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Living the Sun Devil way: ASU athletes finish degree after going pro

February 19, 2013

The “student” in student-athlete doesn’t go away just because “athlete” takes precedence.

Former Arizona State University infielder Jeff Larish was drafted to the Detroit Tigers in 2005, but recently returned to get his degree after injuring his leg in 2011.

“When I broke my leg ... I figured that now was probably a good time as any to get [the degree] done,” said Larish.

He then approached the Office of Student-Athlete Development (OSAD) for help. Specifically, Patrice Feulner, a former student-athlete who is now the assistant athletic director in the office, guided him into the right programs.

“I wanted to take online classes,” he said. “I went to Patrice and she helped me figure all that out.”

There are 12 additional professional baseball players who are currently working toward their degrees at this time, and it’s a testament to ASU’s dedication to its athletes both past and present that the Office of Student-Athlete Development works with them so closely.

“We (OSAD) are here to assist them through their readmission process, help them register for classes and ensure that they are taking what they need in order to complete their degree,” said Feulner. “We are here for them to answer any questions and to help connect them to campus resources and advisors that can help them through the process as well.”

OSAD also helped former catcher Chris Bando finish his degree. He was drafted to the Cleveland Indians in 1978 and played professionally until 1989.

“I stopped, started, stopped again, but was very grateful to ASU for showing me the easiest way to finish my degree,” he said. “Every baseball player at ASU believes he will someday play in the major leagues. I had a gnawing at me that I had not yet finished what I started (30 years ago).”

Bando is currently the athletic director for San Diego Christian College. He felt that the message he spreads to his own athletes of academics first was not complete without his own completion of his degree.

“Preaching to college athletes the importance of leaving here with a degree, while I have not completed mine was inconsistent with my beliefs,” he said. “Baseball or sports will end someday for everyone and if you don't have your college degree you limit your opportunities to earn a living and support your family.”

Bando finally received his degree in liberal studies in December 2012.

“I feel that I have finished strong in the classroom and finished what I started in 1974,” he said. “I now have more power behind my message of ‘academics before athletics.’”

Written by Jourdan Rodrigue, SDA Digital Communications Intern