Photos by R.Stevens
Photos by R.Stevens
Stevens: UNM Success Center Produces High Marks
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  06/19/2014

Lobos Set GPA Record of 3.25:  The New Mexico Lobos' student-athletes set a department record in 2013-14 with a cumulative GPA of 3.25 for both the fall and spring semesters. The old mark was 3.23 set in the spring of 2013. The Lobo have had a 3.0 GPA or higher in 23 of the past 24 semesters.

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The pitch to become a New Mexico Lobo student-athlete has long been more than simply success in the arenas of competition.  Sure, there are championship trophies on the horizons for all Lobos, but there also is something that last so much longer.

A college degree.

“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.”

There is a long list of highlights for academic success during New Mexico’s 2013-14 season.  Here are just a few:

-- A 3.25 cumulative GPA for the spring of 2014 and a 3.25 in the fall of 2013. The Lobos have broken or tied the department’s record GPA in five consecutive semesters.

-- UNM’s female student-athletes had a record-high 3.53 GPA in the spring of 2014.  They have 32 consecutive semesters of 3.0 or higher.

-- A 74 percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate (2013) which factors in transfers.

-- UNM had seven (of 21) programs achieve a perfect 1000 on NCAA’s 2013 Academic Progress Rate (APR).

-- The NCAA recognized women’s golf, men’s basketball and men’s tennis for having an APR score in the top ten nationally.

"APR was an area that once needed a lot of improvement and now that is one of our strengths,” said Villegas. “The APR measures a school’s ability to retain students and it also is an indicator that student-athletes are progressing toward their degree.”

Sport Spring - 2014

3.03 GPA

M-Basketball 2.94 GPA
Football 2.71 GPA
M-Golf 3.36 GPA
M-Track 3.30 GPA
M-Skiing 3.54 GPA
M-Soccer 3.53 GPA
M-Tennis 3.27 GPA
W-Basketball 3.09 GPA
W-Golf 3.88 GPA
W-Track 3.61 GPA
W-Skiing 3.69 GPA
W-Soccer 3.63 GPA
Softball 3.29 GPA
Swimming 3.61 GPA
W-Tennis 3.61 GPA
Volleyball 3.34 GPA
All-Sports Total 3.25 GPA

 This is also something that should be noted about the athletic department:  For seven consecutive years the student-athlete graduation rate has been higher than the graduation rate for all UNM students.  The biggest gap came in 2011 when it was 61 percent to 44 percent.  It’s important to note that the graduation rate of the Lobo student-athlete helps bring up the all-student rate.

Villegas says there are a number of reasons for academic success in the New Mexico athletic department, but he lists four huge keys:  1- the student-athlete; 2- the coaches; 3- the UNM administration; 4- the academic support system.

“The student is always responsible for his academic motivation,” said Villegas. “That comes first. But you have to have coaches send a strong message that academics and a degree are important and have long-term value.

“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.”

Said Lobo men’s soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein:  “We do an incredible job at New Mexico with the academic support we provide to our student-athletes. And it’s not just the kids who are struggling. We are there for the kids who are achieving.” 

Said Jeff Nelson, volleyball coach: "For 99 percent of athletes, education is why they are here. There are very few athletes who will go pro. When you recruit kids, you are after high-achievers and that means both in the classroom and on the court. You want kids with goals, character, integrity."

On paper, you have proof of Lobos’ academic success.  There also is a symbol of UNM’s commitment at the corner of University and Cesar Chavez: UNM’s Student Support & Services Center.  It is a building dedicated to academic support and success.  Villegas’ department is located there with 11 full-time staffers.

“It’s an incredible tool and an important part of our recruiting process,” said Fishbein. “And it’s not just smoke and mirrors. It’s not just a pretty building.  The success in academics speaks for itself.  Our academic success is real.”

UNM had 75 student-athletes graduate in the spring of 2014 and 32 in the fall of 2013 for a 107 total for 2013-14.  UNM had a record 36 student-athletes with a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or better at the completion of the 2014 spring term.  UNM had 297 student-athletes recognized at its 2014 Scholar-Athlete Banquet (3.2 GPA or higher).  

“I definitely use our academic support system in recruiting,” said Jill Trujillo, UNM’s women’s golf coach, who had four players with a 4.0 GPA or higher.

“The student-athletes I recruit are usually very academic, high-achieving students.  And we don’t just recruit against the schools in our conference. We recruit against schools like Stanford, Northwestern, Purdue and others with big-time academic reputations.  We have to show our recruits that we are an academic school, too.”

The Success Center provides computer labs, tutors, mentors, a learning specialist and even a clinical psychologist.  Villegas also knows the importance of appearances. His building is across from the renovated Pit and flashy Isotopes Park.

“I think our building is a symbol that the University of New Mexico athletic department has made a real commitment to academic success,” said Villegas, who is about to enter his eighth year with the Success Center.

“This facility and these support services sent a strong message and there is no question that it helps us sell our athletic programs.  A lot of our success also is a credit to our staff.  This is not just a job for them and they also are committed on a personal level to the success of our student athletes.”