UB student-athletes scored their fourth- and third-highest GPAs in program history during the 2021 fall semester and 2022 spring semester, respectively.
But not all teams contributed equally to that success in the classroom.
The men’s basketball team earned a 2.019 in the fall 2021 semester, the lowest GPA the team has scored since at least 2013 by almost 0.46 points, according to data obtained by The Spectrum through a Freedom of Information Law request. They rebounded to a 2.731 in the spring, the biggest improvement made by any team between the fall and spring semesters, according to UB Athletics.
The women’s basketball team scored a 2.881 and 2.67 in the fall and spring semesters respectively, while the football team acquired a 2.811 and 2.927. Overall, UB student-athletes had an average GPA of 3.179 in the fall 2021 semester and a 3.252 in the spring 2022 semester.
As per NCAA regulation, UB requires that individual student-athletes maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 to remain eligible as players, according to UB Athletics. It remains unclear whether any UB student-athletes lost eligibility last year.
All three teams have undergone extensive roster and coaching changes since the 2021-22 school year. Only two of last year’s 15 women’s basketball players and five of 15 men’s basketball players returned this year. Becky Burke took over as the head coach of women’s basketball in April after previous head coach Felisha Legette-Jack left for the same position at Syracuse. Maurice Linguist was named UB’s head football coach in May 2021.
The football and basketball teams’ GPAs are largely down compared to the previous two academic years. But with the exception of women’s basketball, they’re more or less in-line with long-term averages. Since the 2013 fall semester, the men’s basketball team has averaged a team GPA of 2.59, the women’s basketball team a 3.13 and the football team a 2.81.
“We are proud of the successes our student-athletes achieve in the classroom,” Aaron Stang, associate athletic director for academic affairs, said in a statement to The Spectrum. “Over the past five semesters, they have posted the five highest grade point averages in our department’s history. Our dedicated staff of academic advisors and coaches continue to find innovative ways to support the individualized academic needs of our student-athletes to help them balance their academic and athletic demands.”
Student-athletes face unique academic challenges that might inhibit their performance in the classroom, Robert Romano, an assistant professor of sport management at St. John’s University, told The Spectrum. In addition to the pressures of performing on the field or court, D-I student-athletes are in many cases devoting 40 hours per week, if not more, to athletics.
“It’s basically like having a full-time job on top of going to school,” Romano said. “You’re putting in time for practice, you’re putting in time for film, you’re doing mandatory lifts, mandatory travel time… So you’ve got all these other commitments and time-sucks that take away from the academic side.”
Out-of-state travel during the school week can be especially detrimental to athletes’ academic performance, forcing student-athletes to miss entire days of classes, labs and exams, Romano says. For example, if a team is scheduled for a Thursday night game, student-athletes might leave the day before and not return until the day after.
“The NCAA always puts out there that they’re students first, they’re student athletes,” Romano said. “Well, then don’t [make them] play football games on Thursday nights. It’s a simple solution… But when you’re traveling on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, going to a Thursday night game, are you really putting the student first? Or are you putting the revenue first?”
UB Athletics touted academic achievements — like the third- and fourth-highest GPAs in program history, the dozens of athletes who earned 4.0 GPAs and strong academic performances from the women’s tennis and men’s cross country teams — in a pair of press releases last school year. But aside from a line in their June press release stating that the men’s basketball team “had the most improved semester from the fall,” neither statement referenced either basketball team or the football team.
Grant Ashley is the managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for NPR, WBFO, WIVB and The Buffalo News. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @Grantrashley.