Student-athletes post highest GPA in eight years

Junior wide receiver Lee Mayhall runs a route during practice Sept. 3, 2014. Mayhall was named to the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America first team Dec. 3.

The Lions do not only try to compete at the highest level on the field or court but in the classroom as well.

The UNA student-athletes posted a 2.93 GPA for the fall of 2014 semester, the highest since 2.94 in the fall of 2006.

“I’m extremely happy about student-athletes and what they accomplished,” said Athletics Director Mark Linder. “I think (Compliance Coordinator Todd) Vardaman and his staff, along with our coaching staff are committed to getting our student-athletes a quality education and life outside of sports. The next step is to get to a 3.0.”

Of the 285 student-athletes a total of 29 student-athletes had a perfect 4.0 GPA and 151 posted a 3.0 or higher.

Linder said it is imperative to let student-athletes know how important their college education is.

“I know they all aspire to play professionally or after college, and that’s great but there will be a day when they have to hang the cleats up or put the ball away and go get a job and be a productive member of society,” he said.

Linder said he takes the phrase, “graduating champions with integrity,” a phrase posted above the doors in the athletic department, seriously.

“I think if a kid can walk across stage after four or five years with a championship ring on their finger and as they pick up their diploma I think we have fulfilled our responsibility,” he said.

Vardaman said the success on the field and court goes to show how student-athletes do not have to sacrifice school for sport and vice versa.

The volleyball and soccer team competed in the Gulf South Conference championship games and the football team won a share of the GSC.

“If you are going to be committed to being successful in you sport then be committed to being successful in academics too,” he said. “You have to be successful in the classroom to continue to play, there’s a mutual relationship.”

Vardaman said the athletics department has stressed the importance of class attendance, building a relationship with the professors and using resources on campus.

“We have stressed to tell them to not miss class unless you have to because of traveling to games,” he said. “The success center is a good asset to our campus and are students have taken advantage of it.”

Football head coach Bobby Wallace said one of the things that bothered him the most when he returned to UNA was the GPA of the football team.

“I always thought the grade point average as a team reflected on the character of the players,” he said.

Wallace said he was proud to see one of his players, junior receiver Lee Mayhall, named to the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America D-II football team, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America Dec. 3, 2014.

Mayhall was one of only 24 players from 168 D-II schools named to the first-team. He has a 4.0 GPA as an industrial hygiene major.

Mayhall caught 25 passes for 287 yards before missing the last two games due to injury.

“He’s a tremendous competitor, tremendous student and a great person,” Wallace said. “If we had 100 of those kind of guys I wouldn’t have to come to work half the time because they take care of themselves.”

Mayhall said he credits his achievement to the coaching staff for placing such an emphasis on schoolwork.

“The coaches care about us as people and not just football players,” he said. “They are always willing to help because we’re here to get a degree.”