Student-athlete GPAs reached record highs last school year at the University of Richmond, and the numbers tell a captivating story across players, teams and other universities.

According to a UR news report, the average GPA among the 375 student-athletes for the 2018-19 school year was a 3.17, the best in program history. Additionally, 67% of individual student-athletes earned a 3.00 or higher, setting another record.

Bruce Matthews, associate athletic director for academic support and student services, said he valued success in each individual student-athlete exceeding their own potential.

“Every student is different,” Matthews said. “But that’s been the biggest thing, it’s like the rising tide, everybody has gone up. So collectively we’re doing better, but it’s not just a few students, it’s all of them.”

Lauren Hansen, a junior on UR’s women’s soccer team, considers herself to be particularly academically driven. She wanted to learn as much as possible while at UR to be well prepared for the real world regardless of the workload, she said.

The success of individual student-athletes enhanced their team GPAs, as the average team GPA was a 3.22, according to the report. Field hockey had the highest team GPA at 3.54.

Jamie Montgomery, head field hockey coach, said she couldn’t personally take any credit for highest team GPA.

“I walked into a team where the norm was, we’re chasing championships and we’re chasing A’s,” Montgomery said.

Hansen’s team shared this frame of mind, as each member tended to be more internally motivated than members of other teams and knew to get their work done, she said. 

“[Our coach] expects us to be 100% present in soccer and 100% present in classes,” Hansen said. “So he expects a lot from us, in terms of balancing the two. I don’t think he even wants us to balance the two, I think he wants us to be 100% at both.”

Commenting on female student-athletes, Montgomery said: “Usually, you have to be smarter than the average bear. You’ve got to work harder to get to that, so it comes with the territory.” 

Senior Andrew Tsangeos, a member of UR’s football team, also takes academics seriously. He said he believed this mindset had been instilled by his mom, who had been very strict about academics. 

However, he said this mentality was not as ingrained in all of his teammates.

Tsangeos said he thought sports such as field hockey and lacrosse are naturally inclined to have higher team GPAs because students on those teams are more likely to have attended private high schools or boarding schools, where there is an equal focus on strong academics and sports teams.

He thought these sports tended to pull players who attend more academically driven school systems, whereas sports like football get a more diverse group of academic backgrounds, he said. 

“Some people are coming from high schools where they didn’t have to go to class, where football was everything,” Tsangeos said. “So coming to Richmond is a shock for them because it’s like school matters, I have to go to class.” 

It was hard to move the needle on the GPA of a team such as football because of the size, but the team has set record GPAs too, Matthews said. He added that he had noticed a cultural shift since he first began advising student-athletes in 2004.

As a whole, Tsangeos said he thought there had been improvement with his team. When he first started at UR, it was football first, then academics second for a lot of people, he said. 

When older players began to realize they could not rely on football as their long-term career, they shared these insights with younger generations to take school more seriously, Tsangeos said. 

Although it matters how academic achievements compare across UR teams, it is also important to compare UR student-athletes with student-athletes at other universities. 

UR has few peers because there are very few schools like it, Matthews said. He does not necessarily compare UR to other schools in the Atlantic 10 conference, but rather to schools with top academic and athletics programs such as Duke University and the University of Notre Dame.

Hansen said she thought UR was similar to Davidson College with its small size and competitive academics and athletics. Tsangeos compared UR to schools such as Villanova University, the College of William & Mary and Colgate University, which he thought also place an equal importance on academics and athletics.

Athletes at these universities are also succeeding in the classroom. For the 2018-19 school year, William & Mary student-athletes posted a record cumulative GPA of 3.32 for the year, and 81% of student-athletes at Villanova earned a GPA of 3.00 or higher in the spring semester, according to reports from both schools. 

Contact contributor Sydney Charlton at sydney.charlton@richmond.edu.