It is graduation weekend in the University City and the WVU football program has six players donning their cap and gown this weekend.
Three will be getting their bachelor’s degree while the other three, Osman Kamara, Sean Mahone, and Kyle Poland, are graduating with their master’s.
During her six years in Morgantown, assistant athletics director for student-athlete development Brittany O’Dell has seen the football program reach new heights academically.
“Over the last three year years, we’ve had a 100% graduation rate. Our players are exceeding in the classroom with the same level of enthusiasm and effort as they have on the field quite honestly,” O’Dell said.
At the end of this spring semester, 70 players have earned a 3.0 GPA or higher.
“That’s a huge amount of guys that are buying in to our culture and what we stand for,” O’Dell said. “I think our increase in GPA is very impressive honestly. I think the players have really been as successful as they have been because the level of monitoring and tracking my team does and providing that academic support been helpful to my staff, myself and our players.”
The academics staff has 8 total members, including O’Dell. Their job is to work directly with the student-athletes to make sure they are excelling in the classroom. From academic meetings, study hall, tutoring, monitoring grades, and sending out progress reports, O’Dell and her staff are with the student-athletes every step of the way as they pursue their future goals.
“Her and her staff make sure we are completing our assignments on time and doing all our work,” Kamara said.” They communicate very well with our coaches to make sure they know our schedules and our tasks we need to compete. The numbers speak for themselves — she’s had three years of full graduation completion.”
Kamara received his bachelor’s degree in sports management last year and will be graduating on Sunday with a master’s of business and administration. His father taught him at a young age the importance of education and the doors it could open, so he pursued his master’s degree as a way to transform his love for sports into a career.
“They tell you to choose what you love to do and I’ve always loved being around sports. I’ve also have been a big management person, I like being in charge of what’s going, so what better way than to be in administration,” Kamara said. My end goal is to one day be the head man, I want to be like (WVU Director of Athletics ) Shane Lyons. So I am taking every step to get there.”
Education really clicked for Kamara during his junior year of college as he realized that playing in the NFL may not be the path for him. Mahone, who is also graduating with his MBA, had that same realization.
“I wasn’t even thinking about getting my master’s after graduating last year, but with COVID, I was able to get another year and I knew had to take advantage of this opportunity,” Mahone said. “With how competitive the world is today with education, I knew I had to take advantage of it because not everybody has this opportunity. Football isn’t going to last forever, so having that master’s is going to help me in the real world with my career.”
Mahone will be using his extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA and suit up for one more season in Gold and Blue. He said he is currently working with O’Dell and her staff on his continued opportunity for education while playing another season.
Here’s how O’Dell described the six WVU football graduates:
Osman Kamara, MBA: “He is the most dedicated, respectful and responsible. The sky is the limit for him. He is the epitome of a student-athlete. He has come in and taken advantage of all of the resources we have provided. He’s fully bought in and he’s leaving here with his master’s degree in business — that’s huge. I can’t speak highly enough of him and everything he’s done to get himself in the position he’s in. He’s a rising star.”
Sean Mahone, MBA: “Sean is a little quiet and keeps to himself but he walks the straight and narrow and does everything he is supposed to. He’s on time for all meetings, he’s never late to study hall, he goes to all classes. He does everything we ask him to do in the classroom. I couldn’t be more proud of him as he graduates with his master’s.”
Kyle Poland, master’s in sport management: “He just became a dad and he’s leaving with his undergrad and master degree in sport management. He did an internship with our sports administrator in football Keli Zinn and I know she speaks so highly of him. He has taken full advantage of every opportunity that has been given and put himself in a place to be very very successful when he leaves WVU. We are very proud of him.”
Jarett Doege, bachelor’s degree in marketing: “He came in as a transfer and had some courses we got evaluated to get him here and stay on track. We are so proud of what he has accomplished and he’s already been admitted into a master’s program in sports coaching.”
Jake Abbott, bachelor’s degree in marketing: “He’s another one that has done everything we have asked. He came in pretty early and had mandatory study hall as a freshman and quickly proved to us he could get out and do everything he needed on his own. He didn’t need a lot of oversight, he was very self-disciplined and respectful.”
Josh Chandler-Semedo, bachelor’s degree in marketing: “He’s currently applying to get his MBA and we are hoping to hear soon if he was admitted. I think Josh would tell you he’s faced some adversity in life and he has pushed through and come out on top. We are really proud of all the things he has overcome. I see him as a leader with our other players on the team. It’s been really great to watch his maturity over the last four years and how he asserts himself in situations where he needs to be a mentor.”
It will be an emotional weekend for all graduates here on the WVU campus as they close out an important chapter of their life. For O’Dell, watching those student-athletes flip their tassel and get that diploma is the exact reason she left Florida six years to come to the Mountain State.
“It’s the most rewarding part of my job. When I see them walk across the stage, it is such an emotional time. You see these players that come in at 18 and are completely wide-eyed. Some of them lack those skills to be successful so you work with them at such a young age on how to become young men and navigate this new world,” O’Dell said. “Then you watch them mature and leave here with a degree, if not two, and it’s so incredibly rewarding to know that when they walk across that stage, they will leave here with a degree nobody can ever take away from them and experiences that will set them up for success.”