Blog

Wolf Pack student-athletes excelling in classroom

From the desk of athletics director Doug Knuth:

Earlier this month, the University held its 124th Commencement exercises on the beautiful and historic campus Quad. It was a privilege for me to sit on stage as a member of the President's staff and congratulate our student athletes immediately after they received their diploma.  The list of majors for these talented students is interesting and amazing - ranging from Art, Chemistry, Biology and Business to Wild Life Ecology & Conservation.  Amazing stuff.  You can view the list of graduates and majors here.

I often speak to alumni, boosters and friends about the Mission of Wolf Pack Athletics and they are often surprised to know that our Mission is exceedingly clear - to serve and support the educational mission of the University of Nevada.  We do that by providing opportunities for achievement - academically, athletically and socially.  We teach leadership and prepare our students for life.  Yes, we want to win, and win often, but our reason for doing what we do every day is about education and transforming the lives of our students. We have a secondary mission of engaging our community in a meaningful way, but today I want to share more about our focus on education and academics.

When we talk about education and academics, we focus on some important terminology, GPA, APR and GSR, which need to be defined.  Grade Point Average (GPA) is relatively understandable because most of us had a GPA in high school or college. This is quite simply the semester by semester grade average for each student athlete. The Academic Progress Rate (APR) is a measure of academic progress based on eligibility and retention. This is a calculation of points which indicate our semester-by-semester efforts to support our students toward the goal of completing a meaningful degree. For many years the NCAA evaluated an institution's focus on academics based purely on graduation rates of student athletes. We learned that waiting until the final semester of a student's tenure was an ineffective way to calculate academic performance. Today the APR calculation gives us immediate results of our efforts and provides accountability for our work. Lastly, the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) is a calculation of the percentage of student athletes who are completing their academic degree relative to members of their freshman cohort. With definitions in hand, the question is how are we doing?

In terms of GPA, our average GPA for the 2014 Spring semester, including all 16 varsity teams and nearly 400 student athletes, was 2.863.  Our cumulative GPA for all sports and all student athletes throughout their academic career is 2.915.  On a 4.0 scale, this means our students carry roughly a 'B' average.  That's very strong. This is impressive considering the amount of time spent in competition, travel, practice, film study, weight training and team meetings.

Individually, we have 99 student athletes with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 ('B') or higher.  Inside that number, we have 61 student athletes with a 3.5 GPA ('B+') or higher.  These are impressive students who also have an extraordinary talent in their sport. Amazing.

Our department-wide APR is a solid 975 multi-year rate based on a 1,000 point scale for all 16 sports combined over a rotating four year period.  Individually, each of our sports stayed above the NCAA minimum standard of 930 and we have six sports that earned a perfect score of 1,000 for the most recent reporting year (2012-13).

Lastly, and most importantly, our GSR is a solid 77%.  Our graduation rate has improved steadily from the upper-60s in 2008 to our current position between 77% and 80% in recent years.

The success of our academic program is based largely on the following: our clear focus on the mission of Wolf Pack Athletics; the incredible support we enjoy from President Johnson and the academic, financial and student services leadership on campus; the hard work of our coaches to recruit the best and brightest students; and the great work of the students who are focused on earning a powerful college degree while proudly wearing the Wolf Pack uniform in athletic competition. I'm proud to work on a campus filled with people who share a focus on student success.

Our donors also play a vital role in our academic success.  The many donors who helped to fund the Marguerite Wattis Petersen Academic Center made a transformative contribution to the welfare and academic success of our students. The academic profile of our student athletes has increased each year since the building opened in 2008. Donations to the Pack Educational Fund, through your Scholarship Seating donations, support academic and athletic operating budgets for each of our teams.  Every donor is making a difference to our academic success and we can't thank you enough!

One last item about our focus on education and academics which we believe is essential to building a comprehensive athletics program focused on the academic mission of the University. For many athletes, the opportunity to pursue a dream of playing professional sports is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We support our student athletes who want to chase their dreams and, importantly, we stand behind these athletes and support them as they return to complete their studies when their professional sport opportunity comes to an end.  We currently have four former football players, a baseball player and a men's basketball player who left the Wolf Pack to pursue professional sports and are back now working to complete their academic degrees. Each of these young men understand the value of a college degree and we are excited to help them complete their studies.

As you can see, the focus on academic success is paramount to our daily thoughts and actions. As stated previously, we want to win, and win often. For Wolf Pack fans, you can be proud to know that we win in the classroom and in competition.  Your contributions make a difference academically and athletically. Thank you for you great support of the Pack.

I will be back in touch again soon with more information about your Nevada Wolf Pack!

Thank you,
Doug