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Gridder's Only Option Was to Pass or Suffer a Lifetime Loss

July 09, 1987|MARTY ESQUIVEL | Times Staff Writer

In terms of options, the UCLA football player had to resort to the pass.

Pass class, that is.

He had reached the final low: academic probation.

After two years at UCLA, his grade-point average dipped below good standing, a 2.0 on a scale of 4.0. He was notified that he had one quarter to improve or be dismissed from the university.

But with the help of UCLA's academic advisement and support system for athletes, he was able to turn things around.

"The thing that's nice about this case is that not only did he turn it around, he also showed an enthusiasm for learning," said UCLA academic adviser Joan Forgy.

He took advantage of the UCLA athletic department's support services for athletes. He went to tutorials and group study sessions and met frequently with his academic adviser.

He was tutored in all classes, where his progress and attendance was monitored weekly. He received written assesments of his work from tutors. If he was going to fail, it wasn't going to be UCLA's fault.

"I've never had an athlete fail who took advantage of the systems that were provided," says UCLA's Fred Stroock, assistant athletic director for academics. "The student has to go to class, has to do the work, but if he takes advantage of all the extras, that makes it easier for him to succeed."

Forgy said, however, that some student athletes don't take advantage of the system until it's almost too late. Some need to be shocked into the system.

"For a lot of them, it takes the moment before dismissal," Forgy said. "It has to get to a drastic point."

Some players shun the support system because they cannot deal with another demand, Forgy said.

"Any additional time commitment you put on them, they tend to be resistant," Forgy said. "A lot have the attitude that they can work on their own."

Forgy said she occasionally struggles with the thought of counseling an athlete who probably shouldn't have been admitted to UCLA. But she has come to terms with the system.

"I think it's an excellent system," Forgy said. "Even the most under-prepared student, if motivated and prepared, will succeed here. The one that uses the tutors, goes to study hall, does his homework and checks in with the counselors will succeed. The ones that don't take advantage of that run the risk of being dismissed."

UCLA's support system for athletes is nationally regarded. The Bruins have claimed more NCAA national championships this decade than any other university and also have more NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, grants awarded to athletes who have excelled academically. Stroock said UCLA has had 16 in the last 10 years.

Each director of academic advisement receives a tremendous amount of job satisfaction, according to Stroock.

"As I tell the recruits, nothing would make me happier than for them to win a national championship," Stroock said. "But what makes me happier is to see them walk down the aisle with a diploma in their hand."

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