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By Joel Wass

Six months ago he was nominated for male athlete of the year. Today, the most time Anton Hauser spends at Ryerson is while he bikes by campus on his way to work at the Hard Rock Cafe.

“It’s really frustrating,” says the former men’s volleyball MVP of his current academic hiatus. “I just see myself getting older and not getting any closer to my goal – earning my degree.”

In his two years at Ryerson, Hauser, 27, was arguably the best athlete at the university. His play last year led to a seven-win improvement and a new office for his head coach Mirek Porosa.

What did Hauser get out of the deal? He got bumped out of his program.

Infact, Hauser has yet to earn one credit towards his degree. This is because Hauser was told to enroll in Ryerson’s Diploma in Arts program.

DIA is a three year program available to students who lack the marks to enter Ryerson’s degree programs.

Ryerson is the only university in Canada that offers DIA.

The program was introduced in 1970 as an alternative for high school graduates seeking to upgrade their academic qualifications and for mature students wishing to resume full-time study without having to return to high school. Students in DIA pay full tuition, but they do not earn university credits. Currently, there are 127 Ryerson students in the program and roughly 75 per cent come straight from high school.

“Students’ marks [in DIA] are used as a basis of admission to transfer into either another [degree] program or another university,” says Sydney Stagg, the assistant administrator for DIA. “The program is for students who have not been as academically successful as they wanted to be. I think it is important. I think it serves a purpose.”

But is the program serving a purpose for Ryerson athletes or Ryerson coaches?

Essentially, the presence of DIA allows for Ryerson coaches to recruit athletes without regard for their previous academic record. However, this seemingly foolproof recruiting method has foiled numerous coaches.

In 1997, Porosa was burned by enroling his athletes in DIA.

The volleyball team made the playoffs that year, but five of Porosa’s six starters dropped out of school the following year. All five were in DIA.

“After my experience I would say I would prefer to have my athletes go into degree programs,” says Porosa. Today, the veteran coach has less athletes in DIA, but arguably his two best players last year were still in that program – Hauser and Michael Nesti, 2003’s male rookie of the year.

Porosa says he will do all he can to ensure his two athletic award-winning athletes get into degree programs. However, the same cannot be said for a 2002 award winner. Jan-Michael Nation, the all-time leading scorer in Ryerson men’s basketball history, was enrolled in DIA from 1998 to 2002. After four years of basketball and roughly $16,000 in tuition fees, Nation earned essentially the equivalent of a college diploma at Ryerson.

Nation could have earned a similar diploma from Humber College in two years and for less than $5,000. Nation is currently playing pro basketball overseas in Liverpool. ”

What’s he going to do with a diploma arts program when he’s done playing?” says Hauser. “At 35, what’s he going to do then? Unless you’re in the NBA, it’s not worth it.”

Now that Hauser is serving drinks instead of aces he is left wondering if he should have played volleyball while he was struggling academically. ”

Anton was given every option to succeed,” says David Dubois, Ryerson’s sports and recreation program director. “He’s not [at Ryerson] because he failed.”

Hauser did not fail any courses, but he did fail to attend Method of Inquiry seminars, which are mandatory for any athlete on academic probation. Hauser was put on academic probation two years ago after a sub-par academic showing in first year.

“I don’t feel cheated, but I wish I was more informed about my program at the begining,” says Hauser. He says he was often unaware of his academic requirements while in the DIA program. According to Hauser, he approached Stagg about what he needed to do to transfer out of DIA, but was quickly turned away. “It sucks. We pay $6,000 a year to go to school and they can’t spend a little time to tell me what’s going on? I don’t think the institution realizes they’re working for [the students].”

As a result of missing his mandatory seminars, Hauser was suspended from the DIA program for the fall semester.

“Basically I’m suspended because I missed three hours worth of seminars,” says Hauser. “I’m a little bitter about that.”

Hauser is not the only varsity athlete bitter about his D.O.A. experience in DIA.

“It is so discouraging to put all this money into a program that doesn’t even get you a degree,” says Errol Fraser, the only former Ontario University Athletics all-star on the men’s basketball team. “I think it is the worst program there is. I think it is a waste of time. I don’t recommend it to anybody.”

Fraser, who enrolled into DIA the same year as Hauser, says the hardest part of the program was keeping his grades up while playing on a varsity team. Although athletes in degree programs only need to pass to stay in their program, DIA students must maintain at least a B average to leave the program for a degree program.

“[Diploma in arts] is really hard to transfer out of,” says former women’s basketball team captain Teaka Grizzle. “Part of life is learning to juggle a lot of things at once, but playing varsity and keeping your marks up that high is tough.”

Both Grizzle and Fraser say members of the athletic department suggested to them to enter the DIA program, even though neither knew much about the program.

“Athletes don’t know what they are getting into [when they enter DIA]. But I had no choice because Ryerson wouldn’t take my college courses,” says Fraser who took electrical engineering at Algonquin College from 1999 to 2000.

This year, Fraser says he has entered Ryerson’s newly-available Arts and Contemporary Studies program. Although he only has one year of athletic eligibility left, Fraser says he will remain at Ryerson until he graduates.

Grizzle, Ryerson’s 2003 athlete of the year, has two more years of eligibility, but elected to quit basketball this year to concentrate on school.

“I needed to prioritize and basketball is not my priority – education is my number one priority,” says the former OUA all-star. “I think it’s so sad when people put basketball ahead of school.”

New men’s basketball head coach Patrick Williams applauds Grizzle for choosing academics and ensures his players will be “student athletes” rather than “athlete students.”

“I went to one graduation last year of [former men’s basketball captain] Sasha Ivankovic and I want to be able to go to a graduation each year,” says Williams.

Hauser would settle for attending just one graduation – his own.

“I’d love to go back to school in January,” says Hauser, who is now looking to enter Ryerson’s Early Childhood Education program.

Porosa is anxious about the prospect of having Hauser back on the court, but Hauser does not share his coach’s enthusiam. “If I got into [ECE] I wouldn’t even care about playing. I could care less. School is my priority.”

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