Utah Athletics Seeks to Support Athletes’ Education and Careers


Jonathan Wang

Junior captain Mika Tafua hypes the team during warmup against UCLA at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 16, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sean Overton, Sports Editor


Student-athletes are often praised for their time on the field, but time spent in the classroom is as equally important. For many college athletes, going pro is the dream — but it is not always the reality. According to Insider, college baseball sees only 11.6% of its athletes play professionally, the highest percentage in college sports by far.

In fact, no other sport has over 2% of college athletes play professionally. Football sees only 1.7% of college players play in the NFL, while just 1.2% of men’s college basketball players make it to the NBA. 0.9% of women’s college basketball players make it to the WNBA

Off the Field

With an astounding amount of student-athletes not playing professionally, most of them rely on their college degree. Colleges around the country have been putting more emphasis on the student in student-athlete.

In Spring 2021, the University of Utah’s student-athletes scored an average GPA of 3.427, the second highest in school history, U Athletics reports. They averaged a 3.573 in Spring 2020 and 3.390 in Fall 2020, making those three semesters the highest in school history.

Women’s and men’s skiing led all athletes in GPA, recording a 3.762 for women and a 3.669 for men. On top of this, they also won their 14th national championship since 2002 in March.

Other Utah teams have had great seasons as well. Men’s golf qualified for the NCAA championship for the first time since 1988. Lacrosse won the ASUN regular season championship and barely missed the NCAA championship. Men’s tennis qualified for the NCAA championship and won their opening match.

In addition to this success, Utah’s student-athletes thrived in the classroom. During the 2021-22 school year, 245 student-athletes made the Pac-12 academic honor roll. All 20 athletic programs recorded a GPA of 3.0 or higher for the fifth consecutive time, and only the fifth in school history. Fifty-one student athletes recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA in the spring semester, among 188 student-athletes to be recognized on the Dean’s List.

Getting Down to Business

So while athletics are still important, students have been putting more effort into their studies recently. But classes in college can be very challenging, and time spent in sports takes away from time spent studying. In June of 2021, Utah Athletics launched their new program, Elevate U. This program is a collaboration between Utah Athletics, the David Eccles School of Business and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, giving over 500 student-athletes at the U the skills and tools necessary to succeed in their business endeavors.

In an article by Utah Athletics, Head Football Coach Kyle Whittingham said, “With the Elevate U program, our athletes will receive the tools needed to succeed, and we’re excited for the opportunities that our athletes will have to elevate their brand and their game to prepare them for the future.”

Elevate U was created using the previous program Ute Academy. While Ute Academy was more focused on community service and leadership, Elevate U focuses more on professional development and business ventures for student-athletes.

Along with benefitting the U’s student-athletes, this may end up enriching Utah’s athletic programs, drawing in new prospects and transfers. This move, combined with the growing opportunities that name, image and likeness provides, may lead Utah’s athletic success into the future.

“We sit here today in a great position to launch forward into (today) with the way we think is best for the University of Utah student-athletes, and we’re going to do it the right way,” Utah Athletics Director Mark Harlan told KSL.com.

Utah isn’t the only college that is putting effort in to help their student athletes academically, but they aim to be one of the best at it.

Elevate U will not only help students create businesses and get NIL deals, but will also work closely with student-athletes who are pursuing professional sports and their agents.

In the midst of NIL opportunities and the potential breakup of the Pac-12, Utah will stay well poised to attract and retain their student-athletes.

Utah’s student-athletes have shown year after year that they value their education. With consistently rising GPAs and many athletes making the Dean’s List, Utah has shown that their athletes are not just athletes.


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