One of the best feelings for any of us who have the privilege to work in college athletics is getting to see a young man or woman enjoy a particular success after putting in the hard work and dedication to accomplish their goal.
Often, I have the opportunity to meet with potential student-athletes on their official visit to campus and visit with seniors as they close out their collegiate careers. To see the growth and transformation, to know that our coaches and staff have helped them mature, is always a great reminder of why where here doing what we do.
Over the last few weeks, there have been several occasions which demonstrated the growth and accomplishments of our student-athletes. On the day of graduation, our women’s tennis program hosted the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Senior (and our #1 player) Yana Koroleva rescheduled her graduation time, endured a rain delay which almost crept into the newly scheduled graduation time, won her match and walked at graduation. She wrote about the experience here, and touched on what it meant to her to be able to graduate from college.
Last weekend, President Clements graciously presented diplomas to our six baseball players and one men’s tennis player who missed graduation due to road trips the weekend prior. One of those baseball-playing seniors, Jon McGibbon hit a three-run double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to complete a remarkable seven-run rally to push Saturday’s game against Boston College to extra innings.
I congratulate each of the 54 student-athletes and support staff who earned their degrees this spring, but the academic success isn’t limited to those who will soon be moving on from their college careers. Each of our sports exceeded the 950 mark in the Academic Progress Rate compiled by the NCAA. The football program was again honored as posting an APR score among the top 10 percent in the nation, the fourth-consecutive year earning the honor.
The month of May brings down the curtain on several seasons, and we certainly had some wonderful moments to celebrate from our spring sports. Women’s golf, playing in its inaugural season, advanced to NCAA regionals. Men’s golf earned a 33rd straight bid to NCAA postseason play, coming agonizingly close to advancing to the NCAA finals, missing the cut by only two strokes.
Women’s tennis earned a share of the ACC regular season title, and head coach Nancy Harris was named ACC Coach of the Year. They hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the ninth time in 11 seasons. Men’s tennis dropped a heartbreaker to end the year in the second round of the NCAA’s.
While we’re able to celebrate the accomplishments of our teams throughout the 2013-14 academic year, it’s important for us to look with a critical eye at areas in which we can improve. We enjoyed some great successes on the fields and courts, with only baseball at track and field still competing, none of our teams claimed an ACC or national title during the year. That must get better.
Several of you have written about baseball in recent weeks, and while it was great to finish the regular season with a seven-run comeback Saturday, I think we can all agree we had a few disappointments this spring. That said, one of the great things about college sports is the opportunity to start anew as the postseason begins. Beginning with three tournament games in Greensboro, the 2014 season isn’t over and this team has undeniable ability to make some noise in the postseason.
It’s vital for us to continue to support each of our programs in every way possible to provide the best opportunity for success. At last weekend’s IPTAY annual meeting, we discussed changes to the premium seating areas at Memorial Stadium and a few other opportunities to continue to raise funds to support our athletic programs. IPTAY will send correspondence on this later this summer. Also at the IPTAY meeting, we had a chance to hear from a pair of impressive student athletes. Travis Blanks, a junior on the football team, and Kathryn Wiley of the rowing squad each spoke about life experiences prior to coming to Clemson and lifelong friends and new family they’ve developed while on campus. It’s always great to hear directly from our student athletes the stories of the impact our programs have made on their lives.
Progress continues on facility improvements, and construction continues in the recruiting areas of the WestZone of Memorial Stadium. Shovels will be in the ground as soon as baseball season concludes as the player development area is built down the first base line. This week, we’ll select architects for upgrades to the suites in Death Valley and the rebuilding of the basketball arena. I’m excited about the opportunity to continue advancing each of these projects as several other projects continue down the path to approval and construction.
On the football season ticket front, we are currently ahead of last year’s pace with more than 1,200 tickets processed at the same date. The ticket office begins sales to the general public tomorrow, and seats will be assigned following IPTAY season ticket processing. Members of the general public desiring priority seating can join IPTAY for as little as $140.
Last week several of us went to ACC spring meetings. I’m happy to say the athletic directors recommended, and the faculty athletic representatives approved, the decision to remain at eight conference football games as we move forward. As we look to continue to play our rivals annually, add Notre Dame on occasion and still look to play meaningful non-conference games while keeping seven home games annually, it was a critical decision for us that the conference remain at eight games. I appreciate Commissioner Swofford’s leadership and my peers at institutions around the league for their assistance in coming to a positive conclusion on this difficult question.
Next week, we’ll celebrate the end of a long and distinguished career at Clemson. Bill D’Andrea has been a part of the Clemson Family since arriving as a graduate assistant in 1983. After becoming a full-time assistant in 1986, Billy D has devoted the last 28 years shaping the athletic department in one form or another. In 1991, D’Andrea became the first director of Vickery Hall. He moved to the administrative side as a senior associate athletic director in 2002, and has impacted the lives of so many student athletes, coaches and staff members over more than 30 years. I’m going to miss having him around, as he’s provided great counsel over my first 18 months, and I wish him a long and happy retirement.
It’s been great visiting friends and alumni around the state as part of Prowl and Growl, and we have a pair of stops this week in Lexington and Charleston. It’s always fun to visit our fans, and it’s especially enjoyable when traveling with Brad Brownell and Dabo Swinney to these stops. They’re both genuinely appreciative of the support you give to their programs. Thank you for coming out to show your continued support.
As we near the month of June, we’ll turn the sports calendar and hit the ground running in 2014-15. Thank you for purchasing tickets, supporting IPTAY and supporting Clemson Athletics.
March 21, 2023