By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn student-athletes are excelling academically like never before. They have the grade-point average to prove it, a 3.17 cumulative GPA, highest in program history.
In his 16 for '16 address, Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs outlined three goals related to academics: (1) hire a Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics, (2) ensure all Auburn teams achieve an Academic Progress Rate score of 950 or higher, and (3) have 30% of teams earning public recognition from the NCAA for their APR achievements.
All have been achieved.
To earn NCAA public recognition, a team must have multi-year APR scores in the top 10 percent of the country. Six Auburn teams earned such recognition in 2016, tying the Tigers with Vanderbilt for most in the SEC.
At 80 percent, Auburn's Graduation Success Rate is the highest in program history.
The percentage of student-athletes with a 3.0 GPA or higher stands at 62 percent, up from less than 50 percent five years ago.
In 2016, 397 Auburn student-athletes received the Top Tiger Award, an increase of 57 percent from 2011. To be a Top Tiger, a student-athlete must have a 3.0 GPA for their career or the previous academic year.
Forty percent of Auburn student-athletes are on track to graduate with honors, another significant jump from 2011, when that number stood at less than 25 percent.
Auburn ranks No. 3 in the SEC in the number of student-athletes named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
"The tremendous academic success of our student-athletes all ties back to setting ambitious goals and having a strategic vision for our department," Jacobs said. "Exceeding the academic goals set forth in the 16 for '16 plan is a credit to the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes above all. It's also a credit to the outstanding academic services staff and the resources we have in place to help our student-athletes reach their full potential in the classroom."
With the retirement in August of Dr. Gary Waters after an illustrious Auburn career, Jacobs hired Dr. Kathryn Flynn to serve as Associate AD for Academics.
"Dr. Flynn will continue to enhance the academic achievements of our student-athletes," said Waters, who directed Auburn's Student-Athlete Support Services for more than five years. "Our student-athletes are fortunate to have one of the most respected academic leaders on the Auburn University campus leading our efforts."
In Flynn's first semester leading Auburn Athletics' academics, 65 student-athletes made the Fall 2016 Dean's List.
"I am most proud of the fact that so many of our student-athletes made the Dean's list in Fall 2016, and that our graduation rates continue to increase," Flynn said.
"My vision for academic success in 2017 and beyond is that our student-athletes continue to reach their academic goals," Flynn said, "I want to increase the number of student-athletes who are recognized for their academic accomplishments by inclusion on the SEC and NCAA Honor Rolls and by receiving national awards and scholarships."
As Dr. Waters passed the torch to Dr. Flynn, he reflected on the achievements of Auburn's student-athletes, including their 80% GSR.
"I have no doubt that our Graduation Success Rate numbers will continue to rise in upcoming years," he said.
During the Allstate Sugar Bowl, 18 Auburn football players wore the new SEC Graduation Patch, signifying they had already earned their college degree.
Auburn ranked No. 3 in the SEC in athletes participating in a bowl game with their diploma in hand.
"It is especially gratifying to note that our football team has the highest multi-year APR of any Alabama-based university during the past 10 years," Waters said.
"I was fortunate to join a group of talented, dedicated professionals in Student-Athlete Support Services," Waters said. "It was truly one of my best experiences in academia -- working daily with our academic counselors and learning specialists."