For many athletes at Brigham Young University the pursuit of academic excellence is just as important as their pursuit of athletic excellence. The university's Cougar Club will sponsor its annual Academic Athletic Banquet this Tuesday, February 20th to honor 353 BYU athletes who have achieved a grade point average of 3.2 or above.
Val Hale, executive director of men's athletics, said he is pleased that so many BYU athletes are serious about the 'student' part of student-athlete. "It is remarkable that 65 percent of our athletes have performed at such a high level in the classroom," Hale said. "Our desire is to help these young people be successful in the classroom and in the arena of athletic competition."
Academic excellence has always been a goal of men's and women's athletics at BYU. "There is no reason for any athlete to attend the university and not graduate," said Paul Warner, director of BYU's Student Athlete Center. "Knowledge is power, whether you are an athlete or not. We want our student athletes to be efficient and effective people not just great athletes. "
By recognizing the academic achievements of BYU student athletes, the Cougar Club is supporting their efforts to live balanced, well-rounded lifestyles.
"We are committed to helping BYU athletes succeed in every facet of their experience at the university," said Michael Middleton, assistant athletic director and director of the Cougar Club. "We are proud to see our athletes succeed in competition and in the classroom."
Since Cougar Club started honoring Academic Athletes in 1986 the number of student athletes qualifying for the award has more than doubled. Jim Kimmel, associate director of the Student Athlete Academic Center, said he feels the Cougar Club has done an incredible job assisting BYU athletes in their academic pursuits. "The only limits are the ones they give themselves," Kimmel said.
Financial support from the Cougar Club underwrites the Student Athlete Center's tutoring services and academic mentoring programs for athletes; Cougar Club also provides laptop computers for student athletes to use when they are traveling to competitions.
Elaine Michaelis, executive director of women's athletics, said that the Cougar Club academic banquet has become a major incentive for the athletes to do well in the classroom.
"Their attitude of academic achievement is a solid foundation for success in athletics," Michaelis said. "Our success in the classroom is directly related to our success in the arena."
Keynote speakers for the banquet will be former BYU football player Chad Lewis, the All-Pro tight end of Philadelphia Eagles, and his wife, Michele, an All-American volleyball player at BYU who led the Cougars to the Final Four. BYU President Merrill J. Bateman will attend and congratulate the academic athletes.
Also honored at the banquet will be the 12 winners of the Lowe's Academic Salute.