FRISCO, Texas – As a highlight of Tuesday night’s Southland Conference Honors Dinner involving presidents, athletic directors and other top administrators, Northwestern State received the 2013-14 Southland Conference Academic Performance Award for posting the best results among league members on the recently-reported NCAA Academic Progress Rate study covering 2009-13.
Greg Burke, NSU’s veteran director of athletics, accepted the award, one of three major honors picked up by Northwestern State during the event. Student-athletes Quinton Helaire, a high jumper on the men’s track and field team, and Lady Demon tennis player Amy Williams were recognized as the conference’s winners of the Steve McCarty Southland Conference Citizenship Awards for their work on community service projects.
"For NSU to receive the Southland Conference APR Award is especially humbling in light of the fact that emphasis on academic success has been a focal point across the membership," said Burke, who noted the Southland Conference recently recorded its best overall APR score since the inception of this system.
"It was fitting for our outstanding Faculty Athletics Representative Jody Biscoe and Head Academic Coordinator Carrie Crowell to be in attendance as the award was presented because they deserve a ton of credit for setting a strong academic tone for our student-athletes within the department and across campus. I wish our student-athletes, coaches and faculty could also have been there because they also had an important role in NSU being honored on this day," said Burke. “We were already bursting with pride about the McCarty Awards being presented to Quinton and Amy, and this was a very exciting surprise.”
The Southland’s annual APR award goes to the member institution with the highest score in a system that grades APR results in each sport over a four-year period.
Last week, the NCAA released its annual APR study, which assesses how all Division I sports teams and athletic programs are advancing student-athletes toward graduation.
Northwestern’s 14 sports combined for an aggregate 966 APR score for 2012-13, best by any Southland institution.
Nine NSU teams were above the conference average in 2012-13. Men’s basketball, women’s tennis and women’s cross country had the best APR scores in the Southland while baseball, softball and women’s soccer were second among the 12 institutions included in the 2012-13 report.
Two weeks ago, the Demon basketball program received public recognition for being one of the nation’s top 40 teams in that sport with a near-perfect 996 multi-year APR from 2009-13.
The annual McCarty Citizenship Awards recognize one male and one female student-athlete who exhibit outstanding qualities in citizenship, sportsmanship, leadership and community service. The 14 Southland member institutions each nominate their top male and female candidates and the Southland Awards Committee selects the overall winners..
It is the sixth time in the seven-year history of the McCarty Award that a student-athlete from Northwestern State has received the honor. Last year's male recipient was NSU football kicker John Shaughnessy. Other recipients from Northwestern: men's basketball guard Gary Stewart (2012), football linebacker Yaser Elqutub (2009), women's basketball guard Lyndzee Greene (2009) and softball player Cary Bruno (2008).
Helaire, a sophomore from Natchitoches, and Williams, a junior from Leesville, are also outstanding students. He has a 3.50 grade point average in computer information systems and she has a 3.59 in biomedical sciences. Both are members of NSU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, with Williams recently re-elected as president for the 2014-15 academic year.
Helaire accepted his award at the dinner Tuesday night while Williams, due to work commitments out of state, accepted via videotaped remarks.
The event concluded the annual Southland Conference Spring Meetings at the Westin Stonebriar Resort in Frisco, where the league office is located.