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February 13, 2012

Football helps spark academic success



En route to winning a school-record 11 football games last season, the South Carolina players were achieving another milestone in the classroom.

USC compiled a team GPA of 2.704 in the 2011 fall semester, the third straight semester the Gamecocks have surpassed 2.7 overall.

Last spring, USC registered a team GPA of 2.711. In the fall 2010 semester, the Gamecocks recorded a team GPA of 2.779, highest on record, while capturing the SEC East title at the same time.

For the Gamecock football team, the recent academic success has reached unprecedented levels.

The strong showing by USC is a major reason Gamecock athletes were able to achieve the highest departmental GPA ever (3.202) in the 2011 fall semester.

When Associate AD for Academic Services Raymond Harrison finished his presentation to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees last Friday, he was given a rousing ovation by the committee.

"Over the last several years, our student athletes have done increasingly well in terms of their effort and their performance," Harrison told the committee. "We're very pleased about the performance of all of our student-athletes. We're very excited about the progress they have made.

"The fact the football team had the best year in Carolina history and also maintained the same tradition of achieving a 2.7 GPA says a lot about everything working together. That consistency is something we're preached over and over."

Posting a department-wide GPA above 3.0 is nothing new for the Gamecocks. Fall 2011 marked the 10th straight semester in which the department compiled a GPA of 3.0 or better.

USC AD Eric Hyman attributed some of the academic success to a little dose of "tough love."

"The student-athletes know we have their best interests at heart," Hyman said. "We've seen a transformation. Character does count. It's important we recruit character. We have terrific young people across the board."

Sixty-one athletes were named to the President's List with a perfect 4.0 GPA, while 181 were named to the Dean's List. More than half of USC's athletes (360 in Fall 2011) achieved a GPA above 3.0.

Three teams posted their highest GPAs on record - equestrian (3.545), women's swimming and diving (3.618), and men's track and field (3.252). Thirteen of the 17 athletic teams had cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or higher.

"When we sit down with our student-athletes, we tell them about our blueprint for success," Harrison said. "We give them a plan. Those student-athletes have followed the plan and been committed to it."

Nineteen athletes graduated in December. The football team graduated 27 players during the 2011 calendar year.

"Our purpose is to develop students to their fullest potential through athletics," Harrison said. "In order to fulfill that purpose, we've come up as a department with core values. This list has been developed by a cross-section of our student athletes, coaches and athletic administrators."

The five core values are integrity, respect, pursuit of excellence, teamwork, and commitment. Every USC athlete, coach and staff member has been given a coin with the core values printed on it.

"We wanted to provide them with who we are and what we stand for," Harrison said. "This is just a reminder every day of what we stand for. Since we're all part of a team, we have to believe in something. One of things we preach all the time to our student-athletes is that in order for you to reach greatness, you have to be consistent in every area of your life. We tell them that every single day. Our student-athletes have really bought into that. We're very pleased about their effort."

When the USC baseball team won the College World Series in 2010, they also had the highest team GPA of the eight participating schools, Harrison said.

"That says a lot about doing well in everything," Harrison said.

The academic success by USC athletes over the last several years, in conjunction with the construction of the Dodie Academic Center, means USC no longer has to convince recruits that the school is serious about success in the classroom.

"We don't have to sell the University of South Carolina," Harrison said. "Now, we just share our vision and our success stories. That's attracting student-athletes who are better in terms of their character and what they believe. They're coming to the University of South Carolina for the right reasons. Because of that, we're truly proud."

Hyman told the Board of Trustees that the preliminary APR numbers furnished by the NCAA indicate nine of USC's athletic teams will post all-time highs when the figures are released in the spring.

"The competitive success we're having together with the success we're having in the classroom is magnificent," Hyman said.

Even though the men's basketball team has struggled on the court for most of the current season (9-15 overall, 1-9 in SEC), the Gamecocks achieved their second highest GPA on record (2.932) in the fall 2011 semester.

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D. McCallum


South Carolina NEWS

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