jerome’s advice to current student-athletes: “You’ve got to get your education.” Comments Published on April 30, 2013 at 12:37 am Contact Dara: [email protected] | @daramcbride Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Related Stories Major issues: Trend toward CRS, CFS majors for student-athletes raises questions at Syracuselast_img

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