The transition of 17 of Davidson’s 19 varsity teams last year to the Atlantic 10 conference has heightened the competition for many teams and increased the name recognition for the college. One of the challenges the move has posed, however, is a more grueling travel schedule for most of the 17 teams, who now travel farther for conference events than they did previously.
Before every semester, the athletic department presents each team’s schedule to the Educational Policy Committee (EPC), a panel that reviews a variety of curriculum-related proposals, including those for new courses and new majors or minors. The EPC is responsible for approving varsity teams’ schedules to ensure that athletes do not miss more classes than the college’s academic regulations allow for athletic events. According to the official regulations for 2015-16, “schedules for athletic and other college-sponsored extracurricular activities may not require any student to miss more than three MWF classes or two TTh classes or laboratories.” Occasionally, the EPC grants exceptions for teams, allowing their athletes to miss an extra class. These exceptions usually occur when postseason competition, for which coaches cannot plan at the beginning of the year, forces athletes to miss additional class.
All schools in the Southern Conference, where most of Davidson’s teams competed before moving to the Atlantic 10, reside in the southeast, with Samford University in Alabama the farthest away from Davidson. The Atlantic 10, however, includes schools as far north as the University of Massachusetts and as far west as St. Louis University. Davidson is the southern-most school in the conference. Teams like volleyball and baseball are most affected because their schedules require them to play each Atlantic 10 opponent at least once during the regular season. Teams like cross country and swimming, on the other hand, do not have to face conference opponents in the regular season, allowing them to attend competitions nearby.
The large goegraphical distance between Davidson and many Atlantic 10 teams has made it crucial for the athletic department to create travel schedules that allow athletes to miss as little class as possible. Director of Athletics Jim Murphy is proud of how his department and the EPC have navigated the difficulties of the increased travel. He claimed that the number of missed classes for athletes did not increase last year.
“I’ve been real pleased in that in terms of missed class and time away from campus, it has not been any greater than it was with our affiliation with the Southern Conference,” Murphy said. He noted that an excused absence granted to the baseball team last spring was the only one needed for any team in 2014-2015.
Murphy said he does not believe any exceptions have had to be granted this year. “There were no exceptions necessary, I don’t think, for this semester,” he said. “I’m not aware of any waiver [but] I’m not saying there’s not one.”
Dr. Shelley Rigger, who serves as the Assistant Dean of Educational Policy in a role that supports the EPC, echoed Murphy, stating that the move to the Atlantic 10 hasn’t produced an unusually high number of exceptions granted.
“For this semester and last semester, I honestly don’t remember whether there were exceptions, but basically nothing out of sync with what we’ve done in the past,” Rigger said.
Some athletes, however, assert that competing in the Atlantic 10 has indeed forced them to miss more class time than previously.
According to volleyball player Michelle McNeight ‘16, having to fly to conference matches has caused the team to miss three Tuesday-Thursday classes this fall, a number that would violate the academic regulation of two for those class days. The Davidsonian was unable to determine whether volleyball was granted the exception to miss the extra day of class. Editor’s note: McNeight has since clarified that the team flew to matches on three Thursdays but missed class on only two of those days. Therefore, the team did not violate the EPC regulation.
Cross country runner Dylan Carmack ‘19 claimed that he missed class on a Friday four times to travel to regular season meets this semester, a number that would exceed the maximum of three missed Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes permitted. Carmack said he worries how these missed classes will affect his grades in his two Friday classes.
When asked to address Carmack’s situation, Murphy asserted that cross country was not granted an exception this semester. “Track definitely did not have an exception. There was no waiver for that,” he said.
Rigger noted that athletes might exceed the number of permitted missed classes without receiving an exception if they take part in an athletic activity that is only recommended, not required, by their coaches, meaning that the EPC-approved schedule wouldn’t account for it. Rigger, however, made clear that she does not know if this was the case with Carmack.
“I don’t know what happened with cross country, but I would say, if they traveled in a way that was not what was reported on their schedule, then we should know about it, and no one’s told us anything about it,” Rigger said. She explained that the EPC would not know if a team or athlete were exceeding the permitted number of missed classes unless someone – say, an athlete or a professor – told the committee.
Because cross country did not have to alter its regular season schedule after moving to the Atlantic 10, Carmack’s dilemma is not a result of the transition.
Baseball pitcher Jake Batchelder ‘16 said that the number of Friday classes missed for baseball players was more last year than when they played in the Southern Conference.
“I was lucky. I think I only had one Monday-Wednesday-Friday last spring,” Batchelder said.
“So I was fortunate, but I think other people definitely missed a lot of class, especially on Fridays.”
For some athletes, the increased amount of travel has made them think twice about enrolling in Friday afternoon classes, a decision made tougher if those classes are crucial to fulfill an academic requirement. Field hockey goalkeeper Connie Cape ‘16 planned ahead before filling out WebTree in the summer.
“Knowing field hockey will travel mostly Thursdays or Fridays, I try to work that into my schedule to miss as little as possible,” Cape wrote via email. “But then I miss out on possible classes offered later in the afternoon or only available in the fall.
“Some of my teammates are not as lucky as me and need to take late classes for their major, and have missed over the limit of excused absences for athletics,” she continued.
While the increased travel has made it more difficult for athletes to attend all their classes, it has produced some benefits as well. Batchelder said that flying more often to games has been more conducive to getting his school work done.
“I personally get motion sick when I go on a bus,” Batchelder said, “so driving to UNCG or driving to Samford or places in the SoCon, it was harder to do work, whereas on a plane I don’t feel uncomfortable doing homework.”
For McNeight, traveling by plane has prompted more bonding opportunities for the volleyball team. “[The travel] has been way more fun than in the SoCon,” she said. “Basically, we get to go to these cool cities with our team, and our coach is really good about letting us visit places while we’re there.” Earlier this year, the team was able to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York on a trip to play Fordham.
McNeight also praised the athletic department for providing a charter flight at one point this season, allowing her to avoid missing a class day she would have missed had they flown commercially.