On the Road with the Zags

A Gonzaga professor gives his perspective on the demands of Zag student-athletes during a 5000 mile road trip in the midst of Final Exams Week.

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Many of you may be aware that I traveled in a faculty capacity on the recent trip with the Men's Basketball Team as they played in the Peach Bowl Classic in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Jimmy Valvano Invitational at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. What was unusual about this trip was it came during the important final exam period and the team would be away during the first two days of exams.

In my capacity, I administered exams while we were in Atlanta and facilitated any other academic matters that I could be of assistance with. As faculty members, I think we should all be proud of this group of students. In addition to the rigors of the game, media interviews and demanding travel schedules, I witnessed students studying, preparing and taking exams in some very taxing situations.

We arrived late Friday night in Atlanta with many students preparing for exams during the flight. First thing Saturday morning, six students sat with me and took final exams. In addition, other students came into my session and used it as a study hall to prepare. Later on Saturday the team had a practice and a meal.

Some of the players went to watch Dan Dickau's team, the Atlanta Hawks, play basketball on Saturday night but others went back to the hotel to study. On Sunday we played our first game against the University of Georgia, the first half of which everyone would like to forget.

Right after the game we left for the airport for a 10:30 PM flight to Newark, New Jersey. The team was down after losing the game and not playing their best, but still many had their books open to study. We arrived at our hotel after 12:30 am and got back on the bus to go out and grab a late dinner. We went to bed that night after 2 am. The next morning I felt like a zombie, but the kids had study time arranged and then had to go practice basketball. I really don't know how they did it.

By Tuesday it was another round of practice, meet the media and finally our great game against North Carolina State University. ESPN announcer Digger Phelps referred to Gonzaga as the "Duke of the West." Immediately after the game ended, there was no time to bask in the glow of the victory. We loaded on the buses, ate Blimpie sandwiches (no napkins) and headed out to LaGuardia Airport to board a 5 hour flight that would get us back into Spokane around 1:30 am so students could take their Wednesday finals.

After the victory over NC State the mood was much better than the previous game, but you could not walk the length of the plane without seeing many of our basketball players with their books open, calculators out, or writing papers. The lucky ones were curled up in economy seats trying to get some sleep! Not the best of studying conditions, but you all would have been pleased with their dedication not as basketball players, but as Gonzaga students.

The next time a student has an excuse why they can't get something done on time, feel free to use the examples of the Men's Basketball team. They played hard and worked hard. They didn't make excuses. I was privileged to see and experience just how exhausting all this "fun" can be and I am very proud of our student athletes. They are another of the great gifts of the University.

John Caputo,
Professor of Communication Arts

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