Oregon State is a school that is most often known for their engineering program, public research and continued baseball success. However, academics and sports at OSU are more closely intertwined than believed at first glance.
In the last five years, the Beavers have had six PAC-12 Scholar Athlete award winners in a variety of sports. Throughout every sports department with OSU, at least one coaching philosophy stays consistent: Academics are just as important as winning.
The most recent winner, OSU Women’s Basketball senior guard Mikayla Pivec, added the award to her ever growing collection of feats. She is the first female athlete to win at Oregon State since Sydney Wiese and Madeline Gardiner both took home the trophy in 2017.
During her time as a Beaver, Pivec was a leader both on the court and in the classroom. Pivec constantly gave back to the community and was one of the top basketball players in the conference, all while sporting a 3.93 GPA and graduating in three years.
“As a student athlete you make the decision to get what you want out of your education,” Pivec said via email. “The opportunity is there and it's up to you to invest in your education and find the balance that aligns with your goals.”
Although it is the players who have to put in the work, the coaches are right there supporting and pushing their athletes to reach their educational goals. These academic accomplishments help benefit student-athletes long after their playing days have passed.
“The coaches were complementary to our success in the classroom and encouraged us to perform well in that domain as well,” Pivec said. “When the time comes to move on to my next phase in life post-athletics, I know that the time I put into the classroom will set me up nicely for that transition step.”
OSU Men’s Basketball head coach Wayne Tinkle echoes the same philosophy that is shared throughout Beaver athletics. The coaching department knows that sports will not last forever and pushes student-athletes towards their educational goals.
“Our players know how seriously we take academics,” OSU Men’s Basketball head coach Wayne Tinkle said via email. “If they don’t take it seriously they don’t play.”
Former OSU Men’s Basketball guard Stephen Thompson Jr. received the award in 2019. Thompson praised the coaching staff and their focus not only on basketball, but also academics.
“The coaching staff always valued the importance of academics and always encouraged us to do our best in the classroom,” Thompson said via email. “They made sure we had the support we needed and checked in with us frequently.”
Thompson is no special case. In the past three years, OSU Men’s Basketball has boasted ten players named to the PAC-12 All-Academic Team, the highest in the conference by a large margin.
“Motivation, discipline and drive leads to success, and if you can do it in the classroom it will carry over to the court,” Tinkle said.
Former OSU Baseball head coach and three-time College World Series winner Pat Casey shares the same outlook on coaching. He expected the best out of each one of his players and held them to high standards. Casey was confident in the idea of hardwork in the classroom leading to success on the field.
“He stressed school just as much as he stressed winning on the field,” said former OSU Baseball outfielder, Jack Anderson. “He’s just one of those guys that wants the best out of you and he believed in me before I believed in myself.”
Anderson won the PAC-12 Scholar Athlete award in 2018 and was a part of the team that secured the College World Series championship the same year. Anderson thanked coaches Pat Casey and Pat Bailey for their leadership and determination for results both in baseball, and in the classroom.
Casey had an incredible coaching career at OSU, securing three national championships and winning 900 games in his 24 years as head coach. Year after year, Casey led the Beavers to success and taught his teams not only how to be successful on the field, but successful in their next step in life.
“They did a great job of making sure, whether we were on the road or at home we were doing study halls and things like that,” Anderson said. “I think that’s why our program was successful and is successful is because they’re looking for us to succeed on the field and in the classroom and wherever life takes us.”
This intensity brought the best out of his players on the field and in the classroom. Former OSU Baseball pitcher Max Engelbrekt received the PAC-12 Scholar-Athlete award in 2017, a year before Anderson. During this year, Engelbrekt was attending MBA classes at night while still giving his all to the baseball team. He had to leave practice early in order to make it to class. Engelbrekt commended the coaching staff for their support and flexibility.
“They were extremely supportive… those MBA classes that were all at night so that meant that I’d have to leave practice early, never had to do any extra work,” Engelbrekt said. “I would assume there are a lot of coaching staffs that wouldn’t let somebody be gone that often.”
Oregon State’s coaching staff have made it clear that academics will always be more important than sports. Coaches provide resources for students and help accommodate for their class schedules. As Wayne Tinkle said, if athletes don’t take academics seriously, they won’t play.