The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, February 01, 2000, Page 8, Image 8

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Athletes struggle with
status as role models
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Staff writer
A few years ago, a Nike TV commercial fea
tured Charles Barkley, who grabbed a rebound,
turned to the camera and said, “I am not a role
The commercial stirred debate about the
expectations of athletes to act as role models.
With their large amounts of national prestige,
NU athletes often find themselves as role models.
But is it fair for them to be shown in this light?
Dan Alexander, an NU running back, said
because he puts himself in a prestigious role he
must be willing to be responsible.
“If you accept the praise and admiration and
put yourself in the limelight, then you’ve got to
accept the responsibility that comes along with
that,” he said. “No one is worthy of being a role
model, but a lot of athletes are expected to be one.
I just try and be the best person I can be.”
Jaime Krondak, a former outside hitter for the
NU volleyball team, said it’s an athlete’s obligation
to be a positive role model.
“It’s almost your duty because you’re in the
spotlight, and so many people are looking up to
you,” she said. “They know what you’re doing on
the court, they know what kind of student you are
and they see how you react to a lot of different sit
“By being a student athlete, it’s almost
inevitable that you’re going to have to be a role
Bobby Newcombe, a junior wingback on the
NU footfall team, said die demand for college ath
letes to be role models is perplexing.
“Most people don’t know me,” Newcombe
said. “I don’t know how I could be a role model to
them when they just know that I run well with the
“But if I am a role model, then that Is fine, but
I’m just going to live my life tod be myself”
Newcombe said he thought Barkley made a
good point with his commercial. ^ - -
“I think he showed that (me athlete cannot be a
complete role model,” he said. “A basketball play
er might want to do some things like Charles
Barkley, but not everything.”
Newcombe urged young people to find a role
model they could sympathize with and understand.
“No athlete can be a good role model just by
being on TV” he said. “A role model has to be a
person who you can get to know, so you can look at
their struggles and see what they’ve learned from
Newcombe said he knew he would be in the
spotlight when he came to Nebraska. His father
expressed some concern because Newcombe was
only 17 when he enrolled in college.
“My dad felt like I might have needed an extra
year because playing football at Nebraska can put
on a lot of extra pressure.”
Krondak said she likes inspiring young people.
Ha journey to becoming a role model started
her freshman year when she began speaking for
D.A.R.E., a program aimed at keeping children
away from drags and alcohol.
“It was fun speaking to elementary school kids
about things like dreams, goals and the importance
of education,” she said
Alexanda has also spoken to various schools
and groups about being a good citizen. His efforts
have won him a slew of national good citizenship
awards, but he said his positive influence is more
important than the awards.
“When I talk to kids, I try to teach them to be
drag-free and to avoid negative pea pressure,” he
said “I’m just thankful for what God’s given to me,
and I try to use my gifts to give back to others.”
Alexanda said some athletes take their influ
ence for granted.
“When I sign an autograph, it’s not just a sou
venir,” he said “I’m giving my word to be the best
role model. Most guys just sign their names and
don’t even think about it”
Alexanda said he has seen some football play
os who have been negative role models.
But for the most part, athletes are willing to
accept the responsibility of being role models,
AlexandasakL (i ; v*.. " 1
“About half the team quietly portrays a positive
image by not getting in trouble and leafing a good
life,” he said. “About one-fourth actively try to
make things better and improve the image of the
chib and Nebraska as a whole” ,
Krondak said die influence of the volleyball
team on young girls is different freon the football
team, because the players are more accessible and
there is a need for positive female role models.
“Women’s athletics have basically been com
ing on within the last 10 years,” she said. “Itls
important that we introduce yototg hidies to the
value of adiletics and get to kngwthem on a per
Krondak said she is still a role model even
though her volleyball-playing days are over.
“I went to the (high school) state volleyball
tournament, and people swarmed around me and
talked to me even though I’m not playing any
more,” she saicL*Tstill have that image to uphold.”
Newcombe said he has taken the responsibility
of being a role model, but he wished some things
could be different.
“I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a role model,
but peaptemeed to remember that I have a brain on
top df my head, too,” he said. “I do more than just
run i^ith the football. I think I’m a pretty cerebral
Isolation, practice change athletes’ lives
ISOLATION from page 1
Hie Life of an Athlete
Athletes at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln lead different lives.
They hang out with each other and have
different priorities.
According to some, there are two
separate facilities at UNL - the Hewit
Colter for athletes and the residence
halls and union for everyone else.
The Hewit is a crutch for many ath
letes during the first years of college.
Athletes require separate, more
convenient facilities, according to the
athletic department and die athletes.
This is the purpose of the Hewit Colter.
Most athletes spend their day going
to class, practicing and hanging out
with other athletes at the Hewit, which
is located under Memorial Stadium.
The University of Nebraska
Athletic Department and its athletes
maintain that the academic support,
tutors and separate facilities are there
for athletes’ convenience.
“We understand what they are try
ing to get through and some of the
needs they have,” said Dennis Leblanc,
associate athletic director of academic
and student services. “Athletes have
different needs. I’m not saying they are
more or greater. I’m just saying they are
home would say tney are not get
ting the full college experience - but
they are getting a different experience.”
Some also would say the athletic
department takes athletes as impres
sionable, eager freshman, shoves them
under Memorial Stadium and, four
years later, they emerge sheltered, cod
dled and out of touch with life.
Leblanc-sees it differently.
‘It’s however you look at isolation.
People say, ‘Isn’t it terrible that the
Athletic Department hides their ath
letes under the stadium.’ Is it terrible if a
fraternity or sorority does it?
