NEW ORLEANS – The women of Lipscomb’s track and field team were ranked second in the nation for GPA in Division I, announced by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association this week.
"We've had a history of academic excellence since before I arrived at Lipscomb, and my teams throughout my coaching career have always been high academic teams,” said Bill Taylor, director of track and field. “It's a huge part of my philosophy and in how we recruit.”
The women’s overall GPA was 3.61, just short of the 3.63 GPA by the women of the University of San Francisco.
Last year the women’s team ranked in the top 20 posting a 3.47 cumulative GPA, drastically improving their spot on the academic list this year.
The men were ranked 16th overall with a combined GPA of 3.29. Tucker Peabody and Colin Dempster earned a spot on the All-Academic team.
"In my time here our men have been ranked as high as first, and the women have previously been ranked second in the nation,” Taylor said. “We've even had several years were we were the only university in the nation with both teams in the top five in the nation.”
Ranking second in the nation is a testament to the academic resiliency of the program having fallen in the ranks the past couple of years.
"Though we earn national team academic honors every season, we've slipped the past two years from the top-five every year to the teens and twenties,” Taylor said. “When you consider there are well over 200 NCAA Division I schools in the nation, that still sounds great, but our goals are much bigger than that.
“It's wonderful to again earn big academic honors as a team. It's even better to see that we are back up near the top where we expect to be and where we have been historically.”
Lipscomb’s program places a firm emphasis on academic excellence as well as strong competition.
"We have huge athletic goals focusing on national, and soon international, competition,” Taylor said. “Our academic goals are just as important.”
A large part of Lipscomb’s academic accomplishments begin during the recruiting process.
“We recruit and attract high academic student-athletes,” Taylor said. “Lipscomb is excellent academically with some of the top academic programs in the nation.
“More and more people are learning about us academically (outside the South) and are very interested in what we have to offer as an academic institution of excellence.”
After recruitment, students become drawn to the positive and fascinating academic goals set by the program itself.
"We set goals for team GPA and national academic rankings,” Taylor said. “The athletes help each other with their academics and study together.
“With Lipscomb having a 12-to-one instructor to student ratio, our student-athletes have a huge advantage over other NCAA Division I schools in getting more class interaction, more access to their instructors and to be blunt, a much more fun and effective learning environment.”
Taylor believes the program’s academic strategy allows them to continue earning top academic honors and also prepares student athletes for life after college.
"We are very unique in that while we continue to rise as an elite team athletically, and while excelling as one of the top programs in the nation academically, we are also out in the community doing service.”
This year the program will send out their sixth and seventh mission teams to assist and serve others in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
“We consider these service experiences part of the learning and post college preparation process,” Taylor said. "Add to that our amazing team environment, which is part my philosophy and part just how people are at Lipscomb.
“I think when you have an amazing team environment, when you truly love the people you are training with and traveling with and living with, athletics, academics and life are all so much bigger and better.”
In all areas for Taylor’s team the importance of striving for ever bigger goals both in competition and in the classroom is paramount.
“You want to see your teammates experience as much success as possible,” Taylor said. “So a lot of our success in every area is attributed to the best team environment, the closest, nicest, yet most motivating team in the nation.
"I'm very proud of both teams and the two guys, Tucker and Colin. This sets the tone again for another amazing year in every way."