Women’s golf and basketball earn NCAA academic honors

Initially when student-athletes are recruited to play collegiate sports, the ultimate goal is for them to not only excel in athletics, but to succeed in academics to set them up for life after college.


Tracking success

Each year, the NCAA tracks the classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team through the annual scorecard of academic achievement, known as Academic Progress Rate. The score measures eligibility and retention each semester and provides a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport.

The honor is reserved for collegiate athletics teams that have a multi-year NCAA Division I APR in the top 10 percent of college teams nationwide in their respective sports.

This year, both the women’s basketball and golf teams won national NCAA academic honors — the first time both teams have been recognized in the same year.

The awards for 2012 were based on the 2010-11 multi-year APR.

“I would have to say that I am extremely proud of this honor,” Oakland Women’s Basketball Head Coach Beckie Francis said. “We really focus on academic excellence. It’s one of our core values here at OU.”

Francis, who comes into her 12th season at Oakland this year, has seen her team appear on the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for six consecutive seasons.


High expectations

Receiving the nation’s top academic honor among student athletes for the first time in her career is not surprising by the result of hard work and dedication.

“We have had a perfect 1,000 APR three out of the last four years, so the award does not surprise me. We recruit highly motivated academic scholar athletes,” Francis said.

Part of that dedication is the confidence Francis places in her athletes to reach their full potential by setting high but not unrealistic standards for her students to reach for in order to see success off the court.

“We encourage our players to have over a 3.4 GPA or higher. 3.6 is the GPA to be number one in the nation in Division I and we strive for that as well,” Francis said.

Along with the expectation she places on the players to strive for the number one spot, she expects them to help themselves outside of the leadership she provides.

“Our players meet weekly with a coach, with an athletic academic adviser, they attend mandatory study hall and they must meet with academic advising to be sure they are taking appropriate classes,” Francis said. “The team captains also meet with their teammates and set their own team GPA goal.”

Women’s Golf Head Coach Russ Cunningham takes on a similar stance when giving credit to the players.

“I don’t believe I can take much credit in this achievement, it’s mainly on the athletes to go out, get outstanding grades while producing similar results on the course,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham, who is in his second year at Oakland, did not coach the Golden Grizzlies in the tenure is considered for the award, but feels as if the players who were recognized will set the standard for the athletes he looks to produce in years moving forward.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to be here as the leader of the current students we have now,” Cunningham said. “Hopefully the accomplishments of the past will help to motivate those of the future to produce similar results.”

The women’s golf team has claimed the honor three times, while this marks the first occasion for the women’s basketball team.



Contact Staff Intern Allen Jordan via email at [email protected]