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UNH Plans Center To Help Support Its Student-Athletes

Concord — For busy University of New Hampshire athletes, sprinting back and forth between the field house and the library may boost their physical condition more than their academic performance. But next fall, they’ll have a new dedicated space designed to bring studying and sports closer together.

Paid for entirely with private donations, the $1.9 million Student-Athlete Center for Excellence will be housed at the university’s field house in Durham and will include a large, comfortable study space staffed by advisers and tutors and smaller rooms where teams and small groups can work together without bothering those seeking quiet.

It will be a huge improvement over the current facility, said Heather Barber, associate professor of kinesiology and the university’s faculty representative to the NCAA. The university has ample staff and programs to support student-athletes with issues like mentoring and career development, but the facility hasn’t matched the effort, she said.

“Literally, our academic support center is a room in the basement of the field house that holds 12 to 15 computers, and some of them are outdated,” she said. “It’s not very conducive if someone is tapping away and someone’s trying to study, or there’s a small group trying to work.”

Barber said the new center, which will include wireless Internet capability, will boost the university’s ability to attract talented athletes who are dedicated to their studies. In the America East conference, UNH student-athletes have reported the second-highest GPA total for three of the last four years, and 58 junior and senior student-athletes recently were inducted into a national honor society.

The university has 525 to 550 athletes in any given year participating in 20 intercollegiate sports, Barber said. While the new UNH space won’t compare to the entire buildings that larger universities dedicate to student-athletes, it will go a long way toward helping student-athletes make academics a priority.

“The biggest advantage is, as a Division I athlete, your time is very tight during the day. So if you’re lifting (weights) in the morning and you have an hour before your class, this is a place where you can go and get some real work done rather than walking across campus and then walk back,” she said. “It allows you to get some constructive work done.”