Highlights for student-athletes include top graduation rates, high APR scores, being one of the top schools in community service and success in their sports.
When a Towson University student-athlete graduates, he or she is given a special stole to wear at Commencement that features the Towson Tigers’ logo and the words “Student-Athlete.”
Seventy student-athletes—including 23 graduating with honors—will wear their stoles as they walk across the SECU Arena stage from May 24-26 during the spring 2017 Commencement ceremonies.
Along with the 18 student-athletes who graduated in December, a total of 88 Towson Tigers will have graduated this academic year.
For Geoff Gordon, Towson University’s assistant athletic director for academic achievement, graduation should be the student-athlete’s ultimate goal. That’s why the stole is always hanging in his office — as a reminder of why they are here.
“I have it there to show every student who walks in here. That stole is the ultimate goal,” Gordon said. “You need to graduate and get out into the working world.”
Along with their work in the classroom, Towson University’s student-athletes have also excelled on the playing field and in performing community service. The 2016-17 year has been filled with many highlights for TU athletics.
With 88 more student-athletes becoming alumni this spring, TU athletics continues to have one of the top Division I athletic programs in the state of Maryland regarding graduation rates.
According to an October 2016 report, Towson University has a student-athlete graduation rate of 71 percent — the highest for any Division I public institution in Maryland.
To go along with those statewide numbers, Towson University is ranked in the top five percent nationally in African-American male student-athlete graduation, rate according to the Federal Graduation Rate compiled by the US Department of Education. These rankings go along with student-athletes having higher graduation rates and grade point averages than the rest of the Towson University general population.
The Academic Progress Rate (APR) is what the NCAA uses to measure the eligibility and retention for student-athletes. It was developed as an early indicator of eventual graduation rates.
Along with 16 TU teams being above the NCAA average, the Tiger baseball, men's basketball, men's golf, women's cross country, field hockey, gymnastics, women's lacrosse, women's soccer, and women's tennis teams each had a perfect 2015-16 score of 1,000.
The APR also includes multi-year scores, with men’s basketball, men’s golf, women’s cross country, gymnastics and women’s tennis having multi-year scores of 1,000. These teams were also honored with the Academic Progress Rate Public Recognition award for finishing in the Top 10 percent for their sports.
TU also had seven of its athletics teams (men's basketball, men's golf, women's cross-country, gymnastics, tennis, men's lacrosse, and women's soccer) boast the top APR in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), while 14 sports (men's basketball, men's golf, women's cross-country, gymnastics, tennis, baseball, men's lacrosse, men's swimming & diving, field hockey, women's golf, women's lacrosse, women's soccer, softball and women's swimming & diving) have the highest APR for the NCAA Division I University System of Maryland schools.
Towson University’s student-athletes have also taken pride in their community service work.
As an athletic department, TU ranked sixth overall nationally in NCAA Team Works’ Helper Helper Community Service Competition and finished first among men’s programs at the Division I level.
NCAA Team Works, which coordinates community service efforts at NCAA championships, and Helper Helper, a volunteer service management and tracking platform, launched the competition to recognize student-athletes who give back to their communities. The competition ran from January through March. The winning schools were determined based on the amount of service hours completed and the participation of student-athletes.
In addition to TU’s overall ranking, the men’s basketball team ranked first nationally among Division I men’s team sports participating in the competition, while men’s lacrosse ranked fifth.
"This is terrific for our program and university," TU men's basketball head coach Pat Skerry said. "Community service is one of the core values of our program. I am grateful for my dedicated staff that emphasizes the importance to our players of serving others and giving back.”
The entire Towson University athletic department has made a huge impact in the Greater Baltimore area. During the first semester of the 2016-17 academic year, the Tigers recorded 5,884 hours of community service and are approaching over 10,000 community service hours for the entire year.
All of these accolades are not new to those who work in the Towson University athletic department. Those individuals who get to spend time with the student-athletes know how hard they work in all facets of their lives.
“All the credit in the world goes to our student-athletes,” Gordon said. “In my opinion, Towson University athletics is lucky these students are willing to put the work in. And it’s not just with their sport, but they also put the work into their studies and making themselves better.”