June 06, 2022

Students at Lewis & Clark Law Balance Academic and Athletic Commitments

Extended NCAA eligibility as a result of COVID-19 allowed 3 students to continue playing the sport they love while enrolled at Lewis & Clark Law.

Law school is stressful for just about everyone, yet Tyler McFarland and Jacob Serafini completed their IL years while being NCAA student athletes, and Riley Guieb managed to do the same while being a student in the Master of Legal Studies (MSL) program. Per traditional National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules, a student-athlete has 5 years of NCAA eligibility to play 4 years of their sport during their undergraduate career. If eligibility is “left over” because a student graduated early, was injured, or transferred schools, this eligibility can be used while they are enrolled in a post-graduate program. Additionally, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for students that had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tyler, Jacob, and Riley made the most of their extra eligibility and continued playing their sport of choice on Lewis & Clark’s undergraduate teams during the 2021-2022 academic year. Tyler, who is a basketball player, made it to every team activity and played in over half the team’s games. Riley and Jacob split time as the two starting shortstops on the baseball team.

Tyler played basketball for both American University in Washington, D.C., and Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN during his undergraduate years. He decided to go to law school in part because he comes from a family of lawyers – his grandfather, father, and uncles are all lawyers. Tyler has “seen how rewarding it is for them to help people solve complex problems” and wants to do the same with his life. He made the decision to use up his NCAA eligibility and continue playing basketball during law school because he “simply loves the sport.”

While balancing athletic and academic commitments was challenging, Tyler managed it by meal prepping a week at a time to save him valuable time that he otherwise would have spent cooking. The hardest part for Tyler was trying to fit in a social life, as after practice, games, and school work, he was trying to relax and recover for the following day. Additionally, Tyler used weekends to get ahead of his work for the coming week. While it was challenging at times, Tyler is grateful that he got the opportunity to continue doing what he loves. According to him, “the most rewarding part was being a member of a really close group of friends outside of the law school bubble. Being around the team at practice and games every day helped remind me the world is a lot bigger than law school.”

Jacob Serafini attended Lewis & Clark College for his undergraduate degree. He was excited to remain with the Lewis & Clark community while honing his baseball skills and learning the skills required to be a lawyer. In Jacob’s words, staying with the Lewis & Clark community resulted in a “seamless transition” for him to play on the team as a law student. Jacob studied mathematics and economics during his undergraduate career and decided to continue his education and get a law degree because he “wanted to apply his logical and analytical thinking to a different context: the law.” Jacob decided to continue his NCAA career because “playing collegiate sports is a once in a lifetime experience, and I was not going to pass up the opportunity if I still had more chances to compete.”

Looking back on the year, Jacob is “extremely happy with his decision and excited to see what the future holds.” While balancing the commitments between school and sports was difficult, Jacob said he appreciated that Division III schools “prioritize the classroom.” All of his games were played on weekends and players were “encouraged to pursue academic goals even if they interfered with practice or games.” He also emphasized that “the Lewis & Clark community was incredibly understanding and supportive.” The most difficult part for Jacob was finding time for himself and finding time to unwind. However, the reward was that he “got to play the sport he loves with his best friends and got an amazing education with brilliant professors and classmates each and every day.” Although it was a lot of work, Jacob “would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Riley graduated from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Environmental Studies. Following graduation from Grinnell, Riley worked for the U.S. Geological Study Agency, which allowed him to work in native Hawaiian forests and get involved in important ecological research. Riley “stumbled upon the Masters of Environmental, Natural Resource, and Energy Law program at Lewis & Clark Law” and applied to the program because he “cares deeply about the environment, wants to create change in some way, and getting involved with law and policy in some way fits his career path.”

Riley admitted that baseball was a tough decision to make because he “was at peace” with ending his career at Grinnell. However, the love of the game and the desire to keep playing baseball with friends convinced him to make the decision to play for Lewis & Clark. Time management was a central focus for Riley and he “had to be really good with almost every minute of every day, but that’s what years of experience as a student-athlete prepares you for.” For Riley, classes in the master’s program were tough to adjust to at first, but he “figured out a good system for himself and was able to balance things from there.” He is “looking forward to re-retiring from baseball, but is grateful to the Lewis & Clark baseball team and coaches for allowing him to play one more NCAA season. It was a remarkable season that he will remember forever.”