North Texas Daily

Football team sees success in classroom

Football team sees success in classroom

Football team sees success in classroom
January 28
09:28 2014

Ehsan Azad // Staff Writer

In the year that will be remembered for the success on the field, the Mean Green football team also held its own in the classroom.

The football team had 51 of its players achieve a 3.0 GPA or higher and had every player eligible in the Heart of Dallas Bowl victory on New Year’s Day. The team and the people who help them with academics are not the least surprised by the report.

Head coach Dan McCarney has made academics a priority since the day he arrived in Denton.

“I don’t tolerate any nonsense when it comes to academics,” McCarney said. “There were over 50 guys below 2.0 when I took the job, which is embarrassing and ridiculous.”

McCarney said there was a correlation between the bad performance on the field and the bad performances in the classroom. He wanted to make sure that all his players were committed to their studies.

“You have to send a strong message as a head football coach that the academic performance and success in the classroom carries over to the football field,” McCarney said.

Senior associate athletic director Cinnamon Sheffield, who was an All-American track star at Louisiana State University, helps oversee all UNT athletes achieve academic success.

“That was supposed to happen,” Sheffield said. “It wasn’t a brag, but we weren’t shocked by it.”

One thing that helps the department is finding the right type of players to come to North Texas.

“It starts with the kind of student that we started to recruit here,” Sheffield said. “A better student academically than we have gotten in the past.”

The process of getting students that can do well academically helps the department them much easier into college life.

“That is what this department is here for, to help with the transition,” Sheffield said. “We help with the structure.”

The department makes the athletes come in the summer to take courses that help them learn study skills. After that, the department has the athletes come in on Sundays to meet with tutors and academic coaches who will go over their weekly assignments with them.

That is a part of an eight-hour Study Hall requirement every week. The nightly visits are all put into a weekly report that the coaches receive. It is a requirement for freshmen to attend, while other players attend depending on their needs.

In addition to progress reports, department staff members also meet every Thursday with football staff members and go through the roster to see what players need to do to get better. The department also looks into helping the players get ready for life after football by teaching them how to interview, write resumes and network for jobs.

The importance of succeeding academically is echoed by players on the football team as well.

“You come to the school as a student athlete, they want you to be successful in the classroom as well as the football field,” junior offensive lineman Cyril Lemon said.

Lemon, who received a 3.4 GPA this semester, loves the way the program emphasizes academics.

“I came to get my education first and football comes second,” Lemon said.

Lemon, who also wasn’t surprised by the team’s success, describes his hectic schedule of football and schoolwork and points out that time management is the key to success in college. The players also are receptive of the impact of good grades after their football days are over.

“Our first job is to make grades, not just for eligibility, but to get a degree,” junior linebacker Derek Akunne said.

Akunne, who made a 3.6 GPA this semester, feels that there is enough time to play football and keep up with schoolwork.

“I have never had to miss an assignment,” Akunne said. “If you put your mind to it, you will find time to finish all your work.”

He also thinks that the tutors, especially those who work with the football team, do an excellent job of helping them and communicating with the coaches when things aren’t going right.

“If you don’t take care of your academics you will miss games, so it is a necessary distraction,” Akunne said.

McCarney said he wants his players to get an education in life and to learn things such as discipline and responsibility. He said a degree is important, but the education is necessary to become a man.

His players seem to have bought into the message and the system dedicated to academic success that he has created.

“There isn’t a head coach or coaching staff in America, believe me, that emphasizes it more and follows it more, more consequences if you don’t follow through academically, than North Texas does,” McCarney said.

McCarney and Sheffield are both proud that the system in place is now working and changing the culture of the program.

“It was a pathetic excuse for calling young men student-athletes when I got here,” McCarney said. “Now they are student-athletes.”

Feature photo: Senior outside linebacker LaChris Anyiam and senior tight end Drew Miller high five as junior outside linebacker Cyril Lemon looks on at the end of the Heart of Dallas bowl game on Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl. Photo courtesy of Ryan Vance

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