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June 19, 2013

USC setting new standards in classroom

Since debuting more than three years ago, the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center has become - as former athletic director Eric Hyman foretold - the epicenter of the department.

Certainly, as seen by the latest Academic Progress Rate scores and team grade-point averages, Gamecock athletes have taken full advantage of the enormous resources offered by the "The Dodie."

USC registered a department-wide 3.198 GPA for the Spring 2013 semester, surpassing the prestigious 3.0 plateau for the 13th straight semester.

"I don't think there is any questions about the success we're having with APR and academics," said Ray Tanner, Hyman's successor, earlier this week. "The Dodie academic center and the staff that's there, our coaches, the commitment, the dedication, the numbers, the proof is in the pudding.

"Our student-athletes are committed. They understand that at the end of the day, some of them will have an opportunity to make a living playing professionally, but the majority of them will get on with their professional careers in something other than the sport they play. Their success rate academically is tremendous."

After recording the highest team GPA on record in Fall 2012 (2.918), Gamecock football earned its sixth consecutive semester above the 2.7 mark with a team GPA of 2.724 in the spring.

Thirteen current and former football players graduated in May, including Syvelle Newton, who last played for the Gamecocks in 2006.

Five teams, including men's basketball (3.012), men's soccer (3.619), women's tennis (3.688), women's track and field (3.446) and volleyball (3.727), earned their highest GPA on record. Overall, 15 of 17 Gamecock teams logged a 3.0 or better team GPA.

Volleyball earned bragging rights for the second consecutive semester as the departmental GPA leader. No team scored below a 2.7 GPA, and 10 teams improved from the previous semester.

The record-setting academic performance by the men's basketball team caught the attention of members of the Board of Trustees, who quizzed Tanner about the reasons behind the climb in GPA.

"Frank Martin has only been here for a little while (15 months), but he will have meetings on a daily basis if a young man fails to be in the classroom or handles his academic responsibilities," Tanner told the Board. "Al Daniel, who works in our academic enrichment program, has done a heck of a job."

The academic success is punctuated by rising APR scores across the board. All of USC's "countable" sports teams posted scores of 950 or better for the second straight year.

"We're in very good shape as it relates to APR," Tanner told the Board of Trustees on Monday.

Football posted a multi-year score of 966 (2007-12), equaling its highest mark ever, and a single-year score of 960, jumping 37 points from the multi-year score of 929 in 2007-08. Baseball made a single-year leap of 59 points from 913 in 2010-11 to 972 in 2011-12.

Under the terms of a 2009 amendment to his contract, Steve Spurrier earned a $100,000 bonus as the football team registered a multi-year APR score above 950. In addition, Spurrier has the right to recommend to Tanner that the school pay a total maximum of $50,000 in "incentive-based supplemental compensation" to his nine assistant coaches.

Seven USC teams posted perfect single-year scores of 1,000 for the 2011-12 academic year.

Academically, USC hasn't skipped a beat since Raymond Harrison left to join Hyman at Texas A&M. Maria Hickman, who had primarily worked with the football team, was promoted to Associate Athletics Director for Academics/Student Development.

"Maria Hickman and her people have done a fantastic job providing the assistance and resources to help our young people be successful," Tanner told the Board. "Our academics are as strong as ever. We have a really good staff over there."

Hickman worked under Harrison for several years and was essentially his hand-picked successor.

"When Raymond made the decision to go with Eric, he told me that she is ready and she's been prepared to take on this position," Tanner said. "Coach Spurrier had tremendous confidence in her as well. So, two important people immediately made that statement to me.

"I'm ecstatic with her leadership and the job she has done. This was our 13th straight semester with a GPA of 3.0 or above, and this was No. 1 for her. We're excited about that trend continuing."

Baseball - 3.050
Men's basketball - 3.012*
Women's basketball - 3.175
Equestrian - 3.430
Football - 2.724
Men's golf - 3.356
Women's golf - 3.381
Men's soccer - 3.619*
Women's soccer - 3.377
Softball - 3.091
Men's swimming & diving - 3.188
Women's swimming & diving - 3.532
Men's tennis - 3.389
Women's tennis - 3.688*
Men's track & field - 2.979
Women's track & field - 3.446*
Volleyball - 3.727*
* Highest GPA on record
Note: Sand volleyball will become the 18th sport at USC in the fall.

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