November 21, 2001
student-athletes return to complete college education
TCU football player Jay Davern said he was the top sales representative
in his market and knew he was up for promotion.
Davern, now 28, said he was passed over because he did not
have a degree.
Former football player Jay Davern came back to TCU to
get his degree after he left. Davern is like many athletes
who decide to finish college even though their playing
days are over.
talking to friends, Davern said he decided he wanted to get
out of sales and go back to get his degree. This would let
him fulfill his lifelong dream of coaching college football.
Now he is on track to graduate in May 2002 with a degree in
Davern is not alone. More and more former student-athletes
are returning to their former college campuses not to rekindle
memories of glory days past, but to complete their degrees.
former athletes said assistance programs offered by TCU made
their return to the classroom possible.
said he received consultation from Jack Hesselbrock, associate
athletic director for internal relations, and learned he could
come back to TCU and apply for a scholarship through the NCAA
Degree Completion Program. The program awards full scholarships
to former athletes who have used up their eligibility for
institutional financial aid and are within 30 hours of graduating.
Overton, director of athletic academic services, said TCU
annually ranks among the top 10 in degree completion awards
handed out, and 15 former athletes have completed their degrees
in the past three years. Notable grads include Ryan Tucker,
a starting offensive lineman for the St. Louis Rams, and former
Cowboys receiver Jason Tucker.
said TCUs overall student-athlete graduation rate of
57 percent from last year will be closer to 90 percent if
taken 10 years from now to include students who returned to
get their degrees. In figuring graduation rates, the NCAA
allows student-athletes six years to complete their degrees.
football career at TCU was riddled by injuries and off-the-field
problems when he wasnt making tackles at the linebacker
being arrested for a second time for assault by threat and
public intoxication, Davern was kicked off the team by former
head coach Pat Sullivan in 1997.
the incidents I shut football out of my life because I felt
it put me in my position, Davern said. I didnt
even watch football for two years.
was 22, young, playing football and having a good time,
he said. Now Im six years older, and the time
in between has been a learning experience for me. I learned
you can get a second chance if you deserve it. Im 28
and it seems my life is just beginning.
credited his friends and people in the athletic department
at TCU for helping him to realize his dreams.
friends kept telling me football was my calling, and I should
use my gifts and past experiences to teach others and help
them avoid the same mistakes I made, he said. Hesselbrock
helped me apply for the degree completion award and (Athletics
Director) Eric Hyman helped me get back in TCU. Their help
was the biggest blessing Ive had in a long time.
said academic programs for athletes can help students get
ahead in their graduation plans as well as helping students
who have completed their eligibility.
Fuller, a strong safety for the Seattle Seahawks, said he
earned his masters in liberal arts while still in his
final year of athletic eligibility.
thanks Hyman and former head coach Dennis Franchione for encouraging
him to do the extra work to get his masters degree while
wanted to take a long-term approach, because I know football
wont be there forever, Fuller said. The
coaches always encouraged me to get further along with my
education. Some guys are just naturally faster or slower,
but the coaches always told those who had a chance to get
further to go and get it.
said balancing extra classes and football wasnt as difficult
as he expected. Advising on time management proved helpful
was able to take late classes so (football practice) didnt
interfere with class times, he said. A lot of
guys on the team didnt understand why I was working
to get ahead and just told me to chill out. But most of them
understood why I was doing it, and they knew we could get
hurt any day.
McFarland, a former offensive lineman, is another former athlete
who has returned to get his degree. He transferred to Stephen
F. Austin State University in 1997 to play football because
he needed a change.
1996, McFarland was involved in a bar fight that also involved
Davern, which got him a temporary suspension from the team.
However, McFarland said the incident had nothing to do with
his leaving TCU.
said he always planned on getting his degree but that he never
believed he would get the chance to return to TCU. He is on
track to graduate in May 2002 with a degree in psychology.
played a little minor league ball with the Shreveport (La.)
Knights, and I worked a couple years in sales, he said.
When I found about the degree completion program, I
was able to come back and be a part of the family here again,
like I always was.
praised people in the athletic department for going out of
their way to help him return.
took care of me when they didnt have to, he said.
They help make things available for me too. I can use
the (John Justin Athletic Center), the computer labs and tutors
that are available for us.
not an athlete anymore, and Ive gotten a little older
and a little wiser, he said. I feel like I still
fit right in. I just turned 26, so its not like I look