To improve the cumulative GPA for all 312 student-athlete members of the athletic department, university administrators have developed two ideas to help motivate and organize student-athletes so that they are better suited for success. First, coaches are going to be receiving bonuses on top of their normal salaries depending on the academic success of their teams. In addition to this, Mustang360 will help student-athletes with time management and other issues they may encounter as a student-athlete.
MSU has traditionally been near the top of the leader board in most sports in the Lone Star Conference, but it is West Texas A&M and Texas Women’s College that has been atop the leader board in the classroom. The Lone Star Conference Academic Excellence Award presented by Balfour is given to the university with the highest academic performance as determined by a point system. WTAM has taken home the men’s title the last two years while TWC has taken home the women’s title the last three years, sharing it with WTAM in 2015 The point system works by giving the team with the highest GPA in a respective sport five points, the runner four points, and third place three points. Any team with a cumulative GPA above 2.0 automatically receives one point. Points for each member institution are added up by gender and then divided by that schools number of programs in that gender to given the comparative value. WTAM took the top spot in seven different men’s sports while TWC took the top spot in two different women sports. MSU did not take the top spot any sports.
Bonuses are sought to give the coaches an incentive to recruit student-athletes that are better suited to thrive in the classroom, and to get coaches to push the student-athletes they currently have harder in the classroom.
Athletic Director, Charlie Carr said he is always looking for ways to communicate to both the coaches and student athletes that academics are always the highest priority.
“We’re always striving to do better. Traditionally we have done well both on the field and in the classroom and we certainly want to keep those traditions up.” said Carr
The coaches will receive bonuses on top of the salary that they already earn according to the cumulative GPA that their athletes produce. Last years cumulative GPA for all sports combined was 2.72. For all sports not including football, head coaches will receive $1,000 if the GPA is at least 3.00, $1,500 for a 3.25 GPA, $2,000 for a GPA of 3.5 and $2,500 for a 3.75 GPA.
Football however, is held to a lower academic standard. The bonuses for the football team are a $1,000 bonus for a 2.5 GPA, a bonus of $1,500 for a GPA of 2.75, $2,000 for a 3.0 GPA, and a bonus of $2,500 for a GPA of 3.25. But the bonuses don’t stop there. A head coach can earn an additional bonus of $1,000 if a team’s academic success exceeds the national average for the sport. And a head coach can earn a bonus of $2,500 can be earned if a team is in the top 25th percentile for the sport. The Lone Star Conference, the athletic conference Midwestern State plays out of, also gives a cash bonus to the coach of the team with the highest GPA in the conference. These bonuses are in addition to the bonuses that the coaches may receive due to performance on the field.
Jeff Ray, former athletic director and current men’s and women’s golf coach thinks that the will get coaches attention not necessarily because of the money but because it reinforces to coaches that academics mean just as much as athletics does.
“We as coaches try to recruit kids that will not only succeed in their respective sport, but in the classroom as well. There’s a reason why student comes before athlete. Athletics are great, but it all starts in the classroom,” Ray said “Not that we don’t know that, but giving bonuses is basically like a reminder that the way our student-athletes perform in the classroom means just as much as the way they perform on the fields.”
While giving bonuses for good performance in the classroom may be new here at MSU, it is nothing new in the college athletics world. Programs have long used monetary incentives for coaches as ways to motivate coaches to get their players to raise their GPA. There are plenty of examples of this. Many major Division 1 head coaches can receive major pay days for good performance in the classroom. It is much rarer for Division 2 coaches to receive these beneifts, and even if they do the pay cowers in comparison to a division 1 school. According to data from the schools obtained by USA TODAY Sports, both Kentucky and Rutgers give their head football coach $25,000 for a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75. Central Florida offers even more, give their head football coach $55,000 for a cumulative GPA above 2.5. Smaller schools like Kent State, which gives their head football coach $1,000 for a GPA of 2.5 fall more in line with MSU’s pay scale. Other schools choose to give bonuses based off of a teams APR rate, which stands for Academic Progress Rate. Smaller Division 1 schools like Appalachian State and South Alabama give out bonuses of $10,000 and $5,000 to their head football coach for an APR above 930. Bigger schools like Alabama and South Carolina give out $100,000 bonuses to their head football coach for APR’s above 930 for Alabama and 950 for South Carolina. On the hardwood, George Mason University will pay their head basketball coach $52,500 if his team has a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher. Some schools choose to give bonuses if a certain percentage of their players graduate, take Kentucky for example. Kentucky basketball coach, John Calipari will receive $100,000 if just 75 percent of his players graduate.
Another program, Mustang360, is being developed by Carr and Foster. The program, which features internet based content as well as an app for cell phones is being put in place to help college students with every facet of their day to day life.
“Mustang 360 is web-based interactive individual life skills program. In the past, the way we’ve done life skills is that we’ll bring in speakers, or we’ll do workshops, but that’s always difficult to do because it’s tough with timing as it’s hard to get all of our sports together,” Reagan said, “Being able to program to them on their phone or computer on their own time is really a good way to do this.”
The program, StudentAffairs360, originated at the University of Maryland where school administrators sought to find a way to help student-athletes become the most successful they could be. Like Foster said, having life-skills classes for all student-athletes to attend just isn’t feasible due to the large amount of kids it would involve along with the scheduling challenges that would come up. MSU joins numerous universities around the country that have adopted this program including the University of Maryland, Louisiana State University, Virginia Commonwealth University and University of California Riverside.
Mustang360 will feature several different areas of study within the program. Leadership, study skills, time management, sportsmanship, compliance, fan relations, mental health, drugs/alcohol, and eligibility will be some of the different areas of study offered. The program will be focused primarily on first year students, freshman and transfers. The student-athletes will meet every Monday at 9 p.m. to go over the different areas of study within Mustang360.
MSU is still working to get the program underway according to Carr.
“It’s been a little slow getting it developed. They had to get the software part of it squared away so we’re just finally getting it online. We want our student-athletes to have all the tools they need to succeed and this will certainly be nothing but a positive thing,” Carr said, “You don’t have to be in a classroom, you can get this directly from your phone or your computer. We’ve focused this on our first year students because we think we can make the biggest impact on our students that are new to MSU.”
Foster, who also serves as a counselor is optimistic about the future of our student-athletes.
“We really do have a great university here, and it’s only getting better. We’ve worked to identify weak spots and with these programs we’re implementing I think our kids are going to benefit greatly. We’re on an upwards trajectory.”