Southern gets good news on APR front
The NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate hasn’t been a happy subject at Southern lately, with most APR news revolving around postseason bans or scholarship cuts.
But Thursday brought words of a different sort: perfection and celebration.
The Southern women’s tennis team notched a perfect 1,000 score for its 2010-11 multi-year APR, which is based on the number of players who remain enrolled and academically eligible. That earned the Lady Jaguars an NCAA Public Recognition Award, given to programs ranking in the top 10 percent of their sport.
For a school that saw eight teams hit with APR penalties last year — ranging from public notices up to the championship bans placed on football and men’s basketball — the award serves as a shining example that not only can Southern teams avoid trouble with academics, they can excel.
“It sheds a good light on the university,” tennis coach Jeff Conyers said. “It shows that while we were having those APR problems, we did have a little glimmer of hope, and now we’re coming out of them full-steam.”
Conyers’ squad is by no means alone — the NCAA recognized 954 Division I teams, and Dartmouth led the way with 23 — but as just the second Southern sport ever to earn the award (women’s golf, 2004-05), the Lady Jags are setting a standard for SU teams to follow.
And they’re raising the bar on the court as well, with three straight SWAC titles.
“I’m really proud of coach Conyers and really proud of that squad, and I’m glad that early in my career (in April) I had the opportunity to go up to Alexandria and watch them win a championship,” Athletics Director William Broussard said.
While Conyers attributes the award to his players — and they earned it — he deserves a big share of credit.
It’s a testament to his recruiting approach, which places more weight on grades than forehands and backhands. Once players reach campus, Conyers can focus on their on-court performance without the stress of eligibility issues.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t keeping a close eye on academics. He stayed up Wednesday checking the NCAA website for a glimpse of the award announcement, and he talks about classroom achievements the same way he would tennis.
He lists this as the top accolade yet, and he’s quick to point out his next goal: having a player serve as student marshal at graduation.
The question now is whether the good news keeps rolling, when the NCAA releases updated APR scores and penalties on June 20. Last month, the NCAA lifted postseason bans on Southern football and men’s hoops, and improved scores next week would keep things moving in the right direction.
Conyers is hoping he’s part of an academic turnaround for Southern and the SWAC, which matched its 2011 total with six teams receiving Public Recognition Awards.
“Hopefully that number will double next year, or even triple — getting more teams from Southern and the conference. Now that we have this, we’re going to try to keep it here,” he said.