Southeast athletes academics prosper under Barke
Editor's note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Brady Barke has been the director of athletics at Southeast since 2016 and in that time, he has played a crucial part in academic culture among southeast athletics.
Barke started his Southeast career in 2008 as the assistant director of athletics for compliance and eligibility. Three Southeast teams earned the Ohio Valley Conference Team Academic Achievement Awards last semester: women's tennis, women's track and field and women's cross country.
Southeast’s gymnastics team ranked 13th in national GPA last year as 11 gymnasts earned Women's Gymnastics Coaches Association Scholastic All-American Honors.
Southeast Arrow: How important are academics to the Southeast athletic department?
Brady Barke: We pride ourselves on our student-athletes being students first. Only a sample size of players actually get a chance to go pro in their respective sports, so it’s our job to assure the athletes have something to fall back on in life after sports.
SA: Are teams doing anything internally to help the athletes academic-wise?
BB: Our coaches stress academics. Our academic support center communicates back and forth regularly with the coaches about who’s doing well and who’s struggling. From there, our coaches take matters into their hands and help those students to be successful. They’re not involved in the actual classes these students take but instead become a mentor figure for the students, keeping them focused on the ultimate goal, which is to earn a degree when you graduate.
SA: How do OVC and other national academic awards help athletes and recruitment?
BB: The recognition is beneficial to us as an athletic department and university, from a recruitment standpoint, it’s pretty much the same. Families of student-athletes begin to understand that we are serious when we talk about education being important, just as important as the athletic side itself. Having these types of awards validate the things that we say to the parents of our athletes, and it helps us earn the trust we look for in families.
SA: How have the athletic programs evolved over the past few years?
BB: The demands on the students have continued to become greater and greater. It's kind of a downside, but we have recognized the importance of providing additional resources and support for our students. We have more academic staff than we did ten years ago. We take the necessary precautions to ensure that our students have something to look forward to in the future, so we teach them things such as life skills and emphasize the importance of those skills. These were things not focused on as much back then where students only had to look forward to [sports].
SA: Do you think that the program will continue to evolve or remain at a constant?
BB: I think that the [athletic] program will continue to develop at our school and we’ll go forward to show that our best days are still ahead of us in terms of athletic success. From an academic standpoint, we are setting the standard. We’ve had the most players in the conference get recognized for having GPAs in the 3.0-3.5 range as well as more students with 4.0 GPAs than [any school] in the conference.
SA: On a scale of 1-10, how well is the academic program progressing at its current stage?
BB: Probably about an eight. I’m very pleased with the job the academic support center does. They stress the things that you have to do to be successful from an academic standpoint and they teach life skills that can be looked back upon and used in their futures. We measure our success on graduation rates. The fact that the student-athlete graduation rate is higher than 20% of the campus as a whole shows that we’re putting our student-athletes in a position to be successful, earn degrees and ultimately change their lives.