Student-athletes weave a complex dance through the collegiate landscape. Balancing classes and practice is a difficult feat for 18-to-22-year-olds. Coaches give them instruction for athletics, while various faculty members provide the counterbalance for academics.
From Dave Loos, the dean of Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball coaches, down through the staff, Austin Peay’s coaches are among the best the OVC has to offer. So, too, are the teachers – although they don’t have wins or losses to judge their performance, they are every bit as integral to the life and success of a student-athlete.
The bind between athletics and academics is a strong one. Dr. Bruce Myers, who serves as chair of the Computer Sciences department and has been Austin Peay’s Faculty Athletics Representative since 1995, has been a vital part of both athletics and academics on the Austin Peay campus since he began serving as the official scorer for men’s basketball in 1976. For Dr. Myers, athletics and academics are intertwined in the collegiate experience.
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” said Dr. Myers. “Going back to scholarship football and our long run of success in men’s basketball have been exciting to be a part of. I feel like athletics helps with academics so much, and I’ve been very proud of the athletes that have done well in school.”
Senior women’s golfer Rachel Deaton, a computer science major who has studied under Dr. Myers, enjoyed his approach in and out of the classroom.
“He’s always at the computer science building and very helpful,” Deaton said. “He’s a very understanding teacher and always helpful to any student in his classroom, whether they’re an athlete or not.”
Dr. Myers, who was named the 2013 APSU National Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award recipient, believes athletics is headed in the right direction under the supervision of new athletic director Derek van der Merwe.
“I always think athletics is an integral part of a university,” said Dr. Myers. “I really think Derek is working to make it a bigger part of the university. I want to see more people and more faculty interested.”
In his position as the FAR, Dr. Myers has been fortunate to take a hands-on approach within athletics. Dr. Grace Moodt has never been involved with athletic department directly, but has taught her share of athletes as an instructor in the nursing department. In her seventh year at Austin Peay, she respects the dual commitment student-athletes face, especially in a difficult and demanding major like nursing.
“The athletes are usually very organized because they have to be, between classes, practices and games,” said Dr. Moodt. “I know it can be difficult to divide time. In nursing, we have requirements by the state and federal governments that students have to achieve before they can sit for boards. But the athletes I have been around have been very committed and worked very hard to make sure they meet their clinical hours and class requirements. They show the same level of commitment to the program that they do to their teams.”
Dr. Moodt is a 2013 recipient of the Socrates Award, given to tenure-track faculty who have been judged to be outstanding classroom teachers. She believes athletics represents a major part of university life that helps shape the students for the future.
“Athletics gives a lot of energy to the university,” said Dr. Moodt. “I believe athletics can help round out a human being. Within the university, we should recognize and cherish that.”
Thursday night, the athletic department will be celebrating Faculty and Staff Appreciation Night at Governors Stadium, where Dr. Myers, Dr. Moodt and the rest of Austin Peay’s faculty and staff are invited to be honored guests of the athletics department.