The culmination of six years of planning came to fruition Sept. 2 when The University of Texas-Pan American administrators announced the certification of its athletics program by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
NCAA certification ensures the integrity of a university's athletics program and assists in improving their department. NCAA legislation mandating certification was adopted in 1993.
"The last six years in the athletic department have focused on developing student-athletes with integrity, values and the academic preparation for them to exercise leadership within the team and within society," UT Pan American President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas said.
The NCAA certification process is a self-study led by an institution's chief executive officer which includes a peer-review visit by individuals from other universities.
The primary components studied include governance and commitment to rules compliance, academic integrity, equity and welfare.
UT Pan American's Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Dr. John Edwards headed up the review team, which found the UTPA athletics program to be operating in substantial conformity with the principles adopted by the NCAA Division I membership.
"The certification is important because the NCAA is the accrediting body for intercollegiate athletics," Edwards said.
The certification signifies the University's intercollegiate athletics program is a credible, financially-sound program, where student-athletes are being encouraged to be good students and citizens, he said.
"NCAA full certification not only enhances the athletics program, but it brings credit to the entire University," Edwards said.
UT Pan American was one of 18 NCAA Division I institution members certified.
"We are extremely proud of all of our coaching staff members, administrators and student-athletes who have served our University," Weidner said. "They have been excellent ambassadors of the University and represent the finest qualities of intercollegiate athletics."
Weidner said athletic excellence, academic integrity, commitment to community involvement and service, and operating with business-like accountability were the four principles that led to NCAA certification.
UTPA's academic integrity is demonstrated by the 2.88 cumulative grade point average (GPA) that the University's athletes share, compared to a 2.66 GPA for the entire student body. Fifty-one percent of student-athletes have a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA. In addition, 74 percent of student-athletes over the last 10 years have graduated from UTPA.
"The most important thing you must do at this institution is graduate," Former UT Pan American President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez told student-athletes. "We need to do everything in our power to make it possible for you to graduate."
The recent campus facility improvements, including a student-athlete learning center - equipped with computers and printers - demonstrate UTPA's dedication to academic success, Weidner said.
Also through a joint effort by University staff, administration, the athletics department and community fundraising, overall scholarship funding increased by 63 percent, and women's scholarships improved by 90 percent over the last six years.
"As our athletic program continues to move forward, we will maintain diligence in ensuring that the integrity of our efforts remain a top priority as we establish a nationally respected and competitive NCAA Division I athletic program," Weidner said.
For more information, contact Joe Monaco, director of Athletic Media Relations and Sports Information, at 956/381-2240.