Disterhoft, UI Student-Athletes Succeeding in the Classroom

Being a standout student was driven into Ally Disterhoft’s mind at a young age.

“I learned it from my parents—they always stressed it to me,” Disterhoft said, who just completed her sophomore year on the University of Iowa women’s basketball team. “They told me that it’s awesome if you’re a good basketball player, but we want you to be remembered as a good person and a good student. I’ve always been here to be a student first.”

Disterhoft, who was valedictorian of her class at Iowa City West High School, is certainly leaving her mark on and off the court. On the court, Disterhoft was one of four Hawkeyes to average double-figures this season en route to a Sweet 16 appearance. In the classroom, Disterhoft—an accounting major in the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business—carries a 4.04 grade point average and is the only sophomore women’s basketball player in the country to be named Academic All-American.

“She’s on track to have a great career academically, as well as athletically,” said Lisa Bluder, UI women’s basketball coach.

According to Fred Mims, UI associate athletics director, Disterhoft and the nearly 700 UI student-athletes are held to a higher academic standard than what the NCAA mandates. UI student-athletes must enroll in 14 credit hours each semester (NCAA requires 12), carry at least two courses toward their major or general education requirements each semester, declare a major by the start of their third year, and maintain a four-semester plan of study.

Those higher standards are helping the UI reach new academic heights—Disterhoft is one of seven Big Ten student-athletes to maintain an unblemished cumulative GPA, a total of 144 student-athletes were named Academic All-Big Ten in 2013-14, and UI’s student-athletes are achieving the highest graduation rates in program history. Student-athletes who entered the UI in the fall of 2007 graduated at a rate of 78 percent, according to the NCAA’s report on academic work done by student-athletes across the country. While the federal graduation rate—according to the NCAA—was 66 percent in 2007, UI student-athletes have graduated at a rate of 70 percent or higher in five of the last six years.

The UI also set a new record by posting a score of 89 percent in the NCAA’s graduation success rate (GSR), which assesses the academic success of student-athletes by holding institutions accountable for transfer students and mid-year enrollees. According to the NCAA, the GSR for all NCAA Division I institutions was 82 percent. Eight UI teams scored a perfect 100 on their GSR—field hockey, men’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s tennis, softball, women’s golf, women’s tennis, and volleyball.

When looking at its peer sport group, 18 of Iowa’s 24 teams were better than the national average.

“The data shared by the NCAA is further evidence of the commitment our student-athletes, coaches, and staff make to the academic piece of our mission,” said Gary Barta, UI director of athletics. “I am most proud of our student-athletes for tackling their academic pursuits as vigorously as they do their athletics dreams and aspirations.”

The NCAA’s academic progress rate (APR) report, which measures eligibility and retention of student-athletes competing on every NCAA Division I sports team, for 2013-14 revealed—for the fifth consecutive year—all of Iowa’s 24 sports programs were well above the 930 threshold that signals a red flag with respect to academic progress.

And, it’s through generous gifts of our I-Club members—approximately $20 million each year—we’re able to give our student-athletes the support needed to be successful athletically and academically.

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