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BOGACZYK: Herd Spring GPAs Follow APR Success

June 2, 2015

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

            HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- There was more good news from Marshall student-athletes this spring than impressive Academic Progress Rate numbers revealed last week.

            In the biannual report on Thundering Herd academics prepared by Tara Helton, director of the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program, shows that in the 2015 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 3.09 or greater.

            Four of those -- volleyball (3.67), women's soccer (3.54), softball (3.48) and swimming (3.45) were 3.45 or higher. Tennis (3.36), women's golf (3.15), men's soccer (3.14), men's cross country (3.10) and women's track/cross country (3.09) also topped the 3.0 threshold.

            Seven of the 14 teams showed average term GPA increases from the fall 2014 semester. Of the other seven programs, four (football, swimming, women's basketball and volleyball) were off by .08 or less.

            It was the second straight spring semester -- and only the second time in Helton's eight-plus years as director of the Buck Harless Program -- that nine of the 14 programs were at 3.0 or greater.

            "Our overall team performance improved," Helton said. "We had nine over 3.0 rather than eight (in the fall 2014 semester). And overall, all 14 teams had an average GPA of at least 2.5.

            "Obviously, the credit goes to strong student-athlete performance, strong coaching support and strong support from our Buck Harless staff ... and a lot of these teams were in season this spring and they maintained extremely high GPAs. I'm very pleased with the increases."

            The greatest average team GPA increase came in men's basketball, under first-year Coach Dan D'Antoni. The Herd had a 2.40 in the fall semester, and finished this spring with a 2.61. It also marked the first time Marshall has had every team with at least a 2.50 average since the spring of 2012.

            Individually, 53 percent of enrolled MU student-athletes finished the spring semester with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater. In the spring term, 54 percent finished with at least a 3.0. Women's soccer had 24 of 25 athletes with 3.0 overall and in the spring term. In volleyball and tennis, 14 of 15 and 6 of 7 athletes have cumulative 3.0 GPAs, respectively.

            "Those individual numbers in cumulative and term GPAs are strong," Helton said. "We're maintaining that kind of success from semester-to-semester now. It's a 53 (percent in cumulative GPA percentage) for a second straight semester.

            "It shows dedication, shows the hard work, the effort. I'm very pleased with a nice increase in total team GPAs."

            Helton said softball's team GPA average of 3.48 -- up from 3.33 in the fall -- was impressive because it came in-season -- similar to the 3.72 volleyball produced last fall during its 2014 season.

            "You have to consider team travel and the time those teams have to miss (class)," Helton said.

            The semester report on student-athlete classroom success comes on the heels of the Herd matching the NCAA Division I average APR of 978, a hike of three points. The multiyear scores (four-year term 2010-11 through 2013-14) for Herd football, men's basketball, men's golf, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field were the highest for the school in the 10 years the NCAA has utilized the APR.

            Tennis and women's cross country matched their 10-year highs, and women's basketball had its best score since 2006-07 (see chart below).

            Eight programs posted perfect single-year scores of 1000 in the NCAA's retention measurement, with two others at 986. Eleven of the 16 programs had perfect 2013-14 scores in eligibility/graduation.

            In both the single-year (2013-14) and multiyear rates, 10 of the 16 Marshall sports programs showed increases or APR numbers that stayed the same. Ten of the 16 Herd teams had multiyear rates of 975 or higher.

            For the 2014-15 school year, Marshall had 41 athletes win the Conference USA Commissioner's Medal (3.75 GPA and above), up from 33 the previous year. The Herd had 183 on the C-USA Honor Roll (3.0 or better), a rise from 157 athletes in 2013-14.

            The Herd is hoping to see an academic enhancement, too, when the Buck Harless Program moves next month into the new academic center that's adjacent to the indoor facility.

            That 14,100-square foot piece of the Chris Cline Athletic Complex will be the new home office for Helton and her Harless staff of advisors of Jillian Boys (men's and women's basketball, men's soccer), AJ Hubbard (baseball, volleyball, women's track and field/cross country and men's cross country), Samantha Spurlock (women's soccer, softball, tennis, men's and women's golf). Ashley Parsons assists Helton with advising for the football team, with a focus on freshmen.

            "With our new facility, I think the sky's the limit," Helton said. "With the new academic center, we'll have the kind of facilities that can only help our student-athletes. The potential for even better numbers are there."

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