Today, April 6, is National Student-Athlete Day, celebrating the outstanding achievements of student-athletes around the nation. Later this month, we will hold our annual “Gamecock Gala” where we honor their remarkable triumphs and their commitment to USC, their teams and themselves.
Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina, as well as other NCAA schools, is a demanding balancing act between classes, practices, games, study hall, meetings, community activities and personal time. It takes tremendous discipline and will to succeed as a student and as an athlete. Our student-athletes meet the tasks head-on and succeed at the highest levels.
I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of our student-athletes, in all phases of their time in college, and honored to be their athletics director.
Since the Fall Semester of 2015, Gamecock student-athletes have led all schools in the SEC Academic Honor Roll, earning more than 3,000 recognitions. Our student-athletes have earned a cumulative 3.0 grade point average or better in 32 consecutive semesters. This past fall, 16 of 18 teams had a cumulative 3.0 GPA or better. They did this while performing many hours of community service, personal development and leadership opportunities and increasing media and public appearances.
During my time in Columbia, Gamecock student-athletes have won national championships, SEC titles, post-season tournament championships, All-America and all-conference selections. But we also recognize graduation as a championship experience. Our Graduation Success Rate, as measured by the NCAA, is second in the Southeastern Conference. Thirteen of our NCAA-sponsored teams exceeded the Division I national average for their sport.
Graduation is the ultimate victory for all of us in intercollegiate athletics — to see young people grow and finish their college experience and become positive contributors in their communities. Our Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise outlines the support that student-athletes receive, whether it’s for personal growth, academic support or athletic development. We take great pride in developing student-athletes for success. Student-athletes who strive for excellence in every phase of their lives on campus can lead the lives they choose.
With the advent of Name Image Likeness in the national college landscape, our student-athletes have been awarded opportunities to partner with national and area businesses to help build their brand. Our student-athletes are learning real-world business lessons as part of their intercollegiate athletic experiences.
A university is a place where students come to learn, not only about the world around them but also about themselves. Being a student-athlete provides another learning laboratory that delivers life lessons for personal growth and the betterment of communities around them.
I am thankful that we can give this opportunity to our student-athletes and that they are able to learn lessons that will last a lifetime during their time wearing the Garnet and Black.
Ray Tanner is the athletics director at the University of South Carolina. This op-ed was published originally by The State newspaper.