Academic effort pays off for Rebels

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Brittany Broome has a clear picture of her career path. Nick Williams doesn’t, but his strength comes in his diversity.
Together, they know this for certain: When the NCAA releases its Academic Progress Report scorecards later today, their sports are in the clear.
Actually, they’re much better than that.
Broome plays softball at Ole Miss, Williams plays men’s basketball. Their sports, along with women’s basketball and women’s golf, were honored by the NCAA last week for finishing in the top 10 percent of APR scores for those sports nation-wide.
APR focuses on retention and eligibility of college athletes. All programs are required to meet basic scores or face possible penalties.
“This is a reflection of the work our guys have put in and the support starting with the people we have who work with them every day,” Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy said.
For Williams, the support staff begins with Drew Clinton and Pete Lewis who work with the team in town and make road trips as well.
Basketball and softball are among the sports that require a good bit of mid-week travel.
Clinton and Lewis are part of a 17-member academic support staff, led by Derek Cowherd, the senior associate athletics director for academic support, who was hired in May.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a very good support system led by Drew and Pete. They travel with us during the academic year,” Kennedy said. “Based on life in the SEC, with charter flights and all that entails, we don’t miss a lot of class time if we’re proactive in the approach.”
One of the essential elements to academic success is available to everyone.
“It’s about time management. The biggest transition kids have to make from high school to college is to be in control of their time,” Kennedy said.
The academic staff meet with athletes but also work with faculty and staff to help coordinate assignments and deadlines relative to travel and other demands of the sport. Once Broome and her teammates were on the road for two weeks straight.
When not traveling, the help at home for Ole Miss athletes is top-notch.
The FedEx Center covers 22,500 square feet and contains conference rooms, large and small group tutoring rooms, a multi-media classroom, computer lab and a high-tech auditorium with 150 seats.
FedEx contributed a $2.5 million gift to help the center open in the spring of 2007 in a renovated portion of the old football locker rooms and training facilities.
“For me, our academic advisors have gone out of their way to talk with the school of education to help me graduate on time and start graduate school early,” Broome said.
The elementary education major will begin graduate level courses next spring because the softball schedule will not allow her to complete one of her degree requirements – student teaching – during the spring semester.
The early start will have Broome on course to complete her graduate degree in the spring or summer of 2014.
The academic support has helped Williams, of Mobile, Ala., complete requirements for a degree in general studies with minors in parks and recreation, history and psychology. He is considering other courses for his coming senior season.
“I think I want to be a coach, but I just wanted to find something that would help me come back home and build up my community,” he said.
Parrish.alford@journalinc.com.