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Hillsdale College’s stringent standards for athletes worthy of praise


An editorial that ran in the Hillsdale Daily News

Hillsdale College is competitive in a majority of GLIAC sports, and they continue to do that without lowering their academic standards.

In big-time college athletics the likes of Notre Dame, and Stanford among others, have always stood for excellence on and off the playing field, and the Charger program is building a reputation that mirrors that, albeit at a much smaller level.

The incoming class in fall 2008 had an average high school GPA of 3.73 and a composite ACT score of 28. There are only a little over 1,200 students on a liberal arts campus that is known for intense classwork and a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1.

Yet still, with academics as the top priority, which fits right in line with the NCAA Division II mission statement, they continue to have no trouble keeping up in sports with much bigger institutions, which have much different academic mindsets and track records.

There is a great measuring stick in Hillsdale’s conference, Grand Valley State, who has won five straight U.S. Sports Academy Directors’ Cups in Division II, the award presented annually by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), United States Sports Academy and USA Today to the best overall collegiate athletics programs in the country.

They have just under 24,000 students enrolled as of January 2009, and the middle 50 percent of incoming freshmen from 2008 had ACT scores between 21 and 26 and GPAs ranging from 3.3-3.8. Not bad at all, but certainly not on par with Hillsdale.

Hillsdale’s head basketball coach John Tharp said recently that a 25 on the ACT is basically required for a kid to get one foot in the door for a visit, as long as it’s accompanied by something close to that 3.73 GPA average of the 2008 class.

Tharp went as far as to say that if those requirements aren’t met that it is the athletic department’s duty, as part of their relationship with the admissions department, to essentially turn away those possible recruits.

So not only are Charger teams dealing with a select group of prospective students who agree with the college’s philosophy and understand the commitment it takes to be a successful student, they are stringently weeding out possible blue-chips, instead of making concessions for them like many, if not most schools.

And in spite of that the Charger women’s basketball team won a GLIAC crown in 2009, the men’s hoops team beat Grand Valley at home this season, and Chris Gravel’s volleyball team is one of the most well-recognized annually on a national level.

Plus Bill Lundberg’s men and women are constantly adding podium finishes and All-American honors to the rich history of track and field and cross country.

They continue to rise to the occasion without the aid of hardly any D-I transfers compared to other GLIAC schools, and all while turning away 36 percent of the students and student-athletes that apply (as of 2007).

Some community members scoff at the idea of the college being so selective because it keeps some star local athletes from pursuing a playing career as a Charger, but here at the Daily News we applaud the college for having standards and sticking to them.

No matter if a high-schooler is a drama club fanatic, choir boy or all-state linebacker the same standards apply. The college is highly committed to winning and turning out successful student-athletes, but they are even more committed to one philosophy and one mission.

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About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.

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