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UNT Athletics ranked highly in academics in 2014-2015, per report

UNT Athletics ranked highly in academics in 2014-2015, per report

Apogee Stadium - 1251 S Bonnie Brae St.

UNT Athletics ranked highly in academics in 2014-2015, per report
June 10
20:13 2016

Nealie Sanchez | Staff Writer


Despite many subpar performances on the field, UNT athletics found success in the classroom, finishing 2014-2015 with high APR scores, according to an NCAA report.

A team’s APR score is comprised of both student athlete GPA and retention of athletes. Each student athlete can receive two points for his or her team: one for passing, and one for staying with the team.

UNT had multiple sports with perfect scores: men’s golf, women’s cross country, tennis, women’s track & field and volleyball, while various other sports ranked among the top in the NCAA. The football team finished with an APR of 993, which is the top 10 percent of all NCAA football teams. Men’s and women’s basketball finished with an APR score of 938 and 939 respectively, placing them in the bottom 20 percent in the NCAA.

Super Pit / Coliseum - 600 Avenue D

Super Pit / Coliseum – 600 Avenue D. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Outgoing UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said these types of improvements are possible because the athletics department prioritizes academics.

“My philosophy is that there’s some kids that we have that are good enough to go to the next level. But out of the 25,000 student athletes in the last four years, we’ve got five of them making a living [in sports], and the rest of them are out working in the real world,” Villarreal said. “I’ve always made it clear to our entire staff that the degree has got to come first.”

For cross-country head coach Stefanie Slekis, the improvement is something that doesn’t go unnoticed. 

“This year we had our highest semester GPA ever, a 3.64,” Slekis said. “My first semester coaching here it was a 3.04. It’s great to see how much they brought up their GPA.”

Upgrading academic spaces

UNT was docked scholarships in 2009 for poor academic performance, but it has made strides in ensuring student athlete success since then.

One step Villarreal took during his tenure was improving the student athlete academic center.

“When we came here in 2001, we worked in a room that was probably 20 feet by 16 feet, and it had two tables and eight chairs with no computers. That was kind of our study hall for student athletes,” Villarreal said. “Unfortunately, at that time graduation rates were about 32 percent for student athletes, and so that to me has always been one of my main focuses.”

UNT athletic director, Rick Villarreal. File Photo

UNT athletic director, Rick Villarreal. File Photo

The improvements included a larger space, technological upgrades, staff members and an entire program dedicated to coaching freshman into a successful first year at college.

Track & field senior Connor Bey is one of many student-athletes who has used the center since the beginning of his college career and said it’s clear how UNT prioritizes academics.

“Freshman year, all student athletes have eight hours of mandatory study hall,” Bey said. “So it really sets the tone for how important it is.”

The study hall remains mandatory for any athlete with a GPA under a 3.0, but students with higher GPAs can still utilize the space.

Student athletes also have the added pressure of doing homework while they travel with their teams for away games.

“It’s important to get our schedules so that they can do work while they’re on the road or before they’re on the road, or make arrangements if they’re going to miss a particular test while they’re out of town for three days,” Villarreal said.

With many classes emphasizing online coursework and the use of blackboard to turn in assignments, getting homework done on the road has become easier, Bey said.

“Online helps a lot and everything is sort of online now. I’ve taken my laptop with me out of town for homework,” Bey said. “I was at conference last year on a Wednesday and Thursday, and I had an assignment turned in on Thursday night.”

From classroom to field

Each Mean Green team seeks the same thing: students who excel in classes so their dedication originates outside of their uniform and carries over while wearing it.

“A lot of the same work ethic translates [to classwork], and we try to find good students to join our program,” Slekis said. “They’re working really hard to finish what they started here at UNT, and it shows the dedication levels of the athletes in our program.”

While every university is competing to win on the field, Villarreal insisted UNT would never sacrifice the academic success for a few wins here and there.

“We want to win as much as anybody, and so we’re not excited that we don’t win,” Villarreal said. “But the fact that we know that our students here are doing what they came here to do – they have made academics a priority, and it’s been a priority across the board for everybody involved in our program.”

Student-athlete success in the classroom was one of Villarreal’s biggest points of pride before stepping down as athletic director last month.

“When somebody asked me what my greatest accomplishment is, was it building a stadium? Was it moving us from noncompliance Title IX to compliance Title XI? For me, it’s that we have set up a system that our kids academically have graduated and stayed in school at numbers that compare with the best in the country,” Villarreal said. “That’s the biggest thing that I can ever hope students do.”

Featured Image: Apogee Stadium – 1251 S Bonnie Brae St. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

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