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Baker Report: Cheering Huskie victories off the field

December 22, 2015
Amanda Corral

Amanda Corral

Coach Rod Carey and the NIU Huskie football team kick off the 2015 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Like every fan, I’m hoping for a win – and part of that is highly personal. Following every thrilling gridiron victory, our Mid-American Conference West champs come together for a rousing chant that never fails to get my blood pumping and fill me with Huskie pride.

Of course, our athletes score off the field as well.

And, to do so, they must apply the same discipline and dedication that they summon to achieve excellence in their sports. They must allocate whatever time available to them between classes, practices and competitions to complete their assignments and prepare for exams.

Hard work is the mandatory bedrock of Student Career Success, whether it’s on the field, the court or in the classroom, and I’m proud of the results Intercollegiate Athletics puts on the board.

Just last month, and for the third consecutive year, we celebrated the news that NIU Athletics ranks atop the MAC and among the national leaders in graduating student-athletes. That’s far more important to me – and to Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Sean Frazier as well – than any winning final score or championship appearance.

Cameron Clinton-Earl

Cameron Clinton-Earl

According to Donna Turner and her outstanding Athletics Communications staff:

  • Our 87 percent overall Graduation Success Rate, for student-athletes who enrolled between 2005-06 and 2008-09, is four points above the national average for Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
  • The GSR for women student-athletes in that group is 98 percent.
  • Six of our eight women’s teams hit the 100 percent mark. That perfection means that every scholarship student-athlete, including freshmen and transfers, who came to NIU in those sports between 2005 and 2008 earned her degree. This is the eighth consecutive year that our gymnasts nailed that, and the seventh straight year for our women’s golf team.
  • NIU football leads the MAC by 12 percentage points over the second-highest MAC program (Ohio at 74 percent), stands 14 points above the FBS average for a football team and ties for 11th nationally among FBS programs.

Since this time last year, two Huskies were named to Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-America teams: basketball’s Amanda Corral (first team) and tennis’ Nelle Youel (second team, at-large selection).

In May, we cheered the news that every NIU team surpassed – for the ninth consecutive year – the academic progress standards prescribed by the NCAA.

This semester alone, 14 members of our women’s soccer squad earned Academic All-MAC recognition. Twelve members of the football team, five members of the men’s soccer team, five members of the volleyball team and four members of women’s cross country did the same.

Nelle Youel

Nelle Youel

None of this happens by accident: Sean and his staff foster an extraordinary culture of success as they work closely with the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs & Enrollment Management to support student-athletes.

Programs such as Student-Athlete Academic Support Services – a unit of the Office of the Vice Provost – promote academic achievement through self-discipline, responsibility and civic engagement. Programs in leadership development, such as LEaD Huskies, prepare our athletes for productive lives after graduation.

When graduation comes, our athletes leave not only with degrees but with the kinds of skills that are attractive to employers and graduate and professional schools, including superior time-management and a “get-it-done” mindset.

Everyone involved in making this happen understands and agrees that Student Career Success is Job One on our campus, and that’s truly something worth cheering about.

As our fight song tells us, there’s victory in view – not just on the scoreboard but on the report cards as well.

Go Huskies!