Transfer U: Dozens of student-athletes come to campus, don’t leave

Redshirt sophomore Katherine Zander thought she had found her dream school when she entered college.

When she received a scholarship to play women’s basketball for the Oklahoma Sooners, she was certain she would spend four years playing Big 12 basketball in the plains of Norman, Okla.

But after discovering her dream school wasn’t all she thought it would be, Zander had officially decided to come to Nashville and play for the Bruins’ women’s basketball team – a squad where she’s one of five transfers.

“The coaches have created a winning environment here for everyone to get along. It’s amazing to be a part of. I love my teammates and look forward to seeing them every day. I don’t know how many other schools can say that,” Zander said.

Zander is one of 27 transfer students that have been on a Belmont athletic roster this school year. At the same time, the university maintained a higher rate of retention for their own students as shown by their comparatively high Academic Progress Rates.

While current APR figures, which are comprised of the number of students on athletic scholarships who stay in school and are academically eligible, are not available, recent numbers show Belmont’s academic record is higher than the majority of other schools.

In 2010-11, six Belmont teams were recognized for having rates in the top 10 percent of their respective sports. In a three-year period, only two teams ever had an figure below the national average at the time. None of those occurred in 2010-11.

Nationally, 6.4 percent of Division I student-athletes transferred in the same time period, according to the NCAA’s website.

Belmont director of compliance Heather Copeland said she sees no single reason for athletes transferring to Belmont, but noted the process in place when a student-athlete decides to move to a new campus.

“Where they chose to go may have ended up not being the right fit for them for one reason or another,” Copeland said. “But one thing our coaches do a good job with is recruiting student athletes who are good Belmont fits overall.”

Before these students choose to come to Belmont, they have to go through a process to complete their transition to their new school. First, the player must ask permission to contact other institutions from the university he or she is currently at. If the school denies this request, the player can make an expedited appeal to the NCAA for the right to transfer.

Senior women’s basketball guard Katie Brooks said that process led to a smooth transition to Belmont from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

“Renee and Heather really helped me. I had a meeting during the transfer during my first visit here and another right before I enrolled,” Brooks said. “They just showed me step by step the things to do and it was very helpful.”

Brooks believes student-athletes stay at Belmont it is because of the personal connections among the various squads on campus.

“It’s like a family environment here within the team and among the other sports teams as well,” Brooks said. “They really just take you in and ask how things are going with your season. It’s like a tight knit group here.”

For junior men’s basketball player Drew Windler, those individuals were also a main reason behind his move to Belmont from Samford University in Alabama, as well as the academic and athletic reputation of the program.

“What really caught my eye was the quality of people here and how they valued treating people well so much. That was a big thing for me,” Windler said.

The transition he experienced when moving school was larger than he thought, but the forward credited the school with helping him adjust to Belmont, Windler said.

“If I had to guess in my experience transferring is taken for granted. You hear all the time about it but it’s a pretty big life change,” the forward said. “It can be an uncomfortable position [transferring] but one thing puts you at ease is people from coaches to academic advisors have your back.”

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