By Edward Mahurien / Managing Editor
New LBCC Athletic Director Joe Cascio doesn’t want a bunch of dumb jocks.
Trying to buck the stereotype of the academically incompetent athlete, Cascio has more in the play book than jump shots and field goals for the future of LBCC’s student athletes.
Speaking to the editors of the Viking on Monday, Sept. 30, in P111 at the LAC, the newly appointed Cascio outlined his goals for the athletic program. On-field success was just one of those goals, but academic success was paramount.
Starting his tenure July 15, the former Santa Monica College basketball coach wants Viking student athletes to be winners in the classroom first.
“We want our student athletes to know that as an athletic department, we are serious about academics,” Cascio said.
The department has set up a student athlete success center aimed at helping student athletes’ progress through the rigors of college academics.
Cascio said the department wants to build a model for student success specifically for athletes but hopes to see the changes implemented across LBCC.
In a sense, student athletes will be the guinea pigs for the rest of the student body.
The audacious goal of the center is similar to a program installed at Pasadena City College where student athletes have been benched for failing to meet criteria set by the athletic department.
One of the measures was progress reports, which the student athletes must turn into their coaches several times a semester in order to play.
“Every athlete immediately hears the word ‘bench,’ so that is the best carrot to dangle in front of them,” Cascio said.
The criteria are in addition to the already daunting academic tasks student athletes endure.
To be eligible, student athletes must take 12 units per semester with nine of the units considered academic courses, while maintaining a 2.0 GPA and practicing two to three hours per day.
Despite the challenge, Cascio said student-athletes typically perform better than the average student in state audits.
Cascio and athletic success coordinator Mary Hegarty have outlined a plan for student-athletes’ academic success which, in addition to the mandatory visits to the center, includes mandatory counseling appointments and progress reports.
Cascio said, “We have a plan to prove to student athletes we mean business.”
Cascio’s goal is to move students along to the next level academically first and if they can help them pursue their athletic goals at a university, that’s even better, he said.