JIM OLDS ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS

So many times athletes get stuck in what I like to call the "post-college" limbo of not knowing where the wind of adult life will take them. When their four-year commitment to a university and collegiate athletics comes to a close, the purgatorial feeling many student athletes feel is sparked by the lack of direction or seriousness committed to their studies.

However, for all the horror stories you hear about kids who "slip through the cracks", several Bearcat athletes have taken advantage of the opportunities the University of Cincinnati has afforded them, propelling on the field and in the classroom to learn the label of scholar athletes.

One of the many UC students who has excelled in the classroom as much as he has on the playing field is Jim Olds, a finance major and senior backstop for the Bearcat baseball team. Old was one of UC's conference-leading 173 student-athletes were named to the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll (3.0 + GPA) and one of the 33 Bearcats to have the Commissioner's Academic Medal (3.75 + GPA) bestowed upon them this year (the third in his five-year stint as a Bearcat).

"It is always nice to be recognized for your hard work," said Olds, who was named as the male TOPCAT Scholar-Athlete of the Year (female – volleyball's Julie DuPont) and was a runner-up to Chris Smith (track and field) for the Jimmy Nippert Award for top senior scholar. "I mean, getting good grades and working hard in the classroom is what you are supposed to do."

Even though Olds seems to underplay his scholastic achievements, the five years of dedicated service he has given to the University's baseball program has not come without a price.

"It isn't easy being a student-athlete, especially for a baseball player during the season, said Olds, who was headed the list of 15 baseball players named to the Conference USA honor roll and two recipients of the commissioner's academic medal (Dustin Alvey). "It seems like I was in the weight room, on the practice field, playing a game or traveling every day. It makes things difficult at times, but you just have to balance your schedule."

However, the humble Lafayette, Indiana native is not quick to label the distractions in his pursuit of higher education as any more insurmountable than any other college student.

"No one has the time to study eight hours a day. Some people have full-time jobs, other people have extracurricular activities or really demanding majors or internships, I had to play baseball. Heck, some people even have families to raise. I really don't think there are many "traditional" students out there."

In fact, Olds seems to believe that having his nose out of the books and buried inch-deep in dirt after sliding headfirst into second base gave him the necessary "release" from school he needed.

"I think that separating the student part and the athlete was a really helpful release for me. I didn't have to worry about a term paper on the baseball field, and I could get away from a hitting slump or a losing streak while in the classroom," said Olds, who saw his divided loyalties help him concentrate more on getting his work done.

"If I knew I had an eight-hour project that I had to do and I had a busy baseball schedule coming up, I knew I couldn't procrastinate. I had to get things done," said Olds, who refused to let his "goofiness" get in the way of business.

"I like to goof around," said a laughing Olds. "I couldn't mess around. I had too much to do. Baseball and the University support staff really kept me on track when I needed it."

Though Olds notes that he did not necessarily have to take advantage of the tutoring services offered by the University, he recognizes that the comfort level that having them available to him instilled in him.

"The goal of the University and the coaching staffs are to help you earn your degree. Whether it is by helping to schedule classes, offering you tutoring when you need it, or just having people work around your schedule, everyone is there to help you any way they can."

This season Olds was especially affected by baseball's the day-in and day-out commitments of baseball.

"This past quarter the coaches wanted me at the field at a certain time, but because of a class I had that coincided with practice I couldn't be there on time. They were really accommodating and worked around my schedule," said Olds. "Scheduling can be really difficult for upperclassmen. You are focusing on your major classes and there is generally a limited scope of classes you can take. So it is really important that coaching staff and the whole University is there to support you."

The 6-0 205-pound Olds saw his on-field schedule drastically rise this past season, almost equaling his career output this past year.

Olds finished his stellar career at the ballpark with possibly his best statistical season in 2005. Olds hit .323 during his senior campaign (32-99) in 40 appearances, most of which came behind the plate. However, Olds has been strong behind a desk since the beginning. Olds will graduate with a better than 3.9 GPA during his time at UC.

"I never really thought of myself as an athlete," said Olds, who in his three seasons prior to this totaled 123 at-bats in 71 career appearances (35 starts). "I always thought of self as a student. Playing college baseball was just something that I had the chance to do. It was a dream to play in college and I am just glad I had the chance to play."

The opportunity to play Division I baseball and visit parts of the country he would never tread upon otherwise is one that will last in Olds knowledge-rich memory banks for years to come. However, for this lifelong baseball player, life will take him down a much different avenue for the next few years. Instead of trying to throwing guys out for stealing from behind home plate, Olds will now train himself to punish thieves in a courtroom.

"I was accepted to the Indiana University School of Law," said Olds, who non-coincidentally has a former Hoosier baseball player for a father (1970's). "I am not really sure where I want to concentrate in, there are so many to choose from," said Olds who longs to get away from the game for a while.

"I am 23-years-old and I have been playing baseball pretty much every year since I can remember. I do not know how many family vacations I've missed, I just think it will be nice to do things away from baseball for a while. Heck, I don't know when the last time I went on Spring Break – probably never!", said Olds with a slight chuckle.

Even though his involvement with the game of baseball will dissipate in future years, while Latin phrases such as jurisprudence, quid pro quo, and ex post facto will soon battle terms like hit-and-run and can of corn for usage in his everyday vocabulary, Olds passion for the game of baseball will never cease to be there.

"I will always be a fan, no matter what capacity it is in. I could see myself coaching someday. I do not know what level, but that is definitely something I would like to pursue. I will be a fan of baseball and the University of Cincinnati for life. They have both done so much for me."

As the world of college athletics continues to spiral downwards into a crevasse of controversy and allegation, it is good to see that there are students like Jim Olds to continue to make strong the good name of student-athletes everywhere.


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