HUNTINGTON — Women’s sports at Marshall University earned a major victory last week without ever taking the field.
When the NCAA released the Academic Progress Rate (APR) numbers, those numbers showed that student-athletes in women’s sports at Marshall are performing exceptionally well in relation to those within Conference USA.
Out of Marshall’s sponsored women’s sports, six of the women’s programs finished in the top three or better among Conference USA schools in their respective sports in multi-year APR performance.
“I think our student-athletes do a great job of balancing the demands of their academics and athletics,” said Beatrice Crane-Banford, Marshall’s associate athletic director for Olympic sports and senior women’s administrator. “That starts with recruiting and making sure we are bringing in the right type of student-athlete who is committed to being successful in both arenas.”
Three Marshall programs — women’s golf, women’s swimming and diving and women’s volleyball — finished with perfect scores of 1,000 in multi-year APR, which placed them at the top of the league and as part of the top 10 percent in the NCAA, which earned recognition last week from the organization.
In addition to those programs, Marshall’s softball earned a 997, women’s basketball scored a 991 and women’s track notched a 986 — all of which placed them in the top three within the league in multi-year APR.
Marshall’s women’s soccer program also scored a 992 in multi-year APR, which had them in the top five in C-USA, as well.
The NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate is a team-base metric utilized to determine the progress of student-athletes at an NCAA institution that uses eligibility and retention for each academic term during a single year and a four-year cycle.
It is calculated with each student-athlete earning one point for staying in school and one point for remaining eligible. A team’s total points and divided by the points possible and multiplied by 1,000 to give the team its APR.
None of Marshall’s women’s programs scored below a 972 in multi-year APR, meaning that eligibility and retention within the program — essentially, players staying and not transferring — remained high.
With the NCAA Transfer Portal now commonplace within the fabric of Division I sports, being able to retain athletes is a difficult task.
Marshall women’s basketball coach Tony Kemper said that the keys to success start well before a player ever steps on campus.
“It definitely starts with the people you recruit,” Kemper said. “We value people who also value the Marshall education. They have goals off the floor as far as what they want out of their education and it starts there.”
Achieving high marks is not easy within the parameters of Conference USA — one of the most travel-extensive leagues in the NCAA.
Student-athletes have to stay on top of their work and balance academics on the road, as well as clinical and lab time while in town.
It is a collaborative effort, as Crane-Banford pointed out.
“For a student-athlete that is not organized and committed to success, there are all kinds of excuses why they aren’t successful,” Crane-Banford said. “They understand the challenges of travel and see the benefits of achievement.”
Kemper said that collaborative effort is no easy task with different days featuring different practice times, based on academic needs of the team, but the staff’s focus and the players’ determination for success has shined through.
One of the most popular academic programs within women’s sports at Marshall is the nursing program.
While there is a rigorous lab and clinical schedule associated with the program, it remains a draw for student-athletes to the university due to the working relationship between academics and athletics.
“We have to make some sacrifices with our program where someone maybe has to leave practice early to get in a lab before we hit the road or some things along that line,” Kemper said. “You have to keep everyone moving forward in the academics realm, as well.”
In terms of the single-year APR, Kemper’s group was one of six Marshall women’s programs and seven Marshall programs overall (men’s golf) to earn a perfect score of 1,000 for the 2018-19 year.
All of Marshall’s offered programs in men’s and women’s sports finished well above the set multi-year threshold of 930, which the NCAA requires for programs to compete for championships.
Teams that under-perform in academic venues face penalties such as restricted practice time and even competition limitations, including bans from postseason tournament play.