By Jeff Shearer
Auburn’s women’s basketball team is excelling on the court and in the classroom.
For the fifth year, on the eve of the NCAA tournament, Inside Higher Ed produced a women’s academic bracket.
Using the same matchups fans will see on the court, Inside Higher Ed relied on academic criteria to see which teams would survive and advance.
In the academic bracket, Auburn reached the Sweet 16 by defeating St. John’s and Baylor.
Winners were determined by Academic Progress Rate (APR), with the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR) serving as a tiebreaker.
Stanford edged three-time academic champ DePaul to claim the crown.
Of the nine SEC teams in the NCAA tournament, only South Carolina joined Auburn in the academic Sweet 16.
In a mythical head-to-head matchup, the Tigers would edge the Gamecocks in APR (991-990) and GSR (92-87).
Dr. Gary Waters, Auburn’s Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academic Services, said it is a “very significant achievement” for Auburn to be at the top of the class in the conference.
“I am so proud of Coach Flo, her staff and the young women on our team,” Waters said. “My pride is related to on-the-court achievements and academic achievements.”
Waters said Auburn will have more to celebrate in May when updated APR numbers are released.
He credited coach Terri Williams-Flournoy and her staff with providing accountability and support for Auburn’s student-athletes.
Waters called the partnership between the coaching staff and Auburn’s academic counseling team a “magical combination.”
“As the head coach, I think it starts with me,” Williams-Flournoy said. “That’s the way I’ve always run my programs.”
She meets weekly with Auburn’s academic advisor.
“We’re always engaged,” Williams-Flournoy said. “I hate surprises. We know exactly what’s going on.”
Achieving success on and off the court, she said, are related.
“It’s absolutely possible to do both,” Williams-Flournoy said. “They’re student-athletes first. Students, and then athletes. When they succeed in the classroom, it’s just even better.
“Our graduation rate is 100,” she said. “And I always want it to stay 100.”
Junior Katie Frerking exemplifies her team’s commitment to excellence as students and athletes.
Frerking, with a 3.69 GPA in marketing and accounting, is one of three SEC players on the Academic All-District Team for the College Sports Information Directors of America.
“It just takes a lot of focus, and making it a priority,” said Frerking, who averages 12.1 points and 5 rebounds per game.
“We spend so much time at the gym, and then when we get home, you’re tired, but you really have to just focus and try to study every night and find time when you can,” said Frerking, who leads Auburn with 78 steals.
“That’s something that Coach Flo has made a priority for our team since day one. And I know she’s proud of us,” Frerking said. “That just speaks to all of these girls and how focused we’ve been all year.”
Frerking and the 9th-seeded Tigers (19-12) play 8th-seeded St. John’s (23-9) Friday in Waco, Texas at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
With two wins in Waco, Auburn would duplicate its academic bracket success, providing Tiger fans with more than one shining moment, athletically and academically.
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer