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Liberty's NCAA student-athletes overcome obstacles to set new academic standards

May 20, 2020 : Liberty University Athletics

In the midst of the most challenging semester of their collegiate careers, Liberty University’s student-athletes rose to the occasion and excelled in the classroom like never before.

Following the completion of the 2019-20 academic year, Liberty student-athletes are maintaining a 3.24 cumulative grade point average (GPA), the highest recorded GPA in athletics department history.

During a time when the collegiate athletics season came to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 virus in March, Liberty’s student-athletes turned their full attention to their academic pursuits despite being scattered around the country.

As a result of their diligent efforts, Liberty Athletics saw the department’s cumulative GPA rise six points from the previous record of a 3.18 GPA following the Fall 2019 semester.

Additionally, a total of 45 student-athletes are maintaining a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA and 19 of Liberty’s 20 athletics teams boast a team GPA of 3.0 or higher.

“For our student-athletes to set an all-time GPA record this semester, in light of the disruptions they experienced related to COVID-19, is truly extraordinary,’’ Liberty Director of Athletics Ian McCaw said. “It is also a credit to the outstanding work of the Academic Affairs for Athletics staff and the Liberty faculty. This level of academic success reinforces our confidence in Liberty’s whole person development model that is committed to the athletic, academic, spiritual and social development of our student-athletes.’’

At the conclusion of the spring semester, 385 of Liberty’s 557 student-athletes (69 percent) are maintaining a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA.

Recapping the academic year, Liberty’s student-athletes posted a 3.18 cumulative GPA during the fall semester, a 3.31 cumulative GPA during the spring and a 3.25 cumulative GPA for the 2019-20 academic year.

Outside of the strong efforts put in by Liberty’s student-athletes, Liberty’s Academic Affairs for Athletics office revamped most of its traditional models to aid in the department’s unprecedented success in the classroom.

This support team traditionally holds countless hours of tutoring and academic enhancement sessions throughout the Liberty Athletics Center every day of the week during the fall and spring semesters.

Once Liberty moved the remainder of the spring semester to mostly online classes due to the COVID-19 virus, this group quickly pivoted its working efforts.

Through video communications platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, the Liberty’s Academic Affairs for Athletics staff was able to seamlessly continue to walk alongside Liberty’s student-athletes during their academic, athletic, social and spiritual development journey.

Earlier this month, Liberty Athletics celebrated 88 of its student-athletes completing their degrees at Liberty University.

Additionally, the NCAA announced the athletics department’s graduation success rate was at 88 percent in November, accounting for the highest recorded marks in department history.

Liberty’s student-athlete graduation success rate (GSR) has seen an increase or matched its previous year’s total each of the last seven years and eight out of the last nine years, improving from a 69 percent rate in 2009-10.

Liberty’s women's swimming & diving program currently holds the highest team GPA in the athletics department. Along with claiming the program’s third Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship, the Lady Flames finished the spring semester with a 3.70 cumulative team GPA.

The winter sports season was Liberty’s most successful collective season, with the department capturing five conference titles during this portion of the 2019-20 athletics year.

In addition to each winter sports program claiming a conference title, all five programs saw their cumulative team GPA rise during the spring semester.

As previously mentioned, the Liberty women’s swimming & diving team finished the spring with a 3.70 cumulative team GPA after posting a 3.69 mark at the end of the fall semester.

Liberty’s men’s basketball program claimed its second straight ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship and posted a 30-4 overall record. The Flames finished the spring with a 3.17 cumulative team GPA after posting a 3.11 team GPA in the fall.

Liberty’s women’s basketball program claimed a share of the ASUN Conference title, while posting a 3.25 spring GPA. The Lady Flames finished the fall semester with a 3.21 team GPA.

Liberty’s men’s and women’s track & field programs swept both the titles at the ASUN Indoor Track Championships for the second year in a row, giving retiring head coach Brant Tolsma the 115th and 116th conference titles during his illustrious 34-year coaching career.

Succeeding in the classroom as well as showing their dominance at the track, the men’s track & field program posted a 3.02 cumulative team GPA (over a 3.00 fall GPA) and the women’s track & field program recorded a 3.43 cumulative team GPA (over a 3.40 fall GPA).

Liberty’s football program also experienced tremendous success in 2019-20, both on the gridiron and in the academic efforts.

Last December, the Flames defeated Georgia Southern in the 2019 FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl, becoming the third team in NCAA history to win a bowl game during its first full season at the FBS level. Liberty finished the season with an 8-5 record, its highest win total since 2014.

In the classroom, Liberty’s football program saw its student-athletes produce a 20-point increase in their team GPA. The Flames finished the spring semester with a 2.78 team GPA, giving the program a cumulative team GPA of 2.74.

In total, nine of Liberty's athletics programs saw their team GPA increase by 20 or more points from the fall to spring semesters: men’s soccer (34 points), women’s tennis (33 points), field hockey (31 points), men’s basketball (27 points), women’s lacrosse (24 points), softball (21 points), women’s soccer (21 points), football (20 points) and volleyball (20 points).


Student-athletes in Liberty's Club Sports program also experienced tremendous success in the classroom with record-setting GPAs in 2019-20. Read the full story on the Club Sports website.  

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