Alfred University’s intercollegiate athletic teams enjoyed unprecedented success in competition in 2014-15, but also excelled in the classroom while making a positive inpact on the local community.
The AU Department of Athletics recently released its spring 2015 academic report, which showed significant improvements over the 2014-15 academic year. The University’s 17 NCAA-affiliated sports teams logged a combined cumulative grade-point average of 3.008 for spring 2015, up from the combined GPA of 2.991 posted after the Fall 2014 semester.
Paul Vecchio, director of athletics, has set the department-wide GPA goal at 3.0. Nine of the Saxons’ 17 NCAA teams eclipsed that benchmark in 2014-15, led by women’s tennis, with a team GPA of 3.72. Men’s soccer had the highest men’s team GPA, at 3.31.
Other teams with a GPA of 3.0 or higher were: women’s volleyball (3.26), women’s soccer (3.24), women’s swimming and diving (3.20), women’s track and field (3.12), softball (3.08), women’s cross country (3.04), and men’s basketball (3.03).
Men’s tennis was the most improved team from the Fall 2014 to Spring 20156 semester, while women’s tennis was the most improved among female sports.
Several teams also showed marked improvement in the percentage of their respective rosters to earn individual academic honors. The athletic department recognizes students with Saxon Scholar honors for having a GPA between 3.20 and 3.49, while Dean’s List recognition is afforded to students with a GPA between 3.50 and 3.74. The highest academic honor, the Empire 8 Conference President’s List, is given to those with a GPA of 3.75 or higher.
Alfred’s academic report references 17 NCAA-affiliated teams — men’s and women’s basketball; men’s and women’s cross country; football; men’s and women’s lacrosse; men’s and women’s track and field (the report combines indoor and outdoor squads into one team); men’s and women’s swimming and diving; men’s and women’s tennis; men’s and women’s soccer; softball; and women’s volleyball – with a combined 408 student-athletics. For 2014-15, 146 student-athletics earned academic honors, or 36 percent of total of 408 student athletes competing in NCAA-sponsored teams.
AU also offers four non-NCAA intercollegiate sports: men’s and women’s Alpine skiing and Western and English equestrian (both co-ed). When the academic achievements of the 68 student-athletes on those teams are added, that number jumps to 38 percent. The combined 2014-15 GPA of all student-athletes, when skiing and equestrian is included, was 3.044.
Several AU student-athletes earned noteworthy individual accolades. Men’s soccer senior Jeff Thomas (Canandaigua, NY/Canandaigua), football junior Michael Berardi (Wellsville, NY/Wellsville) and softball junior Dana Torchia (Pompton Plains, NJ/Pequannock Township) earned College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA)/Capital One Academic All-District honors, while two members of the men’s swimming and diving team – seniors Joseph Rogers (Dublin, NH) and David Coombes (Dansville, NY/Dansville) – earned Scholar All-American honors from the from the Collegiate Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
In addition, men’s soccer (from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America) and women’s swimming and diving (from the CSCAA) earned national academic team honors.
“The recognition afforded our student-athletes by CoSIDA, the NSCAA and the CSCAA is a microcosm of the outstanding efforts our student-athletes have made in exhibiting excellence both on and off the field,” said Vecchio. “The success of such a large percentage of our student-athletes academically, particularly at a University with the academic rigor of AU, is a great point of pride for our department.”
Student-athletes’ academic improvement can be attributed in part to the Life Skills Coordinator position created at the beginning of the 2014-15 year. The position, made possible by support from AU alumni Russ Fahey ’58, his wife Pat, and Kristin Klabin ’93 and her husband, Alex, was held by Jake Spadoni, a 2013 AU graduate and former men’s lacrosse All-American.
gSpadoni, who also served as a lacrosse graduate assistant coach the last two years, graduated in May with a master’s degree in literacy education. Vecchio described the Life Skills Coordinator position as a “direct liaison to our first-year student-athletes,” helping them adjust to the rigors of being a collegiate student-athlete. Among Spadoni’s duties were helping new students in managing their time and directing them to available resources to assist them in their studies.
“The work that Jake did in concert with our coaching staff led to a significant reduction of students on academic probation in 2014-15 while aiding our retention efforts significantly,” Vecchio said. “I look forward to this program growing and further creating a major impact on our retention and academic success rates in the future.”
Student-athletes were also active in the University and local communities, logging approximately 1,300 community service hours. Seven teams – men’s basketball, football, men’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, softball, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball – completed community service projects in 2014-15, with a total of 241 student-athletes contributing an average of 5.4 hours of service.
The AU student-athletes’ success in classroom coincides with what was a banner year for Saxon teams. Alfred teams finished in the top four in the Empire 8 Conference standings in six sports, with a school-record four – men’s soccer, women’s tennis, men’s basketball and softball — competing in their respective championship tournaments. Softball would win their E8 tournament, while men’s basketball was runner-up. Two other AU teams – men’s tennis and men’s lacrosse – finished among the top four in the league standings, but missed out on berths in their respective conference tournaments due to tiebreakers.
Saxon teams competing in sports sponsored by the Empire 8 finished sixth in the Empire 8 Commissioner’s Cup standings, the best ever for AU in the 16-year history of the conference. The Commissioner’s Cup rankings are determined by how teams finish in the league standings of each Empire 8-sponsored sport.
Vecchio noted the athletics program at AU strives to create excellence not only in competition, but also in the classroom and in the community. The program’s record of achievement in 2014-15 shows student-athletes and their coaches are attaining many of those goals.
“In 2014-15 our student-athletes excelled in the three areas that share our focus equally: academic performance, athletic prowess and making an impact on both our campus and community,” Vecchio commented. “Our coaching staff has provided excellent leadership to our student-athletes to excel in these three critical areas and I am incredibly proud of the fact that we had our finest year from a competitive standpoint in our 16-year association with the Empire 8 while not missing a beat in our other commitments.”
– See more at: http://www.alfred.edu/pressreleases/viewrelease.cfm?ID=11449#sthash.gD7AmR5E.dpuf