TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –They might be the two most beautiful numbers Stan Wilcox has seen this side of a scoreboard:
3.014, and 985.
Those two figures represent Florida State athletics’ cumulative grade-point average and academic progress rate (APR) score, respectively, and both are the highest in school history.
Not only that, but it’s the first time in the history of Seminole athletics that the more than 500 student-athletes have combined for a GPA above 3.0.
The cumulative figure represents the sum total of every student-athlete’s entire academic career – not just a strong semester or two.
“It’s very satisfying,” Wilcox said. “Just like we set goals on the playing field, we’ve got to set goals in the classroom. The better we can get, the better our student-athletes’ experience is going to be during their time at Florida State.”
Improving academics has been a priority for Wilcox since he assumed his post in the fall of 2013.
And several of FSU’s programs have been among the best in the nation when it comes to classroom performance – women’s tennis, golf and cross country have all produced a string of perfect APR scores, with soccer, men’s tennis, volleyball and women’s basketball not far behind.
Until this week, though, that cumulative 3.0 had remained elusive.
Wilcox had been keeping his fingers crossed ever since a recent executive staff meeting, when Greg Beaumont, FSU’s director for student-athlete academic services, provided a snapshot of the department’s academic progress.
The cumulative GPA, he said, was hovering around 2.9, and, depending on how a few end-of-semester details shook out, could finish a little higher or a little lower.
Finally, on Wednesday, Beaumont called Wilcox with the definitive news: Boosted in part by a significant improvement from football (which accounts for nearly 20 percent of the department’s student-athletes) the Seminoles had collectively achieved a 3.014 average.
Both Wilcox and his senior academics staff took turns passing credit for the feat to the other.
Kacy King, FSU’s associate AD for academics, said that Wilcox has over the last five years created a culture that emphasizes academic achievement. That emphasis has made its way to from the school’s administration to its coaches, and from its coaches to their support staff.
And, of course, their student-athletes.
“Overall, there’s more of a focus on academics,” said King, who also added that Wilcox has invested in a number professional development programs for FSU’s academic support team. “The coaches want to do well. The students want to do well. … Even if the numbers didn’t show it, the morale and the focus is so much better. Everyone has a lift.
“It’s nice to have the GPA to back up what we’ve all felt.”
Academic priorities were also on Wilcox’s mind when he hired football coach Willie Taggart in December. Taggart in his introductory press conference spoke on his own classroom demands, and Wilcox said that he and Taggart are aligned in their philosophies.
And having a football coach – perhaps the university’s highest profile figure – with high academic standards can set the tone for the entire department.
“It helps tremendously,” Wilcox said. “Willie and I have the same kind of philosophy when it comes to the student-athlete experience and what our responsibilities are to the kids that we bring into our university.
“Our obligation is not just that they have a great athletics experience, but also to make sure that they have a great academic experience.”
With that in mind, Wilcox has no intentions of slowing down.
“Now,” he said, “it’s time to raise the bar even higher.”