Oct. 26, 2007
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Athletics recently was recognized with a Halbrook Award for both its men's and women's programs for outstanding academic achievement and graduation rates for student-athletes during the 2006-07 academic year.
Administered by the Mississippi Association of Colleges (MAC) and presented at its recent yearly banquet, the Southern Miss awards were for the public universities competition in the state of Mississippi with the men's athletic program winning for the fourth consecutive year and the women's athletic program garnering their first award. The Halbrook awards were established by the State Legislature in 1995 and named for former State legislator David Halbrook, whose family also endows the award program.
Director of Athletics Richard Giannini said the awards were an acknowledgment of the university's ability to compete on a national level, both athletically and academically.
"It speaks volumes about the dedication and hard work our student-athletes put into their academic fields of study, and not just on their respective playing fields," Giannini said. "We work hard to achieve high standards that our student-athletes continue to meet. It's a tribute to the coaches and our staff from all of our programs for pushing academic success. These awards help document that hard work by everyone involved and show the continued dedication to these pursuits with our men's program having won now for the fourth straight time and with our women's program receiving this high honor for the first time. I also want to thank the Southern Miss faculty because they are the ones who are teaching our student-athletes and instilling the quality to learn."
Southern Miss also had its top individual scholar athletes recognized, including former football player Jonathan Palmer (Tyler, Texas) and former women's basketball player and current redshirt senior on the softball team, Kristin Chaney (Little Rock, Miss.).
Of the 16 intercollegiate athletic programs, Southern Miss' recent graduation success rates (GSR), which were compiled through the 1997-2000 years, exceeded the federal rate for all of its sports and the GSR was over 75 percent in all but one category. Men's golf, along with women's tennis and volleyball, each led the way at 100 percent. The GSR for football was 81 percent, while men's basketball was at 82 percent and women's basketball at 83 percent.
"This is the kind of distinction we like to brag about," said Southern Miss President Dr. Martha D. Saunders. "Athletic programs that win games AND graduate students are quality programs. I applaud the hard work of our student-athletes and the good support provided by the athletic department staff."
The Halbrook Awards dinner was held on Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Jackson State e-learning center in Jackson. The event was part of the annual MAC conference where all of the Mississippi higher education institutions, which included public and private, as well as four-year and two-year schools, are represented. The four-year public schools for the state of Mississippi include Alcorn State, Delta State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.
The keynote speaker for the event was Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Graves, and the emcee was Dr. Ron Mason, the President of Jackson State. The award was accepted by Southern Miss Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Joe Paul.
"This outstanding accomplishment is a testament to our student-athletes and their coaches as well as to an administration and academic support staff who make this an unparalleled priority," said Paul.