March 20, 2010
Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
Depending on the perspective, college football players are sometimes thought to live in two different worlds - one as a full-time student and one as a full-time athlete. The connection of those worlds equals a student-athlete, but it was on full display when the football team hosted its Faculty Appreciation day recently.
In the afternoon, players invited their professors to watch the team scrimmage inside DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium. Once practice ended, the players were given the opportunity to share dinner with the faculty members and football staff.
In its fifth year, the football team's Faculty Appreciation hosted over 65 professors. The event allowed the student-athletes and their professors a unique experience to spend time together outside of the classroom.
"It was definitely exciting," senior defensive lineman Sam Acho said. "I got a chance to invite a couple of my teachers out to come watch us scrimmage, watch us practice. They all seemed really excited. It was a great opportunity for them to see what we do outside the classroom. We always go to class and take notes and take the tests. They see that aspect of what we do. There's also another side, which is the athlete side. It was a great chance for the teachers, and the mentors and tutors to come and watch us play."
Associate Athletics Director for Academic Services, Brian Davis discussed the idea behind this event.
"About six years ago we talked in the staff room about interaction with the faculty," Davis said. "We thought it would be best from the student perspective. This is now our fifth year. It grows every year. The faculty enjoys it, the fact that we want them to bring children if they have them and their families, it makes it a fun event for them and our football players and coaches."
The event also allows the professors to have the opportunity to see the other side of their student-athletes' lives.
Dr. Brianna Smith, a lecturer in the kinesiology department understands the demands of being a college athlete.
"I'm an athlete myself so I really understand what they do," Smith said. "I've worked in the athletic department during my own education. I certainly understand the hard work they put in, not only in the classroom but certainly on the field."
History professor Dr. Leonard Moore appreciates the effort that the football program makes to reach out to the faculty, an effort Moore believes helps professors to understand how the student-athletes live.
"A lot of times we see them in class, but we don't really have any idea what this whole other world is really about," Moore said. "When the faculty comes and sees how big it is and how complicated and sophisticated Texas football is, I think they leave here with a renewed appreciation for the student-athlete. They understand the student has to balance a full load of classes during the day time. In the afternoon, they have to come and participate in a very demanding athletic program. I think it's very beneficial for the faculty."
Senior offensive lineman Tray Allen enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with his professors and show what goes into life the athlete segment of student-athlete.
"It's great to have our teachers come out to see what we do outside the classroom, to see how hard we work both on the field and off the field," Allen said. "(I enjoy) getting to know our teachers and faculty. They're people outside the classroom. We get to get to know them and their families and what they like to do. I think we can find a lot of similar interests."
The interaction that took place Wednesday evening is exactly what Davis hopes for the student-athletes and the university's faculty to continue to experience.
"The main concept is to have a sit down dinner, relaxed in sort of a neutral environment," Davis said. "The (student-athletes) also know that the faculty can represent sort of the coach in the classroom. They are doing what they do because they enjoy working with young people. They enjoy teaching. They want them to be successful in the classroom just like the coaches want them to be successful on the field, and our fans want them to be successful in both arenas."
For the professors, this event serves as a reminder that The University of Texas is a rare place where there is a combination of excellent academics and athletics.
"I think most of the faculty don't really realize that football at this level is an intellectual enterprise," Dr. Moore said. "I think for us as faculty, it convinces us that Texas is a good place to be. What I like being about a faculty member here is that I can get first-rate academics, but then come over here and see first-rate athletics. I can see them balancing both and excelling in the classroom."