Training Champions for Life

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MizzouMade is more than a simple phrase celebrating the efforts of past and present Mizzou student-athletes on the field. It’s a phrase that goes beyond the sidelines and embodies a culture of producing not only talented athletes, but also outstanding and prepared men and women.

Mizzou student-athletes have developed a tradition of academic excellence, resulting in an unprecedented graduation rate and countless successful careers. Head coach Gary Pinkel has captained a football program that boasts a top-5 academic progress rate in the nation since 2007 and top-3 in the Southeastern Conference each year since Mizzou joined the league in 2012. Mizzou football student-athletes work hard on the field, and they’re expected to work just as hard in the classroom. The program has graduated 97 percent of its seniors in the past five years and won’t be satisfied until 100 percent of student-athletes walk back through the columns with a diploma in hand. With that in mind, Mizzou is one step closer to that goal of 100-percent heading into the 2015-16 academic year.

The 2015 Mizzou football team will carry the tradition of academic excellence forward as every senior on scholarship is set to graduate by spring of 2016.

Ten of the 19 seniors have already earned bachelor’s degrees, including Cortland BrowningCorbin BerkstresserTaylor ChappellClayton EchardClarence GreenMitch Hall, Tyler HuntWesley LeftwichConnor McGovern and Brad McNulty. Six seniors – Evan BoehmKentrell BrothersRussell Hansbrough, DeAndre MckenzieNick Monaghan and Ian Simon – are scheduled to graduate this coming December. The remaining seniors, a group that includes Andrew Baggett, Kenya Dennisand walk-on Trei Walton, are all on pace to graduate in either the spring or fall of 2016.

Green, a standout linebacker during Mizzou’s back-to-back SEC East championships, effectively balanced life on the gridiron with his academic pursuits. He received a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management last May and plans to own his own hotel in his home state of Texas in the coming years. Green says graduating was possible through the services provided by Mizzou’s Total Person Program (TPP).

“The Total Person Program helped all of us out a lot by organizing tutors,” Green said. “Their whole focus is on us. They help us figure out what degree is best for us and help us achieve our goals. Graduating means so much to me. It represents the next steps of life and makes you feel like you’ve really succeeded.”

The Total Person Program is a service provided by the athletic department to aid student-athletes academically. By offering quality assistance to ensure excellence in the classroom, TPP can develop complete student-athletes who can handle the juggling responsibilities of college athletics and leave Mizzou poised for long and enriching careers.

“When all of us (coaches, academic staff, administrators) are working together to ensure that our student-athletes have the best experience in the classroom and on the field, our student-athletes work harder to become successful in all areas of their life,” said Tami Chievous, Associate AD for Academic Services. “They know that we care about their success and it is important to the Mizzou Family that they graduate from here.”

TPP strives to make an impact with Mizzou student-athletes immediately and the abundance of services are offered until each student-athlete graduates. The importance of academic achievement and graduation are stressed to recruits from the get-go. Once they arrive on campus, each member of the football team (and all Mizzou athletic programs) are assigned an academic mentor and several tutors to help them adjust to college.

At the conclusion of freshman year, the coaching staff works in coordination with TPP to individualize a plan that is specifically tailored toward the need of each and every student-athlete. Then, a team effort that includes commitment from staff, coaches and the student-athletes paves a path toward graduation. If a student-athlete leaves to play professionally, TPP continues to provide services to help them finish their goal and earn a degree.

“At Mizzou we are very proud of our academic accomplishments and we speak to both our current and former student-athletes about it daily,” Chievous said. “We are committed to our student-athletes graduating, which is why we continue to assist and reach out to former student-athletes who did not graduate. In the most recent period, we improved our exhausted eligibility graduation rate to 100 percent, meaning every athlete at Mizzou who did not leave early to pursue professional opportunities or other reasons, earned their degrees.”

The dedicated system of support that TPP has created is paying off for the Mizzou Football program and Mizzou Athletics as a whole. That is evident in Pinkel’s outstanding 2015 senior class, which has set a model standard of success for the underclassmen to uphold. Pinkel’s staff, with the help of the Total Person Program, will continue to produce #MizzouMade college graduates year in and year out as Mizzou builds on its reputation of excellence on an off the field.