A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Fields of Dreams

By Preston Williams on August 5, 2015

Baseball fans are known for rattling off statistics, but here’s a stat that surprises even the most ardent followers of the sport: NCAA Division I baseball teams are allotted only 11.7 scholarships to divide among 27 or so players.

Coaches in most other Mason sports also have limited resources when it comes to attracting top talent on modest annual operating budgets. They can hope that the university’s many strong points—including its faculty, research, student life, diversity, accessibility, and location—can sweeten the deal, and they certainly can play up Mason athletes’ academic successes.

Mason student-athletes tend to graduate in fewer semesters than non-student-athletes, says Sue Collins, senior associate athletic director, and Mason athletes also boast a slightly higher grade-point average than non-student-athletes, with a 3.10 GPA to 3.05, according to 2013-14 university statistics.

“Mason student-athletes are in a wide array of majors, including neuroscience, engineering, communication, English, history, the School of Business,” Collins says. “You name [a school/college] and they’re in it.”

Mason student-athletes with a 3.75 GPA or higher who have completed at least three full-time academic terms earn the Provost Scholar Athlete Award, a tradition begun by former provost Peter Stearns and continued by current provost S. David Wu. The student-athletes can invite their favorite professors to the reception, which even further aligns the academic and athletic pursuits of the university.

These sturdy academic credentials impress recruits and their parents. But ultimately they want to know what financial assistance they can receive through an athletic scholarship, endowed scholarships, and other academic and athletic resources.

Often, the school that can offer the most assistance is the one that lands the recruit.

Mason has 47 endowed athletic scholarships and seeks many more donors to help support 500 student-athletes and 22 teams. The Student-Athlete Scholarship Fund and the Sport Specific Fund are other ways to support Mason athletes and coaches as they vie for Atlantic 10 Conference championships.

“Scholarships for our student-athletes are vitally important to Mason’s competitiveness on the playing field, and they’re even more important to the impact they can have on the lives of our young people,” said Brad Edwards. “Student-athletes display many attributes that are coveted by employers. They’re self-starters, goal setters, leaders. Our mission as an athletic department is to attract outstanding student-athletes and provide them with the resources they need to succeed not only for four years, but for life.”

To learn more about supporting student-athletes, contact the Patriot Club at 703-993-3215 or visit gomason.com.

Tyler Zombro

Tyler Zombro

Tyler Zombro

Sophomore pitcher Tyler Zombro says he’ll never forget the time he got off the phone with a baseball coach from an Atlantic Coast Conference school and had to inform his parents that the school could offer only a 25 percent scholarship.

That would mean that even with a partial scholarship the family would have to pay about $33,000 annually for him to attend that institution. So Zombro, a Staunton, Virginia, native and prephysical therapy major, limited his list to in-state schools.

He settled in quickly at Mason, going 6-2 with five saves and a team-low 1.91 earned-run average to nab a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. He helped the Patriots win the A-10 title and reach the NCAA tournament.

Zombro, who pitched against Texas A&M in the NCAA Houston Regional, is pleased with the decision he made to attend an academic-minded school with a rich baseball tradition.

“We have some of the best coaches in the country, but the bottom line really comes down to what recruits you can get in here,” says Zombro, a Provost Scholar Athlete. “Fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of that has to do with money.”

Jasmine Robinson

Jasmine Robinson

Jasmine Robinson
Track and Field

Sprinter and hurdler Jasmine Robinson ran on the Mason 4x400m relay team that won the Atlantic 10 title during the indoor track season, and she was on the 4x400m team reached the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2012.

As do many Mason athletes, she says she feels as if she is carrying the baton for the university as a whole whether she’s on or off the track.

“Mason athletes are ambassadors for the school,” says Robinson, a conflict analysis and resolution major from Baltimore, Maryland. “We’re held to a certain standard, and anything we do reflects on the university.”

Robinson likes that responsibility. What concerns her is when she sees Mason athletes working part-time jobs in restaurants and clothing stores to help meet expenses that their partial scholarships do not cover. For many, a little more financial help would make a major difference.

“Sports is a part-time job in itself with going to school full time,” Robinson says. “Student-athletes represent the school, and they need that aid so they can dedicate more of their energy to do what they’re here to do—schoolwork and sports.”

Youssef Khalafallah

Youssef Khalafallah

Youssef Khalafallah

Youssef Khalafallah had two choices coming out of high school: He could stay in Egypt and enroll in medical school at minimal cost to his family, or he could come to the United States to pursue both academics and college tennis, an option he did not have in his native country.

“I imagined if I could come and go to college in America,” Khalafallah says. “It sounded like one of those things that is not going to happen.”

But it did happen, thanks to a Mason Distinction Scholarship that helps defray costs for the biology major. When that aid materialized, Khalafallah’s parents considered their son’s dream of studying overseas a more feasible option.

Khalafallah has continued to thrive academically, earning a spot on the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.

“The day I received the scholarship,” Khalafallah says, “was a remarkable day.”

Christina Gabriele

Christina Gabriele

Christina Gabriele

Junior pitcher and first baseman Christina Gabriele felt the pull to attend college in her native Florida. The climate is great for softball, and her mother, Helena, is a civil engineering professor at the University of Miami.

But Gabriele wanted a new experience. A partial athletic scholarship and an Honors College scholarship enabled her to attend Mason, where the junior communication major has made the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, presides over the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, studied abroad in Italy, and organized a softball benefit project for children with brain cancer.

“It’s safe to say that I probably wouldn’t be at Mason if it were only one or the other scholarship,” Gabriele says. “There are a lot of kids who can’t go out and do these things without being assisted by a scholarship.

“I don’t know if people realize how much it changes our lives.”

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