Athletic department updates student senate about future plans

By Jess Hodge | 10/12/16 9:06pm

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GVL / Luke Holmes - Keri Becker speaks to Student Senate in the Pere Marquette room on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.

by Luke Holmes / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Grand Valley State University prides itself on top-notch academics, a beautiful campus and great sports teams. From the football team to the hockey club, there are 577 student athletes at GVSU.

Athletic director Keri Becker and deputy director of athletic external operations Doug Lipinski talked to GVSU's student senators Thursday, Oct. 6 about changes and updates to the athletic department for the year.

A big change that has been well-received on campus is the deal GVSU signed with ESPN 3. This will help reach more viewers with coverage of live events, including football and soccer. Lipinski said GVSU has the third-largest radio network and viewers in the state, just behind the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

Becker talked about her position as the new athletic director and what she would bring to the table.

"My number one priority is to create the best student athlete experience possible for our 577 student athletes," she said. "All of my decisions I ask myself that question: 'How does it affect our student athletes?'"

Stephen Cooper, a student senator on the public relations committee, asked Becker if GVSU is looking into becoming a Division I school in the near future.

"As long as I'm AD here, it's not something I would ever want to do," she said. Becker broke down numbers and said becoming a Division I school would add on to students' tuition, which is not something she thinks is necessary.

Becker said Division II athletics, especially at GVSU, fit into the culture on campus and give the university the right feel. There are 577 student athletes, 41 percent of which are from out of state. Of the 577, 20 percent of those athletes are students of color.

Focusing on what works and enhancing that is one of Becker's main focuses this school year. She said there are two things she wants to focus on. First is embracing what already works and the core values of the athletic department. The second is enhancing the program.

"I'm looking at our athletic department through a lens of, not so much improvement because that almost sometimes implies that there is something wrong," she said. "So I said 'OK, let me look at our athletic department through the lens of enhancement.' How can we enhance what we're already doing in a way that continues us to give us that competitive edge?"

GVSU student senator Terrell Couch asked Becker her stance on if athletes were to protest. Becker said she isn't against the idea at all, as the athletes are also students and are allowed to express their thoughts, even if in the form of protesting.

Ella Fritzemeier, student senate president, added that during the sexual assault summit she attended, the topic of athletes speaking out against sexual violence and sexual assault is something GVSU is going to look in to.

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