NCAA president Mark Emmert released a list of 40 basketball programs Wednesday morning as part of a larger announcement of over 1,000 teams that qualified by posting APR results among the top 10 percent in their sports during a four-year period from 2009-2013.
In three of the four years, NSU basketball posted a perfect APR score of 1,000 on the way to a multi-year rate of 996.
Among the other men’s basketball programs recognized were Duke, Stanford, Florida, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan, Indiana, Notre Dame, Texas, Dartmouth, Colgate, Bucknell, Cornell, Penn, and Davidson.
Northwestern State was the only Louisiana and Southland Conference basketball team in the elite group.
The APR measures eligibility, graduation and retention each semester and provides a clear picture of the academic performance for every Division I team in each sport. NSU’s basketball program, led since 1999 by head coach Mike McConathy, also won an NCAA Public Recognition Award in 2005.
The Demons have graduated nearly 90 percent of their seniors during McConathy’s 15 seasons while reaching seven Southland Conference Tournament championship games, winning three.
Northwestern has played in the NCAA Tournament in 2001, 2006 and 2013, winning games in 2001 and 2006, and has ranked among the nation’s top scoring teams several times in McConathy’s tenure, including second in the country in each of the past two seasons.
"Congratulations are again in order to coach Mike McConathy and his staff, along with the Athletic Department's academic support staff, for earning this well-deserved recognition as one of the best academically successful Division I men's basketball programs in the country,” said NSU athletics director Greg Burke. “This level of success does not just happen, especially in a sport which has had its share of academic struggles on the national level.
Rather, it takes a plan and it takes commitment. I credit all involved for staying the course and ensuring that our men's basketball student-athletes make academics a priority."
Eight players on the Demons’ 2013-14 team had grade point averages over 3.0 during the fall semester. NSU is in final exams for the spring semester this week. Four-year seniors Gary Stewart and Tyler Washington will graduate Friday.
“It’s a team achievement in the truest sense of the word,” said McConathy. “Our players and coaches have a strong commitment to achieve academically and move toward graduation. That’s a cornerstone of our program.
“It starts back home with their families and their coaches and other influential people who help instill in our guys the importance of putting their education first. Here, far beyond our basketball staff, our players are part of a culture of success in their academic pursuits, thanks to the care and inspiration provided by our faculty and our academic support staff, along with many people in the extended Demon basketball family who encourage our young men. We have tremendous support that provides the opportunity for our players to attend summer school, which is a key component in these guys having academic success,” said McConathy.
Wednesday’s honor is the third time that a Northwestern State sport has received an NCAA Public Recognition Award for outstanding APR performance.
Along with the basketball award in 2005, the women’s soccer program was honored in 2006.
While many Division I schools have experienced warnings and penalties, including bans from NCAA postseason play, for substandard APR scores, none of Northwestern State’s teams has ever been negatively cited by the NCAA for its academic performance.
This year’s complete NCAA APR release will come later this month.