“Take Eric Crouch or Bobby
Newcombe. When they walk in here,
nobody cares.”
Hie Hewit Center
The cafeteria-the Training Table
serves great food.
Athletes have a weight room at their
disposal. The computer lab is top-notch
and has about 50 computers encased in
wood study carols. Access to a comput
er where athletes can type in a subject
area and get a list of tutors is unlimited.
The perks are obvious.
While many athletes agreed they
were happy to have the Hewit, some
said it could hinder campus interaction,
especially during freshman year.
“I’ve never been to the union except
to get my books. It’s just convenient. It’s
just all right here,” Puente said.
Gymnast Heather Brink said she
used the free tutors and counselors a lot
her first few years at UNL.
“That was very nice,” the senior
business iriajor said of the system. “I
don’t know if other people get free
“We get benefits by being athletes.
Other people don’t usually have that
benefit to have a person tell you‘This is
the class you should take.’”
Brink said tutors do more than help
with classes.
“If there’s something you don’t
have there and you need, they’re willing
to get it for you,” she said.
Basketball player Nicole Kubik
said she likes the easy access to tutors
and the built-in assistance network that
comes with the center.
“The support is great,” she said.
“It just a convenience thing for us - if
we were running around all over the
place, it would just take time we don’t
Newcombe, a junior business man
agement major, said he thinks while the
Hewit is a good crutch, most athletes
would survive without it
“I think a lot of athletes would be
just fine if they didn’t have it, but with
all the added stressers involved, it’s def
initely needed. It’s very appreciated,”
Newcombe said.
Softball player Jennifer Lizama
said as a senior, she doesn’t spend as
much time at the Hewit, but she still
feels sheltered.
“You eat here. You study here, (The
students at die Hewit are) most ofyour^
friends. That’s who most of my friends
(6 I still think I’m
what goes on and
what (other)
students are
Jennifer Lizama
NU softball player
were,” Lizama said. “I still think I’m
sheltered from what goes on and what
(other) students are doing.”
Dinko Verzi, a former NU tennis
player and fifth-year senior, said he
thought heavy reliance on foe Hewit for
support might not be a good thing.
“(Coaches) don’t force you to go
there,” said Verzi, a senior biochemistry
major. “They know it’s a good place to
be at, and they promote it Maybe (ath
letes) should be encouraged to go out to
other places, just so they mix with other
Newcombe, a junior who took 16
hours last semester, said after hours of
practice each day he usually doesn’t
stick around foe Hewit
“I have to get away? he said
Brink said the schedule of being an
athlete makes it seem natural to bang
out with teammates.
“It’s just like anything else,” Brink
said “You sgend so much time with
diem that you can’t help hut hang out
with them. Itls kind of a given.”
Aside from easing athletes’ pres
sures, Leblanc saidthe Hewit Center is
paid for by money athletes generate.
“If we had an athletic department
generating the money that this one is
generating and we'weren’t providing
something for athletes, it probably
wouldn’t be a real positive thing,”
Leblanc said * ••
Different lives aini pressures
Although Brink said she has had
experiences similar to Kubik and
Newcombe, her life as an athlete has
not beat die same.
When most people think of ath
letes, she said they think of football
players or basketball players.
“It’s different for me. I’m not
Bobby Newcombe or Eric Crouch. I
don’t walk into class and everyone says,
‘Oh my God.’ Nobody knows who I
am,” Brink said “I hear a lot of rumors
about people saying how athletes, you
know, are in this different category than
everyone else, and we try to hide our
selves. 1 don’t think that’s it at all.”
She said she hears people say ath
letes don’t go to class and get easy
grades because they are athletes. That’s
not me case, eimer, sne saia. Ana mey
don’t party any more - if anything, they
party a lot less - than most students do.
When Brink does go out, she said
she doesn’t know a lot of people.
She said she doesn’t party a lot. She
practices 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Sunday.
“You don’t want to go out and get
drunk and then come to workout look
ing like crap,” she said.
“A lot of people think that we are
isolated,” said NU quarterback Eric
Crouch. “To me, I’m just doing what
any other normal person would do. I am
doing what I enjoy doing. I enjoy foot
*1 wouldn’t say that we are isolated,
but I don’t think about that a lot.”
Most Big 12 schools have facilities
similar to the Hewit, Leblanc said,
because athletes at every university
need extra support
“It’s not purposely isolation,”
Leblanc said. -lt% pot necessarily what
the athletic department (does), that’s
how society has set (the athletic sys
tem) up.”
When athletes are practicing 20
hours or more a week, have civic
responsibilities and are scrutinized for
their athletic performance, they need
sorpeone to turn to, he said.
***1 Peed to have my space,”
Newcombe said.
Leblanc compares the department
to the Association of Students of the
University of Nebraska or the greek
system with one difference.
“It just happens that the athletic
department is more established
because of the visibility,” Leblanc said.
Kubik said the Hewit and the athlet
ic department get more attention out
side of the organization than places
such as the Nebraska Union or sorori
ties and fraternities get.
(Non-athletes) have the same ben
efits we have,” Kubik said “It’s just not
as publicized. I don’t think they are jeal
ous of us. It’s just talked about more.”
Kubik said just because the Hewit
is there, athletes don’t have to use it.
“I think it’s up to the person. If they
want to get out, they can,” Kubik said
Leblanc said regardless of the
Hewit, regardless of whom athletes
hang out with or where they get their
tutors, most athletes could make it on
their own just fine.
“There are going to be athletes
(who excel) whether they have the
Hewit Center (or not),” Leblanc said.
“I’d like to think it has been a signifi
cant role in helping Nebraska be a pre
miere athletic department.”