It wasn’t that long ago that Southern’s athletic program found itself squarely on the NCAA’s naughty list as a result of letting its academics slide.
Southern has been making strides to put itself back on the nice list since the NCAA slammed it with APR-related sanctions, and earlier this week it was one of three schools rewarded with nearly $1 million in grant money over a three-year span through the NCAA Accelerating Academic Success Program.
“I think it shows that the NCAA is now having confidence in Southern University athletics,” said Southern athletic director Roman Banks. “I think they’ve seen, and I know they have documented, the great turnaround we had at the university.”
The program has been in place since 2012. Only non-FBS schools in the bottom 10 percent of financial resources are eligible to apply.
Southern was one of three schools to receive a comprehensive, or multi-year, grant. Six other schools received single year grants.
Each year, Southern will receive $300,000 — the maximum amount — from the NCAA for a total of $900,000 in grant money. Southern is required to match 25 percent of the funding in the first year, 50 percent in the second year and 75 percent in the third year.
Southern already knows how it plans to use the money — it had to have a detailed plan laid out in order to secure the grant.
“What this does is gives us a chance to hire the extra staff, it gives us a chance to bring in the technology and to renovate the space that we need for our student-athletes to have a top of the class, No. 1 style facility for academics,” Banks said.
Essentially, the grant is used to accelerate an academic plan that is already in place, but that a university does not have the funds immediately available for.
For example: Southern can now secure tutors for its student-athletes, which until recently was a burden professors have had to shoulder.
“We know we don’t have the right ratio of student-athletes to advisors and counselors,” Banks said. “This grant is going to help us do that. Not only do that, but this grant is going to be able to bring us up to snuff with technology that we need and also bring in the tutoring service for our student-athletes that we weren’t able to provide early on.
“We had professors lending a hand, but now we get a chance to hire an outside company to come in and be right there on the student-athletes’ schedules that are very different.”
At the end of the three years, the responsibility is for Southern to maintain the improvements that were facilitated through the grant.
“The positions that are hired and the things that are in the grant, facilities and stuff like that, the university has to incorporate all that responsibility on the fourth year,” Banks said. “This grant is meant to accelerate those things to buy you time, to keep you on the right track.”
“It’s almost like a loaner program. After three years, you’ve got to be able to take it over.”
Banks was appreciative of Southern University president Dr. Raymond Belton taking an active role in helping secure the grant, especially after Southern was cited for a lack of institutional control not that long ago.
“I’m thankful for the president, because he had to sit in there with us for them to look in his eyes and prove he was committed to making academics important for athletics,” Banks said.