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Herd Has Great Spring in Classroom, Too

John Mercer's tennis program had the highest GPA this spring.

May 28, 2013

By Jack Bogaczyk


HUNTINGTON – It’s been a big spring for Marshall Athletics.

The Thundering Herd has enjoyed two firsts, a Conference USA title and NCAA regionals appearance in softball. Nathan Kerns played in an NCAA golf regional, and the track and field team finished a school-best fifth in C-USA and sent eight athletes to the NCAA prelims and Vanessa Jules and Crystal Walker to the nationals.

That success isn’t just on the field of play. It’s in the classroom as well.

Marshall student-athletes finished the spring 2013 semester with high marks, too. Over the 14 Herd programs (women’s indoor/outdoor track and cross country counted as one), 55 percent of the enrolled student-athletes had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in the spring term.

As the Herd athletes headed into the summer sessions, 49 percent enrolled student-athletes own a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Breaking that down another way, eight teams had 60 percent or more of their athletes with cumulative 3.0 or better.

“I think we will continue to sustain this or I believe we will significantly improve on it,” Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said. “Once we get into our state-of-the-art academic support center funded through the Vision Campaign, that’s going to make a real difference.

“The early look at these numbers far exceeds my expectations. You have to be pleased and impressed by these numbers.”

Thirteen of the fourteen Herd programs had a term GPA average of 2.50. Eight of the 14 topped 3.15 in average GPA. Tennis was best at 3.51, edging women’s soccer (3.50) by .01, with volleyball next at 3.42.

And these numbers aren’t the exception.

Using the last three semesters as a gauge, the Herd has had 9, 9 and 8 teams with a semester GPA average of 3.0 or better, and 13, 14 and 13 teams with a GPA of 2.5 or more.

Individually, the student-athlete percentages with 3.0 cumulative GPAs over those three semesters are 48, 50 and 49 percent. And the single-term GPA of 3.0 or better are, in order, 55, 57 and 55 percent for the spring 2012, fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters.

“In regards to the spring 2013 performance, I think it just goes 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 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 – their playing schedules, their travel schedules – the commitment to their academics is shown through that consistency.”

Some highlights:

*Seven programs – tennis, women’s soccer, volleyball, women’s golf, swimming, women’s track and field and softball – have enjoyed single-semester GPAs of 3.0 over each of the last three terms.

*Ten of the 14 programs had at least 50 percent of their athletes with spring 2013 semester GPAs of 3.0 or better.

*Five programs – women’s soccer, swimming, tennis, women’s golf and men’s cross country – had 60 percent or higher cumulative 3.0 GPAs in each of the three semesters.

*Over the three semesters, men’s basketball increased its semester team average GPA from 2.31 to 2.71 to 2.97. The number of enrolled men’s basketball players with semester GPAs of 3.0 or better rose from 2 to 7 to 9.

*In the just-completed spring semester, women’s golf (100 percent), women’s soccer (92), tennis (89), swimming (83) and volleyball (83) had had at least 75 percent of enrolled student-athletes with semester GPAs of 3.0 or better. Women’s track and field (71 percent) and men’s basketball (69 percent) were just below that standard.

*The football GPA for the spring 2013 semester was 2.55. Twenty-five percent of the enrolled players (22 of 87) have cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or better and 28 posted a 3.0 or better in the just-completed term.

The academic program for student-athletes figures to be greatly enhanced once the Buck Harless Program gets into the new academic center that will be part of the Indoor Athletic Facility for which donors continue to contribute to the Vision Campaign.

Helton heads the Buck Harless staff, and is accompanied be fellow student-athlete counselors Jillian Boys, Aliese Lucas and Tim Moore. Helton said the four counselors are backed by approximately 30 tutors.

Helton and other academic counselors and tutors work with various sports programs, using rooms in the Shewey Building (football) and Gullickson Hall (other sports). When the new academic center opens, it will have 14,150 square feet of space, with quiet study areas, eight tutoring rooms, a computer lab with 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 of counselors.

“I think with the addition of the student-athlete academic center that’s part of the Vision Campaign, 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, which I think, turns out to have better customer service for our student-athletes and their parents.

“I think moving forward and having that type of facility will only set the expectation level higher.”

Hamrick said the quality grade point averages show a commitment in the Herd program.

“Tara and the others in the Buck Harless Program work hard – just like our coaches do -- to help our student-athletes have success,” the Herd athletic director said. “The athletes deserve a lot of credit for not only putting up good numbers just this past semester, but for their year-to-year success in the classroom, too.”