By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
July isn’t exactly a month associated with collegiate conference titles. However, every July the Mountain West crowns an unofficial league champion in an arena of achievement that really should be the thrust of every university and every university athletic department.
And the 2013-14 Mountain West classroom champion is: the University of New Mexico.
The Mountain West had a league-record 897 student-athletes named to the Spring 2014 Academic All-Mountain West team and Lobos led the way in the classroom with 124 selections.
That effort in the spring semester also pushed New Mexico to the overall title with 181 fall and spring recipients. Utah State gave the Lobos the best chase overall with 160 selections followed by Colorado State at 148 and Boise State at 146.
You also could say the Lobos defended their academic title. New Mexico had 163 Lobos on the 2012-13 Academic All-Mountain West Team which narrowly beat Boise State with 162. Boise State edged out UNM in 2011-12 with 151 Academic All-MW student-athletes to slip past UNM’s 148 total.
The Lobos’ total of 181 is a program record as is the 124 Spring selections. UNM had 111 named to the All-MW Team in the spring of 2013.
"This is a reflection of our leadership,” said Ray Birmingham, UNM’s baseball coach. “Athletic Director Paul Krebs demands excellence in the classroom and provides every instrument to achieve this goal.
“That mindset is a common one at UNM. Excellence in the classroom is as much a goal for us as winning on the field. They go hand-in-hand here at UNM."
Said Krebs: “This type of academic success is evidence of the effort and commitment our student-athletes bring to the classroom. It is a huge source of pride to our department, to our coaches and to our academic support system to see how our student-athletes balance their academic and athletic schedules to achieve academic excellence.
“This achievement in the classroom also is reflective of how our coaches stress academic success. Achievement in the classroom is similar to achievement in athletics in that it’s a team effort. You also have to credit the support provided by our Office of Student Athletic Success, our academic faculty and the administrators on our main campus.”
The spring sports include baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, softball, women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field.
The Mountain West’s spring figure of 897 surpasses the previous conference record of 783 spring semester honorees, set during the 2010-11 academic year. To be eligible for selection to the Academic All-MW team, student-athletes must have completed at least one academic term at the member institution while maintaining a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better, and be a starter or significant contributor on their athletic team.
For the entire 2013-14 school term, UNM led the league in women’s soccer, baseball, women’s golf, softball, swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s tennis. Those seven sports also topped the MW list in 2012-13.
Women’s swimming and diving set a program record with 23 Lobos named to the All-MW Academic Team. Softball also set a program standard with 12 selections. Women’s soccer tied the program mark of 17 set in 2012-13. Football, with 16, was two off its program record of 18 set in 2007-08. The women’s golf team has six members on the All-MW team for the third time in program history in the Mountain West.
“The University of New Mexico, our coaches, our administration send a strong message to our student-athletes and to the community that academics and a degree have value and are an integral part of our department,” said Henry Villegas, an associate athletics director in charge of academic services.
“There is no question that a degree is still the most important thing we can offer to a student-athlete. You also have to have the administrative support and Paul (Paul Krebs, UNM’s vice presidents of athletics) has always made it clear that academics is an emphasis and is a vital part of the student-athlete experience. The student development piece is in place here and that is an important part of becoming a Lobo student-athlete.”
New Mexico also set record in 2013-14 for spring and fall GPAs with a 3.25 GPA in both semesters. UNM’s female student-athletes had a record-high 3.53 GPA in the spring of 2014. For seven consecutive years the student-athlete graduation rate has been higher that the graduation rate for all UNM students.