Utah State football: Aggies recognized by AFCA for academic achievement

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Dec. 2 2011 10:53 a.m. MST

LOGAN — Utah State was one of 29 teams recognized by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) for academic achievement, announced by the AFCA.

USU is one of three Western Athletic Conference teams recognized as well as one of two teams in the state of Utah. Fellow WAC teams Fresno State and Louisiana Tech joined USU on the list, as well as fellow Beehive State school Utah.

“This is a tremendous honor for the student-athletes in the Utah State football program to earn. We take great pride in making sure that every student-athlete in our program graduates, and that is something that we stress throughout our entire program from the moment they walk on this campus during their recruiting visit,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “Every position coach is responsible for the players in their position and monitoring every bit of their academic progress.

"The hard work, dedication and support from Jason Thomas and the student-athlete services staff, mentors and tutors is first class and they have the student-athletes’ best interest in mind daily. They do everything they can to help these young men and we are very grateful for everything they have done in helping us achieve this recognition.”

Utah State has a combined average 77-percent graduation rate for football student-athletes, encompassing its most recent four graduating classes ending in 2010. This coincides with the same time that USU has been in the WAC after joining prior to the 2005 season.

Utah State’s 77 percent is the highest among the eight WAC schools (LaTech has a 75 percent), as well as the highest of the three Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools in the state of Utah, bettering that of BYU (57 percent) and Utah (62 percent).

“I’m proud of the efforts made by the student-athletes of these entering classes to persevere and graduate. They achieved the ultimate win — that of earning their degrees,” said Dr. Brian Evans, USU associate athletic director for student-athlete services.

Boise State University and Miami University (Ohio) will share the American Football Coaches Association’s 2011 Academic Achievement Award, which is presented by the Touchdown Club of Memphis. Boise State and Miami (Ohio) recorded a 100-percent graduation rate for members of its freshman football student-athlete class of 2004.

This is the first honor for Boise State and Miami (Ohio) since the award’s inception. The award will be presented at the AFCA President’s Kickoff Luncheon on Monday, Jan. 9 at the 2012 AFCA Convention in San Antonio.

This year’s award marks the fourth time the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR) formula has been used to select the winner. From 1981 to 2007, the award was presented based on a formula used by the College Football Association and AFCA. Since 2008, the criteria for the AFCA’s Academic Achievement Award is based on the highest NCAA GSR, at least 15 students in the GSR Cohort, and a Federal Graduation Rate of 75 percent or better.

Forty-four other institutions will be recognized for graduating 75 percent or more of their football student-athletes. Fifteen of those institutions — Air Force, Army, Boston College, Central Florida, Duke, Florida, Iowa, Miami (Fla.), Navy, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rice, Stanford — achieved a rate of 90 percent or better.

The remaining 29 institutions are: Arkansas State, Baylor, Bowling Green State, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado State, Fresno State, Illinois, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, North Carolina, Ohio, Rutgers, SMU, Syracuse, TCU, Texas Tech, Tulane, UCLA, Utah, Utah State, UTEP, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, West Virginia and Western Kentucky.

The Academic Achievement Award was established by the College Football Association in 1981. The award recognized the CFA-member Football Bowl Subdivision institution with the highest graduation rate among members of its football team.

When the CFA disbanded in 1997, the AFCA stepped in to present the award and conduct a graduation rate survey that encompassed all members of the FBS.

The GSR is based on a six-year graduation window for student-athletes, which is a change from the five-year window used by the CFA and AFCA. The GSR was developed by the NCAA as part of its academic reform initiative to more accurately assess the academic success of student-athletes. The GSR holds institutions accountable for transfer students, unlike the federal graduation rate. The GSR also accounts for midyear enrollees.

Under GSR calculation, institutions are not penalized for outgoing transfer students who leave in good academic standing. These outgoing transfers are passed to the receiving institution’s GSR cohort. By counting incoming transfer students and mid-year enrollees, the GSR increases the total number of student-athletes tracked for graduation by more than 37 percent.

The Aggies will put their four-game win streak on the line when they take their 6-5 overall record and 4-2 WAC mark on the road to Las Cruces, N.M. on Saturday, finishing out regular-season action against New Mexico State. The all-Aggie affair kicks off at 1:30 and will be televised on KCSG (Comcast Ch. 116/DirectTv Ch. 44/Dish Network Ch. 37).

USU is going for its first seven-win season since 1993, and the navy Aggies will be going for their first five-game win streak since that same season, which is also the last time that Utah State won a bowl game, winning the Las Vegas Bowl, 42-33, over Ball State.

Fans can follow the Aggie football program on Twitter (@USUFootball) or on the USU football blog at usufootball.wordpress.com. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter (@USUAthletics) or on Facebook at facebook.com/USUAthletics.

Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.

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