March 11, 2009
CLEVELAND - At the site of the Mid-American Conference's annual men's and women's basketball tournaments, Northern Illinois came away with the championship as the winner of the league's Institutional Academic Achievement Award. NIU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher accepted the award at halftime of the Huskie women's basketball team's first round MAC game versus Buffalo.
"All the hard work of our student-athletes, academic staff and coaches has paid off for us in earning this honor," Compher said. "I couldn't be more proud of our student-athletes and the way they have responded to the challenge, academically, which is also reflected in our seven straight semesters with a GPA of 3.0 or above."
Compher credited Northern Illinois Student-Athlete Academic Support Services unit with setting the tone for the entire department in terms of academics.
"[Senior Associate Athletic Director] Francine St. Clair and her staff have created an atmosphere of success, and now our student-athletes have high expectations in the classroom, just as they do on the playing fields," Compher said. "Achieving that balance is what makes college athletics so special."
Northern Illinois' 380 student-athletes in 17 sports posted the highest grade point average in the league for the 2007-08 academic year with a mark of 3.04. The Huskies' 2007-08 GPA was well in front of the 3.024 posted by Ball State's 420 student-athletes in 18 sports of 3.024. Central Michigan ranked third at 3.019 while Western Michigan came in fourth, percentage points back at 3.016.
The Institutional Academic Achievement Award is presented to the Mid-American Conference member whose student-athletes post the highest overall GPA in a given academic year. From 1994 to 2007, the award was based on cumulative grade point average. Beginning in 2008, the award is based on an annual GPA comparison to better reflect the academic performance of an institution's athletics program in a given academic year.
St. Clair, who leads Northern Illinois' Student-Athlete Academic Support Services (SAASS) unit, noted that in addition to the change from a cumulative total to a single academic year, this is the first time that the league office requested raw data from the schools and managed the calculations, as opposed to each school submitting its own GPA totals.
"I think it is even more gratifying to win the award this year, because this is the first year that the conference office did the [GPA] calculations and standardized the numbers among the schools," St. Clair said. "Winning the MAC Academic Achievement Award certainly supports what we've been doing on our campus for the last seven semesters, and is a testament to the hard work of not just the student-athletes, SAASS staff and coaches, but of the support we have in the entire university. Everyone at Northern Illinois should take special pride in this award."
Northern Illinois had never won the Institutional Academic Achievement Award under the previous method of calculation. Huskie student-athletes have currently posted seven straight semesters with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
-- NIU --