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Our two biggest goals are winning and graduating our student-athletes, and it was a good year for both.
We have 21 sports at Auburn, and 17 of them made postseason play for the 2014-2015 year. Just looking at sports that finished in the spring, we had five sports that were either ranked or finished in the top 10, including softball, gymnastics, men’s golf, men’s swimming and diving and equestrian.
There was no better way to end the year than watching the thrilling run of Coach Clint Myers’ softball team, which charged into the Women’s College World Series and showed everyone Auburn softball will be a force to be reckoned with.
Our softball surge was in many ways indicative of the entire athletics season. The Auburn Family came out in record numbers in multiple sports to support their teams. We sold a lot of tickets, we witnessed a lot of excitement, and we won a lot of games.
It was a great year indeed, but we aren’t satisfied. Our goal is to win championships and offer the best student experience in the nation so they can thrive on and off the field. We are well on our way to both, but there is still work to be done.
Academics may not always get the headlines it deserves, but the success our students had this year is worth noting. This spring we recognized a record 346 "Top Tigers" for making a 3.0 or higher GPA. To give you some perspective, that’s 111 more Top Tigers than we honored four years ago.
In addition, the NCAA uses a measure called the Academic Progress Rate (APR) to hold schools accountable for the academic progress of their teams. I’m pleased to say that our APR scores continue to improve every year.
Of our 21 teams, 11 had perfect APR scores for the most recent year. I’m especially proud of our men’s basketball team for posting a perfect APR score for the 2013-2014 academic year. Overall, all 21 of our teams exceeded minimum APR standards. That’s a credit to our student-athletes most of all, but also to our coaches and our outstanding academic support staff.
Our student-athletes are succeeding after they leave Auburn, too. Two of our former students were awarded some of the nation’s highest academic honors this year when former football player Ashton Richardson won the elite Marshall Scholarship, and former swimmer Tofey Leon won the prestigious NCAA Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship. Both of these are elite academic honors. Only 40 Marshall Scholars are selected across the U.S. annually, and the NCAA honors only one male and one female student-athlete in the nation with the Byers scholarship.
Football season isn’t far away, and I know many of you look forward to experiencing Jordan-Hare Stadium with the largest video board in the nation. It has been exciting to see the impressive structure erected on the south end of the stadium this summer.
In many ways, that’s what we have been doing for Auburn football for the past several years. We have been building a strong foundation by hiring the best coaches, recruiting elite student-athletes and investing in improvements that impact student-athlete welfare. Our $6.5 million Wellness Kitchen is just one example, and it has been a tremendous success.
While we are constantly planning progressively for the future, our current football facilities that our players use on a daily basis are better than they have ever been. Where they live, where they practice and where they eat are all vitally important, and our facilities rank among the very best.
Auburn v. Oregon
Another part of building a strong foundation is scheduling games against elite non-conference competition. We’re thrilled about our match-up with Oregon on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. It’s the kind of epic match-up our players love and our fans want to see.
These marquee games that attract national interest are also good for Auburn University. They bring publicity that can’t be quantified, and they give us a chance to tell our story of academic success, community service and athletic excellence. It will be a fun game to be a part of, and I look forward to scheduling more in the future.
Welcome, Coach Luellen
Excellence in athletics begins with hiring great coaches, and we found one in our new women’s golf coach. Please join me in welcoming Coach Melissa Luellen and her husband, Greg, to the Auburn Family.
Coach Luellen comes to Auburn from Arizona State, where her teams won an NCAA National Championship, had nine NCAA Top 10 finishes and captured two conference titles. Throughout her coaching career, Coach Luellen’s students have performed on and off the course, excelling in the classroom and in the community. She will be a great fit at Auburn, and a great coach to follow in the footsteps of Coach Kim Evans, who recently retired from coaching to accept a position with the university.
I can’t say enough about all that Coach Evans has meant to our women’s golf program, our entire athletics department and Auburn University. Her legacy as one of collegiate golf’s great coaches is secure, and her many charitable contributions to our community will continue to touch lives, just as her new work with Auburn University will continue to change this great institution.
Finally, I want to thank the Auburn Family for helping make 2014-2015 a memorable year. We can’t wait to see you in Auburn again this fall. The Toomers Corner renovations should be completed just in time for plenty of celebrations.
God Bless and War Eagle!
You can also follow me on Twitter at @jayjacobsauad.