Major accomplishments: Baylor athletes put in work in the classroom

Student athletes have very different schedules from the average college student, but they find time for class nonetheless. When they’re off the field or court, what are athletes studying? Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer

Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones famously told the world he wasn’t “here to play school.” Despite his best intentions, many athletes do still excel both in competition and in the classroom. Student athletes have very different schedules from the average college student, but they find time for class nonetheless. When they’re off the field or court, what are athletes studying? A lot, it turns out.

On the gridiron, Baylor’s senior class will complete degrees across seven fields of study, which business leads by a large margin. The next most popular major among football players at Baylor is health, kinesiology and leisure studies (HKLS). A 2015 Bleacher Report survey of Power 5 teams found much the same, but at the time, HKLS led the charge. Across the country, business is a hugely popular field of study for football players. According to the B/R survey, almost a thousand football players nationwide study business or another closely related field. A theme across all sports, especially those with a high professional profile, is the study of very career-centric majors, or things that will set athletes up for a strong career once their playing days are over. Football, as Waco has learned recently, isn’t all there is.

On the court, the men’s basketball team studies six unique disciplines, led by HKLS, which six of the players on the men’s team will graduate with degrees in. The women’s team also fields a diverse group of academic interests, led by three communication majors. Communication and journalism-related majors have become popular for athletes in recent years, as former athletes and coaches have begun to find themselves in analyst and host positions on sports television programs around the world. One of the most popular pre-game shows, TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” is hosted by three former NBA stars. Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith have a combined 45 years of NBA experience, not to mention the basketball they played prior to that. That experience has been invaluable in terms of analysis, Smith told USA Today.

“There’s nothing that’s going to happen that we won’t be equipped to talk about,” Smith said.

Baylor’s basketball players are clearly looking to capitalize on their wealth of knowledge after their playing careers have ended.

For as many athletes that focus on one discipline or major, there’s just as many that have crossed academic boundaries to create a path all their own. Star women’s basketball guard and senior DiJonai Carrington has degrees in both African American studies and psychology. Freshman softball pitcher Maren Judisch elected to study entrepreneurship with a minor in religious studies and has big goals in mind.

“I picked majoring in entrepreneurship and minoring in religious studies so that I can market myself through softball,” Judisch said. “[I’d like to] eventually be like Sadie Robertson — speaking to others, writing devotionals, having a clothing line.”

Another student athlete on the mound, pitcher Brooks Helmer, knows full well how valuable Baylor’s education is.

“As a student athlete, I recognize that my sport will not last me a lifetime,” Helmer said. “Academics has always been very important to me, and when I came to college, I knew I wanted to receive a great degree. I didn’t want to come to a great school for sports and not take advantage of the great degree options that Baylor has to offer.”

Baylor has long excelled in both athletics and academics, and with student athletes continuing to put the student portion first, that looks to be in no danger of changing any time soon.