Hail to the Victors, a Study in Self-Discipline

Our student-athletes' dedication enables a win-win situation.

March/April 2011

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Hail to the Victors, a Study in Self-Discipline

Photo: Glenn Matsumura

With its magnificent win in the Orange Bowl on January 3, Stanford's football team made history, finishing fourth in the nation, its highest berth in 70 years. Days earlier, the women's basketball team updated its own chapter in the history books, ending Connecticut's 90-game winning streak and making women's basketball a nationwide focus.

Stanford athletics has had some magnificent years, and this year is certainly among the greatest. From the University's earliest days, when President David Starr Jordan played in the annual faculty-senior baseball game, athletics has had an important role in building a strong community. Today we have an outstanding Division I athletics program that has won the Directors' Cup for 16 consecutive years. Our teams have also won 99 NCAA championships as of this year; by the time you read this column, I hope we will be celebrating our 100th.

That is a tremendous achievement, and as the Cardinal's No. 1 fan, I have celebrated every win and bemoaned a few tough losses. But at Stanford, we measure success in academic achievements and the character of our students, as well as in win-loss records. We have a strong scholar-athlete tradition for a reason: We attract bright young minds and we give them opportunities to excel at both academics and athletics. But it takes tremendous discipline to do so, and in this column I pay tribute to them—to their greatness on and off the field.

After the excitement of the Orange Bowl, Stanford quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck, '12, was expected to be the top pick in the NFL draft. Andrew thought differently. He decided to finish his degree in architectural design. He is not alone in appreciating his educational opportunities. Fullback and middle linebacker Owen Marecic, '11, who received the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football, is a human biology major who hopes to be a doctor.

Football is hardly the only Cardinal sport with champion scholar-athletes. Last year, NCAA Public Recognition Awards, which are given to teams scoring in the top 10 percent in academic progress rate—a statistical measure of athletes' progress toward graduation—were awarded to eight Stanford teams, six of which earned perfect scores.

These athletes' commitment to excellence in their studies as well as their sports is also reflected in the number of students named Academic All-Americans. Since the awards were founded in the 1950s, Stanford ranks fifth nationally and fourth among Division I schools in Academic All-Americans. Recently, Alix Klineman, '11, was a 2010 Academic All-American as well as Volleyball magazine's Player of the Year. Nick Amuchastegui, '11, received the inaugural NCAA Elite 88 Award as the wrestler with the highest GPA in the NCAA Championships. These are just two of many examples.

It takes tremendous dedication, perseverance, time management and self-discipline to perform at this level. Despite training schedules that require many hours a week, these students take on demanding academic coursework and excel, graduating at similar rates as other students. Where else in the world would you have back-to-back Heisman Trophy runners-up, both majoring in engineering?

After the Orange Bowl and the historic win by our women's basketball team, I received a number of congratulatory notes from other university presidents, applauding our ability to put together world-class academics and world-class athletics, and citing the role model Stanford provides nationally for intercollegiate athletics. I replied that the credit belongs to our student-athletes, whose demonstrated leadership and values make us so very proud.

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