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Professor Roberto Quercia will use Harvey Award money to develop coaches academy

In the wake of the athletic scandal at UNC, professor Roberto Quercia is taking initiative to target the academic progress of student-athletes at a younger age.

Quercia, chairman of the department of city and regional planning and the winner of the 2013 C. Felix Harvey Award, will use the $75,000 prize to develop a coaches academy through the Bridges 2 Success foundation.

The award, given annually, honors professors whose work focuses on innovation.

The coaches academy will integrate the four core values of Bridges 2 Success, which are protection, affection, connection and correction. Bridges 2 Success is a program focused on preparing athletes for higher education.

This year’s Harvey Award project proposals were based on technology, economic development, arts and culture and improvement of K-12 public education, said Scott Ragland, a spokesman for the Office of University Development, in an email.

“For the 2013 award, the competition focused on innovative engagement and outreach,” Ragland said.

Quercia said the coaches academy includes a curriculum to provide middle-school and high-school coaches the tools to better prepare their student-athletes for college.

The curriculum will include workshops, conferences, online courses and face-to-face instruction focused on athletes’ physical health, psychological development and academic readiness.

Quercia said he wants to develop a curriculum to address education component issues. He also said many middle and high school coaches do not have college degrees, so this program will help coaches be better informed on how to help the students.

“We thought it was a good way to work with students in all aspects of life,” Quercia said.

Mark McDaniel, a senior research associate who specializes in urban studies, said student-athletes tend to have more focus on their athletic dreams and less focus on academic goals. McDaniel, who is working on Quercia’s preliminary start-up team, said this program will help coaches find ways to better assist students with their academic plans.

McDaniel said he believes this program will mirror the vision President Obama set forth with his recent press conference for the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which seeks to help minority men reach their full potential.

“This initiative really acknowledges a new way of supporting student-athletes,” he said of Quercia’s program.

McDaniel said he and Quercia are busy fundraising for the coaches academy and two other program components, a mentor program and an intensive study hall for athletes. They are having conversations with the NCAA and other corporate sponsors, encouraging them to donate money.

James Johnson Jr., a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School who founded Bridges 2 Success, said the program will be responsible for some of the fundraising as well.

Johnson said it has not been decided where the coaches training will take place — it could take place at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education or the Rizzo Conference Center at UNC.

He said Bridges 2 Success and the coaching program incorporate feedback from the coaches into the curriculum.

“In addition to what we think are important, we will also take into consideration what coaches think are important.”

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