Commentary: Athletics, academics mix well on UA campus

By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Today marks the first of the Wildcat's multi-piece package breaking down the underside of the UA athletics department.

It's athletes and academics - sports and school.

And yes, those words do mix.

It's obvious that men's basketball is the bread of Arizona sports, and softball is the butter. Football and, apparently, soccer are the up-and-comers, while it doesn't seem like golf or swimming will ever get the credit deserved on this campus.

But it takes more than just high-priced coaches and a couple of championship banners to be a reputable sports school.

The era of underwater basket-weaving is long gone, and it's about time the UA campus is shown how.

We'll chronicle the daily routine of a Division I athlete, one forced to juggle the big three on a daily basis - class, practice, and a social life.

You'll also see the lighter side of sports on the UA campus, like how the physical education department and the Eller College of Management have figured out a way to make an everyday sport into a money-making piece of personal promotion for everyday students.

Also included is a breakdown of how UA athletes stack up in the classroom against their fellow classmates at the UA, and on top of other athletic programs around the country. The NCAA is continuously coming up with new guidelines and regulations for schools and athletes, and the UA will undoubtedly be affected in one way or another.

The package kicks off today with a breakdown of arguably the most used but least talked about tool a UA athlete has at his or her disposal - the CATS academic center, which offers tutoring, life skills assistance, computer labs and just about anything else an athlete could ever need to balance success in the classroom with stardom on the playing field.

Hundreds of athletes roam the lower level of McKale Center daily, and it's a rarity if Richard Bartsch, associate director of athletics and tutoring for CATS, or Commitment to Athletes' Total Success, doesn't know each by name.

Bartsch and his staff are the best friends an athlete can have at the UA, and the tools they offer would be of use to any student, athlete or not.

UA athletics director Jim Livengood had never been shy to say that his department is serious about the fact that the college experience centers around the classroom.

It's about time that side of UA sports is finally being put on display.

- Brett Fera is a journalism and communication senior. He can be heard "In the Zone," every Tuesday at 6 p.m. on KAMP Student Radio and can be reached at