International athletes add competitive edge to Big Ten Conference

Story and media by, Gage Peake, NewsNetNebraska 

In the world of collegiate athletics today, universities will try to do anything to ensure its athletic programs find success on their competitive playing fields. According to USA Today, the NCAA (or National Collegiate Athletic Association) just missed out on recording an one billion dollar revenue year at the end of the 2014 fiscal year. One billion dollars! Considering collegiate athletes are considered amateur athletes, that number is staggering to say the least.

To try and keep a step up on its competitors or rivals, universities have began to recruit outside the borders of the United States, as international athletes competing at NCAA schools is growing more and more common. Most notably, schools in the Big Ten Conference are using international athletes in its varsity athletic programs.

With 541 international athletes competing in the Big Ten Conference according to data compiled from each universities athletic websites, there is nearly an international athlete in every NCAA sanctioned sport in the Big Ten Conference.

When you start to compare numbers between the Big Ten schools international athlete totals, several things begin to stand out. Ohio State is an absolute juggernaut in most sports in the Big Ten—especially football and men’s basketball, but also lead the Big Ten in international athlete totals. Even though the Buckeyes have a high number of athletic teams—that saturates the number for some schools—it does not for Ohio State, as 82 international athletes in 37 sports is remarkable.
Total_International_Athletes_at_Big_Ten_Member_Universities__Total_Sports_chartbuilder (1)
Something that might be disappointing for the Big Ten conference is the number of international student-athletes from one of its new-member-institutions in Rutgers.

In 20 varsity sports, Rutgers, which is located in New Jersey has only 20 international athletes in 22 varsity athletic teams. So despite offering a large metro area around campus with NYC right across the way, RU struggles to find international athletes to compete.

When you look at the numbers by gender, some other numbers also pop out, as the number of females competing at Ohio State. Once again OSU produced another remarkable number, as there are 52 total international women competing as student-athletes at OSU.

Total_International_Athletes_at_Big_Ten_Member_Universities__Men__Women_chartbuilderPenn State also has a tremendous amount of international athletes competing at its school, as there are 36 men competing for the university that are from outside the United States. It must be noted that PSU does play men’s hockey, so there are several members of the team that are from Canada—but hey, that is considered an international athlete!

Senior Beth Hedley, a bowler at the University of Nebraska, believes that having international athletes compete for their respective universities is a great way to get more competition on each team. Hedley, a native of Watford, England, said that being able to play a sport collegiately in the United State is something words cannot describe.

“My experiences here in the US so far have been irreplaceable. Not only do I get the chance to practice a sport I love everyday, but I’m also getting great education,” Hedley said.

She went on to add that there are some difficulties involved with being a student athlete in a new country, but as a whole the experience is once in a lifetime.

“Combining both school and sport is a little more difficult here, because we (athletes) have a lot of requirements we have to fulfill, but it’s manageable.” Hedley said, “The facilities here at UNL are second to none. I couldn’t imagine having any of this back in England.”

Former Nebraska track and field athlete Jarren Heng agreed with Hedley, as Heng has competed with several international athletes during his time with the UNL track and field team.

“Competing with some of our international track athletes made my ability to compete at higher levels that much easier,” Heng said. “They (International athletes) all bring different atmospheres to the table, giving us all a different perspective on not only how to train, but a different perspective of life.”

As the number of international athletes continues to rise in the Big Ten Conference, statements like that of what Heng said—the true importance of competing against international athletes will make the Big Ten Conference a better place for student-athletes.

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