Jan. 24, 2014
By Jack Bogaczyk
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The anticipation for Marshall’s Indoor Athletic Facility mushrooms as the steel structure and wall panels rise from the ground week-by-week.
Included in the anxiousness is the waiting for a new, 14,000-square foot academic center – scheduled to open one year from now – for the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program.
Meanwhile, the academic numbers in Marshall sports continue to shine, as Thundering Herd student-athletes finished the fall 2013 semester with consistently high marks.
Over the 14 Herd programs (women’s indoor/outdoor track and cross country counted as one), 51 percent of the enrolled student-athletes had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in the fall term. And eight of the 14 teams had at least 70 percent of their athletes at 3.0 or above.
As the Herd athletes pointed toward the spring semester that started Jan. 13, 46 percent of enrolled student-athletes own a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Breaking that down another way, eight teams had 63 percent or more of their athletes with cumulative 3.0 or better.
Some other measurements provided by the Buck Harless Program:
*Eight of the 14 Marshall sports teams showed a fall semester team grade point average of 3.0 or greater. Those eight were led by tennis (3.57), men’s cross country (3.36), women’s soccer (3.25), volleyball (3.24) and swimming (3.21).
*Two other programs just missed the 3.0 term mark. Women’s track and field/cross country averaged a 2.96, and women’s basketball posted a 2.958.
The latter was one of the more improved teams in term-to-term GPA, up from 2.73 in the spring 2013 semester. One year earlier (spring 2012), the women’s hoops GPA was 2.50. It had been between 2.50 and 2.60 for every semester between 2010 and ’12.
“I’m ecstatic about our team’s performance in the classroom,” Marshall second-year Coach Matt Daniel said. “Given that 10 new faces (on the roster) are adjusting to college life, college basketball, and college academics, I believe this accomplishment is much more important than anything we do on the basketball floor.”
Four of Daniel’s players – McKenzie Akers, Chukwuka Ezeigbo, Suporia Dickens and Justine Boerger -- scored 3.50 or higher in the fall semester. Five others were also above 3.00.
“We take a lot of pride in having success in the classroom, and academics is something our program talks about in one facet or another every single day,” Daniel said. “Every student-athlete that has completed eligibility under us has graduated. We want them to graduate with higher-end GPAs. I think if you look at the trend of academics in our program over the last year and a half, you can tell we take it pretty seriously.
“We are also thankful to have a support staff here that is devoted to that area here at Marshall. I believe with the new facility, prospective students, not just prospective student-athletes, will be able to see the commitment to academic success continue to grow, and our staff is excited to be a part of that.”
The baseball program had the largest rise in average term GPA, up .54 to a 2.84. Men’s golf was next in improving its semester GPA, up .40 to a 3.15 for the fall team.
These positive numbers aren’t the exception.
Using the last four semesters as a gauge, the Herd has had 9, 9, 8 and 8 teams with a semester GPA average of 3.0 or better, and 13, 14, 13 and 13 teams with a GPA of 2.45 or more.
Individually, the student-athlete percentages with 3.0 cumulative GPAs over those three semesters are 48, 50, 49 and 46 percent. And the single-term GPAs of 3.0 or better are, in order, 55, 57, 55 and 51 percent for the last four semesters, in order.
“I think the fall semester’s numbers – again – just go to show we are consistent in nature with the number of teams continuing to perform at a 3.0 and above,” said Tara Helton, director of the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program and the football team lead academic counselor. “Our total number of student-athletes who maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better -- as well as post-term GPAs -- is very consistent, too.
“I think taking everything into consideration – playing schedules, travel schedules – the commitment to their academics, too, is shown through that consistency.”
Helton said the potential for classroom success figures to be greatly enhanced once the Buck Harless Program gets into the new academic center adjacent to the Indoor Facility.
Now, counselors and tutors use rooms in the Shewey Building (football) and Gullickson Hall (other sports). The new academic center will have 14,150 square feet of space, with quiet study areas, eight tutoring rooms, a computer lab with about 70 individual work stations, a large classroom, an auditorium with a 75-seat capacity, a recruiting room for prospective MU student-athletes and parents to learn about the Buck Harless Program, and offices for Helton and her staff.
Helton’s staff includes fellow student-athlete counselors Jillian Boys, Aliese Lucas and staff newcomer AJ Hubbard, who moved over from the department's equipment staff. The four counselors are backed by approximately 30 tutors.
“I think with the addition of the student-athlete academic center, you will see us continue the consistency,” Helton said. ‘I think you’ll see progress in academics in all sports due to the state-of-the-art technology. We’re going to have the largest computer lab we’ve ever had.
“We’re going to have everyone under one roof. It’s going to be a more uniform operation, and we’ll have better service for our student-athletes and their parents … We can’t wait to get into our new home. It’s going to be win-win for our student-athletes and staff.”