Blue Demons Awarded Academic National Championship
March 18, 2014
CHICAGO – Winning a national title is quite an accomplishment, and on Tuesday, the DePaul women’s basketball team won the Inside Higher Ed’s academic national championship.
Inside Higher Ed takes the 64-team field of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament that was announced Monday night and advances teams based on their APR (NCAA’s multiyear measure of classroom progress) and their NCAA Graduation Rate Success.
Based on that formula, the Blue Demons topped Marist for the national title. It is the second time in three years that DePaul has been recognized with the top academic program in the NCAA tournament field.
No. 7 seed DePaul (27-6) opens up NCAA play on Saturday against No. 10 seed Oklahoma (18-14) at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
The Blue Demons are the only team from Illinois---men or women---competing in the NCAA tournament. This is DePaul’s 12th consecutive invitation to the Big Dance.
“It feels great to once again win the academic national championship,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. “It’s something that has been a goal of ours, and I’m proud of being one of the nation’s top women’s basketball programs on the court and in the classroom. At the same time, we are focused on doing well in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“There are three reasons why we are the academic national champion. First of all, our student-athletes buy into being competitive in every class.
“On the court, you let your teammate down by not hitting the open player with a pass or not having her back defensively. In the classroom, if you don’t give maximum effort and settle for a lesser grade, you let your teammate down. They are in this academic competition together.
“The second reason for our success is our Athletics Academic Advising office and specifically Jill Hollembeak. Jill is the best academic advisor in the country. She is a former world champion athlete and a former Division I head coach. She understands everything that goes into academic success from every angle.”
The third reason hits close to home for the Blue Demon coach.
“Finally, it’s incumbent upon the head coach to set up a culture of academic competitiveness and accountability,” Bruno said. “This is another great opportunity to compete as student-athletes.
“You need to recruit players that value academic competitiveness. Our team is academically diverse with student-athletes from different backgrounds. We have some from elite schools and some from tough inner-city schools.
“Any coach who abdicates that responsibility and delegates it to someone else is simply using his or her student-athletes.”
Bruno is making sure his players do not follow along the academic path he took as an undergraduate at DePaul when he would skip classes.
“The reason I believe so strongly in academics is because as a student-athlete myself, I abused my educational opportunity at DePaul,” Bruno said. “I was like 90 percent of all the other male athletes and cared only about basketball.
“But thanks to the leadership and direction of people like Dr. Patricia Ewers, Dr. Hugh Ingrasci, Father Jeremiah Lehane, Father John Battle, professor Albert Erlbacher, Dr. Marty Lowery and all my other professors at DePaul---they pulled me out of my academic indifference.
“These people are a big reason why I am here today.”