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Hanna: UVM Basketball

03/25/10 7:55AM By Cheryl Hanna
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(HOST)  UVM's Lady Cats just completed an historic season, making it all the way to the second round in the NCAA tournament. Commentator and Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna thinks that these student athletes are winners for lots of reasons.

(HANNA) On my four year old son's dresser is a photo of him being held by May Kotsopoulos, one of UVM's star basketball players. May is smiling and my little guy has this proud grin on his face. It's one of his favorite pictures  - "it's me and May" he proudly proclaims - and I'm sure it will become one of his most prized sports memorabilia as he grows older.  

Of course, he thought it was perfectly ordinary to watch May and her teammates on national television as they blew past Wisconsin, and showed grace under pressure in their loss to Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA finals.  

We got to know May and her family because they attend our church and it was through her that we started following the Lady Cats on this amazing four year journey. But it wasn't hard to get drawn in as this team has shown such talent and strength of character. They were great role models for my children and brought a whole lot of joy to thousands of fans. I'm reminded of that Lee Ann Womack song - when they had the chance to sit it out or danced, they danced!

UVM has much to be proud of this season, including that all of its senior players - May, Courtnay Pilypataitis, Allisa Sheftic, and Sophia Iwobi - will graduate.  According to a recent study of Division I NCAA teams released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, UVM graduates 100% of its women's team, and 92% of its men's team.  Those are great accomplishments when you consider that nationally, only 18 other such schools can boast of a 100% graduation rate for women and only 29 of the men's teams graduate at least 70% of their student athletes.

Overall, women athletes do much better than their male counterparts, although the reasons why are less than clear.  Many male athletes will leave college to join the NBA, which requires that its players only be 19 and one year out of high school.  In contrast, the WNBA requires its players to be at least 22 or have a college degree. Because the women have to wait longer to go pro, and have far fewer opportunities than the men do for a professional career, they may be more likely to stay in school.

The gender gap is certainly one that deserves more attention because with the exception of a few superstars, a college degree ultimately means more life-long opportunities for these students. Whatever they're doing at UVM to keep their student athletes in school could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

But this week, we celebrate the amazing athletic and academic accomplishments of May and her teammates, and we wish the seniors the best of luck as they take on the next challenges in their lives. We'll all be cheering for you!

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Cheryl Hanna on-line at VPR-dot-net.
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