Today is the one-year anniversary of my first official day on the job as the athletics director at Appalachian State. It has been a very special year — one that would not be possible if it weren’t for the hard work of our terrific student-athletes, coaches and staff or the support of our University community and the members of App Nation across the world. I am very privileged and honored to be a part of the Appalachian family.
When I arrived last year, I shared our four core values with you. I think that one year later is a great time to revisit those core values and update you on where we stand in relation to them.
• Shortly after I arrived, Appalachian State was named the recipient of the 2015 Sun Belt Institutional Graduation Rate Award by virtue of having the conference’s highest Federal Graduation Rate among student-athletes.
• Appalachian State student-athletes achieved a 3.00 grade point average during the 2015 fall semester. Our student-athletes’ combined cumulative GPA is 3.06.
• Twelve of our 18 sports had a team GPA of 3.0 or higher for the 2015 fall semester. Sixteen of 18 sports had a 2.87 team GPA or higher.
• Our men’s basketball program, which served a postseason ban for an insufficient Academic Progress Rate during the 2014-15 season, was fully eligible for postseason play this season and remains on track for continued APR improvement.
• Going forward, we are continuing to invest in our student-athletes’ education by significantly increasing funding for summer school attendance, beginning next month.
• We are very proud of how our student-athletes represent Appalachian State on campus and in the community.
• Our teams and student-athletes are fixtures in community service projects. In particular, they have dived into supporting the less fortunate through organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and the Hospitality House and mentoring children through the local school systems, including Watauga County Schools.
• In February alone, our student-athletes volunteered 555 hours of their time in the community through our Mountaineer Moves program.
• After Appalachian State did not win a conference championship in any sport in 2014-15, two have already claimed titles this year.
• Our wrestling program enjoyed one of the finest seasons in its illustrious history, winning the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament championships, claiming its first-ever win in the National Duals over Indiana and qualifying four individuals to compete at the NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden.
• Our women’s indoor track and field program became the first Appalachian State team to win a Sun Belt championship when it won the conference title in February.
• Our football program made school, conference and NCAA Division I FBS history during its amazing 11-2 campaign. The Mountaineers set a Sun Belt conference record for wins, became the first team to ever win 11 games in its first full-fledged season as an FBS member and, of course, became the first team in Appalachian State history to qualify for and win an NCAA bowl game with a thrilling 31-29 victory over Ohio in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. The bowl win was also the first ever by a team in its first year as a full-fledged FBS member (occurring a few days before our friends in Statesboro also accomplished the feat!).
• Our volleyball program tied a school record with 16-consecutive wins and fell just one set shy of winning the Sun Belt championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament with a 3-2 loss to Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Tournament title game.
• Our women’s soccer team making a 112-spot jump in the final RPI rankings from 2014 to 2015.
• Our field hockey team making a nine-spot jump in the final RPI rankings under first-year head coach Meghan Dawson.
• In all, nine of our 11 fall and winter sports that compete in the Sun Belt matched or improved their win totals and conference standing from 2014-15.
• Thanks to those accomplishments, we have a seven-point lead in the race for the 2015-16 Bubas Cup (awarded to the Sun Belt Conference’s annual all-sports champion) through the winter seasons. Our goal is to finish strong and win the Bubas Cup. We have several spring sports — men’s tennis, women’s golf and both outdoor track and field teams — that our off to great starts en route to helping us accomplish that goal.
PROVIDING A WORLD-CLASS EXPERIENCE FOR OUR STUDENT-ATHLETES
• One of our achievements that I am most proud of since my arrival last year has been getting our App Fuel program up and running. Two App Fuel stations have been constructed — one in the Appalachian Athletics Center, one in Owens Field House — that allow student-athletes to pick up the snacks that they need to maintain proper nutrition between meals. The nutrition provided by App Fuel not only helps our student-athletes achieve athletically but also helps them maintain the energy needed to excel academically and socially. Through App Fuel, we served more than 18,000 snacks to student-athletes during the fall semester alone.
• We have also instituted a new life skills program for student-athletes called Mountaineer Rise. Mountaineer Rise includes the Mountaineer Moves community service program as well as many initiatives with a focus on student-athlete well-being, including student-athlete empowerment meetings. More than 50 female student-athletes attended our first “Women For Women” meeting.
• A series of new events for student-athletes have also been established this spring. Today, in fact, we are hosting a picnic for all student-athletes in conjunction with softball’s doubleheader versus Radford. Later this month, we will host our first-ever letter jacket presentation ceremony and next month, we will host a special graduation event for graduating student-athletes and their families.
In order to support our student-athletes on and off the field and help drive our competitive success, we have been fortunate to increase revenue in a number of ways throughout the past year. Increased revenue streams include a new Nike contract that is worth five times more to App State than our previous deal and record-setting years for Yosef Club donations and licensing royalties in 2015. However, we have lofty goals for Appalachian State athletics and need additional support from App Nation to make them reality.
You can help us achieve our goals in two very important ways:
1) Join the Yosef Club. Yosef Club funds provide scholarships for student-athletes. Additionally, Yosef Club membership provides great benefits, including priority parking and seating at Kidd Brewer Stadium for App State football. To join the Yosef Club, visit appstatesports.com/yosefclub or call the Yosef Club office at (828) 262-3108.
2) Buy football season tickets. Ticket sales are vital to our success as an athletics department. We sold 4,500 full season tickets last season but, as recently as 2009, that number was 9,200. With the best schedule in App State history on tap for 2016 — an all-FBS, all-Saturday slate that includes a historic visit by five-time national champion Miami (Fla.) — we have set a goal of selling 7,500 season tickets this year. By purchasing season tickets, you not only guarantee a seat for the much-anticipated game against Miami but also receive a savings of up to 58% from the cost of individual game tickets. Help us reach our goal of 7,500 season tickets sold by purchasing yours online at appstatesports.com/tickets or calling the Appalachian State athletics ticket office at (828) 262-2079.
There are also two ways that you can support us and have a lot of fun in the very near future.
The Appalachian State Athletics Spring Tour, presented by the Yosef Club, makes stops in Charlotte (April 12), Raleigh (April 13) and Greensboro (April 14) next week. Several student-athletes, coaches and staff members will be in attendance at each stop, including football head coach Scott Satterfield, men’s basketball head coach Jim Fox, women’s basketball head coach Angel Elderkin and our two championship coaches — wrestling’s JohnMark Bentley and track and field’s John Weaver. Register today at appstatesports.com.
Additionally, the inaugural Appalachian State Athletics Golf Tournament is set for Friday, May 20 at Cedar Rock C.C. in Lenoir. Get your team of five together to play with a member of the App State athletics staff in a captain’s choice format. For more information, visit appstatesports.com or contact assistant A.D. Josh Thompson at (828) 262-7093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate what a privilege and honor it is to be a part of the Appalachian family. The future is very bright for App State! Thank you for your continued support and Go Mountaineers!
Director of Athletics