ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Breda Bova has always seen the student in the athletes of the University of New Mexico.
But she’s pleasantly come to find that more have discovered her perspective over the 36 years she has been with UNM’s College of Education.
Bova has served as UNM’s faculty representative for athletics for 16 years and on the university’s athletic council for decades longer. She has also been on the NCAA’s research and certification committees.
She says the biggest change she has seen in college athletics has been “the attention given to student-athletes as students, and really graduating them. (UNM athletic director) Paul Krebs has done a great job of getting the academic piece in place.
“We’ve seen what students have gone on to do. I always tell them they’ve got great work skills. They know how to set time management. … And when they’re down, they never give up. We live in a society where people quit too easily.”
The New Jersey native was brought up a fan of the Yankees and the Fighting Irish.
“I grew up in a family where my dad would wake us up to the Notre Dame fight song,” Bova says. “And I married a Buckeye (Albuquerque attorney Art Bova, who witnessed Bill Mazeroski’s World Series homer to beat the Yankees in 1960), so we went to Ohio State games.”
She played some field hockey in her youth and has competed in the La Luz Trail Run.
She arrived in Albuquerque in 1975, but first came to the media’s attention in 1992. She was chairwoman of UNM’s athletic council when it voted to censure Lobo basketball coach Dave Bliss. Late that fall semester, Lobo standout Steve Logan was dropped from two classes, yet somehow managed to pick up a couple of other classes and remained eligible.
At the time, Bova said: “Steve Logan first and foremost is a student at UNM, and we want to make sure he is a good student, so that when he leaves this place he will have the skills that will help him acquire jobs in the future.”
Bova credits the Krebs administration for its focus on schoolwork. She attended the recent UNM athletics academic banquet where she says there were almost 300 athletes with a 3.2 grade-point average or higher.
“We had the largest number graduate with a 4.0 or above,” she says. “They have a director’s chair for those with a 4.0 and usually they have four chairs. This year there were four chairs on one side and another four or five on the other side.”
She says “it boggles the mind” how athletes can juggle school and sports, and finish college with honors in four, or sometimes even three, years.
As part of her academic work, Bova has published studies examining Generation X in the workplace. Now she’s working with Generation Y, the so-called “Millennials.”
“The young students, the Millennials coming in, they ask a lot of questions,” Bova says. “If they’re not satisfied with a grade, they say, ‘Hey.’ I tell them the faculty member has a right to give you a grade, but you have the right to ask about the grade. There’s much more questioning, and that’s a good thing. They’re also closer to their parents than the generation before them.”
Bova is particularly pleased with UNM’s “Lobos for Life” program.
“It’s neat to see, even when they’re done with us, they still come back as lettermen to support the student athletes of the future,” Bova says.
She believes most people think of only football and basketball when it comes to the NCAA, when most of the college athletes compete in the Olympic sports.
Her focus, however, has been on all the students. It is one reason Bova this week was given the Dr. Albert C. Yates Distinguished Service Award by the MWC. She said she was surprised by the award, which stresses academics and integrity in college athletics.
Those who know her work are not.