Greg Burke marked the beginning of his 19th year as director of athletics by announcing the grant Aug. 20 at the annual NSU/Independence Bowl Kickoff Luncheon in Shreveport.
University personnel across campus teamed up to help Northwestern secure the highly-competitive grant.
The inaugural pilot program in 2013-14 distributed $4.3 million to six NCAA FCS institutions.
“I am thrilled for our university and especially for our athletic department that the NCAA has chosen Northwestern State to be the recipient of one of these prestigious Academic Accelerating Success Program grants,” said university president Dr. Randall Webb. “Academic success has always been the highest priority for me as an educator and as a former athlete, I have a special appreciation for the emphasis our athletic department places on attaining success in the classroom. Furthermore, I am enthusiastic about the additional assistance this grant will provide to ensure that all NSU teams are not just above, but well above the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) benchmark of 930 in the future.
“Congratulations to all of the wonderful university personnel who have helped secure this funding,” said Webb, who is retiring this fall in his record 19th year as president. “I especially congratulate the athletic department for pursuing and earning this grant and, in particular, want to acknowledge (academic coordinators) Carrie Greene and Kelee Roddy for their efforts in authoring this proposal. This is outstanding news and is yet another indication that great things are indeed happening at NSU.”
Burke was proud of the collaboration, which culminated in the awarding of the grant, and excited about the opportunities it provides to student-athletes at Northwestern.
“This NCAA grant will further solidify the academic foundation which is a main cornerstone of the NSU athletic program. The funding will underwrite a myriad of initiatives which will further enhance positive NCAA Graduation Success Rates and Academic Progress Rates which have ranked NSU highly on both a state and conference level,” said Burke. “While the competitive success level of NSU Athletics has been very good in the past couple of years, I know that our alumni share my belief that the number one goal for our student-athletes should be to perform well in the classroom and ultimately, to graduate. The AASP grant will help sustain, and even improve upon, those benchmarks.”
“We are very proud of the teamwork which resulted in Northwestern State receiving this highly-competitive NCAA grant,” said Burke. “We will benefit from a campus-wide committee of individuals who will work with our department over the next three years in implementing initiatives. Many of those individuals also participated in an hour-long videoconference with the NCAA’s AASP selection committee, which was the final determining factor in our receiving funding.”
The participating schools are required to match grant dollars each year of the program with either direct funds and/or in-kind contributions.
In the first year the school must commit a 25 percent match, 50 percent in year two and 75 percent in year three.
“The NCAA remains committed to the academic success of all student-athletes,” said NCAA Executive Vice President Bernard Franklin. “These AASP grants allow the association to offer financial backing for projects that contribute measurable benefits to our campuses.”
Some of the initiatives supported by the NCAA AASP grant include funding summer school for student-athletes, updating the Johnnie Emmons Academic Center, and adding an additional staff member to work with at-risk student-athletes, said Burke.
There are benchmarks to reach each year to renew the grant, he said.