Student-athletes excel in sport and school

Northeastern Athletic Director Peter Roby began his annual presentation to members of the Faculty Senate by touting the academic success of the university’s student-athletes.

“Sometimes when people lead with academic success, the expectation is that they cannot talk about success on the court or on the field or on the ice,” he said on Wednesday afternoon in the Raytheon Amphitheater. “And that’s certainly not the case.”

Roby noted that Northeastern’s student-athletes have an average GPA of 3.12 over the last academic year. “What you’ve seen from us this past year is not an aberration,” he added, noting that the average GPA of all student-athletes has been above 3.0 since 2007. “It’s actually the norm.”

Roby also praised the Huskies’ athletic performance, citing this season’s combined 58-24-7 record and last season’s women’s ice hockey Beanpot win.

“It’s a program that we ought to be very proud of and Peter does a very good job leading our program,” said Stephen W. Director, the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs who chairs the Faculty Senate.

As part of his presentation, Roby highlighted the athletic department’s long-range goals, which include enhancing the national profile of six teams — the men’s and women’s ice hockey, basketball and rowing squads — through the allocation of additional resources. The plan is part of an effort to raise Northeastern’s profile and engage students, alumni and community members in top-notch athletics.

The effort will not impact the university’s commitment to other sports programs, Roby said. “We didn’t want any success that those six targeted sports would have to come at the expense of our other programs,” he explained. “That just wouldn’t be fair.”

In response to questions posed by members of the Senate, Roby stressed that his department is committed to fostering a culture of dialogue and openness aimed at ensuring that it would not encounter a scandal like those at Penn State or Boston University. He cited student-athlete participation in programs to promote diversity and counter violence such as the White Ribbon Campaign, a collaboration among the four Beanpot schools — Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College and BU.

“I can’t assure you there won’t be instance where our students may make bad choices, but I can assure you we will deal with it swiftly and openly when and if it does happen,” Roby said. “We’ve taken a proactive approach for almost a decade now. I can’t say there’s a guarantee [that nothing will happen], but I can say we’ve created a culture where we’ll hold people accountable and people know what we expect of them.”

Roby thanked faculty and administrators for designing initiatives to help student-athletes succeed in the classroom, even if they must miss classes to play in games. He also praised Northeastern’s collaborative approach to addressing sports injuries, citing Athletics’ combined approach to sports medicine, injury recovery and strength and conditioning, which most schools run as three separate programs.

“I can’t stress enough how important I think it is for me to come every year to present,” Roby said. “While athletic departments are so often considered separate from the institution, I think it is important that we continue to have this conversation ourselves.”