Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Importance of Intercollegiate Athletics

The American Southwest Conference President's Council is meeting in Dallas today. I'm honored to report that I was selected to serve as Chair of the President's Council for the 2015-16 academic year.  This year is my first of a two-year commitment to serve on the Executive Committee. 

Members of the Council are presidents from the conference schools: Belhaven, Concordia Texas, East Texas Baptist, Hardin-Simmons, Howard Payne, LeTourneau, Louisiana College, Mary Hardin-Baylor, McMurry, Ozarks, Sul Ross State, University of Texas-Dallas, and University of Texas-Tyler.  The University of California-Santa Cruz is an affiliate member in women's golf.
The American Southwest Conference (ASC) is an NCAA Division III athletic conference. More than 180,000 student-athletes compete at 450 NCAA Division III institutions across the nation.  Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes who do not receive athletic scholarships and compete in shorter practice and playing seasons than student-athletes at Division I and Division II schools. In addition to serving this year as chair of our conference President's Council, I'm also a member of the NCAA national president's advisory group.
The ASC was founded in 1996, and LeTourneau joined the NCAA conference in 1998. Today, the conference is one of the nation's largest Division III conferences, stretching from far west Texas into Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The ASC awards championships in 16 sports and LETU competes in 13 of them. 
Today in Dallas the conference presidents are reviewing progress and considering proposed changes in conference rules. 
Intercollegiate athletics are important at LETU. More than 200 student-athletes are enrolled. 24 student-athletes were among those who graduated from the university in our May commencement. A member of our men's tennis team, Morgan Weaver, is a mechanical engineering major who was this spring elected student body president. 
Our LETU Athletic Director, Terri Deike, is a recognized leader within the NCAA, and the students in her athletic program are consistently earning grade point averages higher than the overall LETU student body. Assistant Athletic Director and Head Coach Robin Harriss led our baseball team to LETU's first NCAA conference tournament championship last year. Our courts and playing fields are among our largest classrooms and our coaches are among our most influential teachers.