The on-field statistics were obvious and the choir of boosters was already singing when Dr. Brad Teague, the UCA athletic director, gave his annual State of UCA Athletics address, Tuesday night at the Bear Nation celebration.
UCA had probably the greatest overall athletic year in its history. Seven of the nine female team sports set some kind of win record for NCAA Division I. Almost every team improved from the year before.
Three teams, volleyball, football and baseball, reached the postseason with the Bear baseball team taking Mississippi State, the national runner-up, to the finals of an NCAA regional. Victories or solid performances against “name” schools were dotted throughout the various sports.
But much of time, plaudits and celebration concerned work in the classroom.
It started with those ominous initial measuring sticks of GPA and APR.
Teague noted that when UCA transitioned to NCAA Division I in 2007, the overall grade-point average for all athletic teams was 2.77. The athletic administration set 3.0 as a goal and last year, the cumulative average among all sports was 3.02.
Eight of the nine women’s sports had a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better for an overall average of 3.19. The men’s sports compiled a cumulative GPA of 2.88, up from 2.65 in 2007.
Teague noted the cumulative GPA of all athletic teams was 10 percent higher than that of the student body as a whole.
Academic Progress Rate (APR) is the major measurement among NCAA Division I institutions that relies on graduation rates and progress toward a degree. If the number falls too low, it could cost teams postseason berths and scholarships.
The overall APR rate for UCA athletics the last year was .952, which means that more than 95 percent of UCA athletes are graduating or remaining eligible for a degree.
The football team’s APR over the last four years is (.960), earning the top honor in the Southland Conference (thereby qualifying for a national award) for three straight years. Teague said Central Arkansas is the only football program to have won the conference’s APR award for three straight years, noting two of those three years the football team also earned an NCAA Division I FCS playoff berth.
UCA is the fourth institution in the state to have a chapter of the National College Athletic Honor Society. Junior and senior athletes become part of that group by compiling a 3.4 overall GPA or higher with good moral character as certified by their coach. Fifty-six athletes were given honor society certificates Tuesday with the seniors receiving medallions they can wear at commencement.
Fifty-five athletes received graduation rings from the most recent classes.
“What I am most proud of is what these student-athletes are doing in the classroom and in the community,” said UCA President Tom Courtway.
Not all UCA athletes are academic wonders. Not all are angels.
Things are not perfect, either on or off the field.
But they’re pretty darn good.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com)