According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, more than 480,000 students compete in athletics each year. Only a chosen few move on to the play-for-pay leagues — less than 2 percent are drafted by professional teams in football, basketball and soccer.

The NCAA points out the likelihood of a student-athlete earning a college degree is much greater. Its website shows a graduation success rate of 86 percent in Division I, 71 percent in Division II and 87 percent in Division III.

Few schools work harder at getting a diploma into their athletes’ hands than the University of South Alabama. Last spring, USA had 93 students make the Sun Belt Commissioner’s List for having a yearly GPA greater than 3.5 — the most ever in school history. A total of 171 Jaguars were honored academically, also a record for USA.

All 17 sports programs contributed at least one individual to the list. This comes as USA claimed its third straight Vic Bubas Cup as the top all-around athletic program in the Sun Belt Conference.

A key to the good grades has been the Student-Athlete Academic Services Center. This college hub provides the students with assistance from academic counselors. The center also makes available tutors, study rooms and a computer lab.

“Our mission is to provide the resources necessary to foster academic success and personal development among our student-athletes,” said Jason Kelly, USA’s assistant athletic director for academic services. “We want our student-athletes to perform well when competing; but more importantly, we want them to succeed in the classroom.”

Because of the extra time spent practicing and participating in sports, students greatly appreciate the assistance.

“College is so different from high school, and learning how to study is something all students face, whether you play a sport or not,” said junior volleyball player Arissa Chappell. “We have so much support at the academic center. We are able to get tutors if we need them, have quiet spaces so we can focus and connect with other student-athletes.”

Also playing a vital role in the learning process is a group of fans known as the JAG-GALS. The mission of this women’s organization is to make sure the Academic Services Center has the tools needed to get the job done.

“We recognize the percentage of student-athletes who go on to be professional in something other than the sport they play,” JAG-GALS director Kim Feagin said. “We want to be cheerleaders on the field and in the classroom, especially because we know how hard they work to excel at both.”

During the 2010-11 academic year, the spouses of USA coaches brought together a network of female fans to promote Jaguar athletics and cultivate new friendships. Soon more than 300 women had created the largest “all female” fan club in the conference.

Jeremy Reaves, a senior safety on the football team, said their support does not go unnoticed.

“We know exactly who the JAG-GALS are,” the preseason All-SBC performer said. “It’s an honor to know we’ve got a group who supports us twice as much in the classroom as they do when we are in the game.”

CMSA names new coach
After a national search, the City of Mobile Swim Association (CMSA) has named Kyle Cormier as the club’s new head coach. A native of Pensacola, Cormier previously served as the primary coach of the sprinters at Missouri State University as well as assisting in planning and recruiting. While at MSU, five student-athletes advanced to the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships and the women’s team won its eighth straight Missouri Valley Conference title.

“The potential for Mobile and CMSA with the resources for swimming are endless. I cannot wait to begin building the club with our staff at all levels and inspiring the next generation of great swimmers and people,” Cormier said.

Cormier was a two-time NCAA All-American and three-time Academic All-SEC swimmer for the University of South Carolina. Cormier also had the opportunity to compete at the 2008 and 2012 United States Olympic Trials.

CMSA, founded in 1979, is a Silver Medal Club as designated by USA Swimming for its ability to develop well-rounded programs producing elite swimmers. CMSA operates out of two facilities, one in downtown Mobile at Bishop State Community College and at Providence Hospital in West Mobile. To learn more, go to www.swimcmsa.com.

Upcoming events
• The Alabama Marine Resources Division (AMRD) will host two oyster meetings on Friday at the South Bay Coastal Response Center in Coden (7385 Highway 188). The first meeting, from 9 to 11 a.m., will focus on updating the community about present AMRD activities related to management of Alabama’s oyster fisheries and receiving public input. The second meeting, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., will focus on providing information relevant to community members engaging in on-bottom and off-bottom oyster aquaculture activities.

For information, contact Jason Herrmann ([email protected]) or Scott Bannon ([email protected]) at 251-861-2882.

• The 11th annual Threaded Fasteners Charity Golf Tournament to benefit Team Focus is Saturday at Magnolia Grove Golf Course in Mobile. The $100 entry fee includes breakfast, tournament favors and lunch sponsored by Wintzell’s Oyster House. Registration begins at 6:45 a.m. followed by a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Team Focus, which was founded in Mobile by Mike Gottfried and his wife, Mickey, to help boys aged 10-18 who lack father figures in their lives.

For more information about the event, contact Mark Dunn at 251-432-0161 ([email protected]).

• The Mobile Area Lodging Association is hosting its fourth annual golf tournament Thursday, Oct. 12. The four-person scramble will tee off at 1 p.m. from Timber Creek Golf Club in Daphne. Registration fee is $110 per person or $400 per team. The fee includes golf, lunch, food on the course, door prizes and an awards dinner. The event benefits the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at the University of South Alabama.

For additional information, call Duncan Miller at 251-370-1615 or send an email to [email protected].