MU athletes set a school record last semester, earning an average 3.02 GPA, according to a university press release.
A record 284 student athletes, 55 percent of all MU athletes, received a 3.00 GPA or higher.
The university athletic department also had an 84 percent graduation rate in the last year, placing it second only to Vanderbilt University in the SEC.
These numbers are not just a result of the student-athletes’ work but also of the initiatives taken by athletic department, said Joe Scogin, associate athletic director for academic services and head of MU Athletics’ Total Person Program.
“The goal of the Total Person Program is to provide holistic student-support programming to our student-athletes,” said Scogin. “Our student-athletes face the same transitional issues that the general student population faces, but they also have to deal with 40 hours per week of practice, preparation, treatment and body maintenance. Even the most intellectually prepared student-athlete can struggle with the physical and emotional demands that are thrown on them."
Because of these demands, the department has two phases to help first with the transition into college then to help set a path for post-graduation with a program called Tigers for Tomorrow.
“We have changed the culture from looking at graduation as the ultimate goal to an extremely important step in the journey,” Scogin said. “That graduation accomplishment is important, but if they are not prepared for the transition they will face after that, we haven’t done our job. A phrase we use on our staff is ‘Life doesn’t end at graduation, life begins at graduation’ and we challenge our students to invest in their future by engaging in the programming that we have developed to help them.”
The Total Person Program’s impact can be seen in the graduation numbers, but the coaches as well have helped their teams become both excellent students and athletes.
The men’s basketball team had a 2.55 GPA before Frank Haith became head coach, according to an athletic department press release. Once he took control of the program, that number rose first to 2.74 GPA in the 2011-2012 school year and then to 3.06 GPA last semester, giving the team the second highest GPA for a men’s sport at MU, falling only behind the men’s golf team, which had an average of 3.26 GPA.
Forty-five students also received SEC honor roll recognition in football, soccer and volleyball.
The success in academics reflects a belief held by the department that success in the classroom helps lead to success in athletics.
“A person cannot achieve their potential in one aspect of their life if other areas are falling apart,” said Scogin. “They may have the ability to achieve short term success, but long-term elite performance is enhanced by having all aspects of a person’s life in order.”