By Nathan Loe
The Ole Miss Rebels have had a remarkable season so far, and it’s all Oxford is talking about. Recent game wins have the whole town thinking with a one-track mind about football. But for some, academics remain a top priority.
Struggling academically in the past has appeared to go hand in hand with successful football. Top 10 teams have had notoriously low GPAs, while the Ivy League continues to be athletically obsolete.
The academic staff in the athletic department want to use this season as a proving grounds for the football team by challenging them to have the best GPA in the SEC.
The team is split up among four certified academic advisers, with roughly 30 athletes per adviser.
Justin Light, a staff member at the FedEx Student-Athlete Academic Support Center is one of these four. Light has a lot on his plate this semester.
“Keeping all of them on track to graduate is priority number one,” he said. “Weekly meetings with both the individual players and athletes, as well as monitored study hall, are important too.”
The Ole Miss Football Team hasn’t had a record this good in over 20 years, so that puts quite a bit of pressure on the team. Sometimes it can appear to players that the town depends entirely on them for a win, and focusing on other things can be difficult. So far this season, the Rebels have proven to be a cut above the rest.
Light said the team has improved in athletics and academics.
“Well, a lot of times, that’s what you get with a successful team,” he said. “They tend to step up their game across the board.”
The key to unlocking the potential in athletes, as well as anyone who wishes to and has the ability to succeed, is to show them how tangible their goal really is. Motivation is important to keep everyone on track, and Light puts up weekly inspiration on a board in his office.
John Nance is another adviser for the football team who keeps the team aware that negative consequences are always inevitable if you don’t put forth an effort. He has seen improvement.
“This year we’ve seen a good correlation between them being in class and them performing on the field,” he said. “Players feel good about being in class and trying because they know that it will help them in the long run. Not every college football player makes it to the NFL, and a degree is a must.”
Nance admits that he has had to discipline a lot less this year, and he believes it is due to the successful season.
Athletes would hate to be on the sidelines for any of the games this year because of unexcused absences or misconduct.
Sometimes doing well is the best motivator that you could have. Oxford lives and breathes Rebel football, and these players don’t want to miss a single down.