Exemplifying the notion that academics should come before athletics, the USF men’s tennis team was nationally recognized for their excellence in the classroom.
On Monday, the Big East announced the Bulls as winners of the Team Academic Excellence Award for the 2009-10 school year.
“To be truthful, when the spring season started, I thought we would struggle academically because we had a lot of road matches,” said USF coach Don Barr. “They missed a lot of classes but were able to get a lot of studying done on the road. I was very happy and proud when I heard that we won the award because it is a tremendous accomplishment.”
The award recognizes the team with the highest collective GPA in each sport among the Big East’s 18 sports. The conference chooses its winners based on the GPA of each student-athlete whose name is on the squad list as of the final game or match of the season.
The honor is a bright spot for an injury-plagued Bulls team that finished with a disappointing 8-14 record in 2010, just one year after capturing the Big East championship. Eight of the teams’ 14 matches were on the road this past season.
USF’s top-ranked player, junior Lucas Jovita, missed the entire season recovering from shoulder surgery, while fellow juniors Jamal Adderley and Romain Deridder also missed an extensive amount of time battling injuries. However, all three players were able to help USF gain acclaim with exceptional marks in the classroom.
“When top players are hurt, others need to step in and play in positions they aren’t used to playing in,” Barr said. “Injuries make it difficult to win, but the players were able to stay on top of their studies, which shows that we have great student-athletes here at USF.”
The men’s tennis team followed the school’s baseball team in bringing home the award, as coach Lelo Prado’s group won the honor in 2009.
After being named ITA All-Academic Award winners for three straight years, this is the first time the Bulls’ tennis squad earned the conference accolade.
“In my 19 seasons here, we have finished with a collective GPA of at least 3.0 in 18 of them. It is a mark and tradition that I am very proud of, and will ensure that our players continue to strive for academic excellence.”