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BOGACZYK: Herd Teams, Athletes Hiking GPAs





May 29, 2014

By Jack Bogaczyk

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In increasing numbers, Marshall student-athletes made the grade – and grades – again.

The biannual report on Thundering Herd academics prepared by Tara Helton, director of the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program, shows that in the 2014 spring semester, nine of the 14 Marshall sports teams (women’s indoor and outdoor track and cross country are combined) had a term grade point average of 3.0 or greater.

Five of those – volleyball (3.50), tennis (3.49), women’s soccer (3.47), swimming (3.35) and men’s cross country (3.33) – were 3.33 or higher.

“We had been holding strong at eight teams with GPAs of 3.0 or better over recent semesters,” Helton said. “This is the first time we’ve had nine, and I’m pleased with what our student-athletes did in the spring semester.”

Softball, women’s golf, men’s soccer and track and field also posted team GPAs of at least 3.0 during the semester. Men’s golf just missed the mark at 2.96. Thirteen of the 14 Herd teams were at 2.60 or better, including football’s climb of .14 to 2.60.

Helton pointed to a couple of spring sports in which athletes miss significant class time because of their playing schedules to display the Herd’s academic commitment.

The softball team, which reached the Conference USA Tournament title game for a third straight year, had a .17 term GPA improvement during its playing season from the fall, to 3.22.

In baseball, the percentage of players owning cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or better rose by 23 percent, to 15 student-athletes.

“When you’re talking about the big picture, you have to consider team travel and the time those teams have to miss (class),” Helton said.

Two other numbers Helton tracks also showed improvement from the fall 2013 semester.

The enrolled MU student-athletes with cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or better rose from 46 to 47 percent. Those with single-term GPAs of 3.0 jumped from 51 to 53 percent.

Nine more athletes had cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or better in the spring term than in the fall.

“The emphasis is to try to get more term GPAs up, because then that improves the cumulatives,” Helton said. “That’s sort of the method to our madness, so to speak.”

In spring term GPAs, baseball rose by .35 from 2013 to 2014, while men’s soccer climbed .24 and men’s golf by .21.

The semester report on student-athlete classroom success comes on the heels of the Herd having nine teams with perfect 1000 single-year scores in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) measurement for 2012-13. Herd tennis had a perfect APR for a fourth straight year. Six teams had point hikes of 20 or more in the same APR measurement.

There were 41 student-athletes gaining their MU undergraduate degrees in the spring semester, bringing the 2013-14 total to 59. Helton said another eight are expected to complete course work for degrees by August.

The Herd is hoping to see an academic enhancement, too, when the Buck Harless Program moves into the new academic center that’s part of the Indoor Athletic Facility. The completion of that piece of the project is expected by the start of the 2015 spring semester (January 2015).

“Our students work hard, and our advisors work hard,” Helton said. “It’s a game plan. I compare advising to athletics. This is our academic game plan, and we have to put together a plan to help these kids be successful.

“It’s no different than an offensive, defensive or special teams game plan, but like on the field, it takes everybody to buy in to implement that plan.”