Harding University received 43 Academic All-America honors this past decade — the most in the Great American Conference (GAC) and in the state of Arkansas. The research was done by Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina.
These citations, which are chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), were awarded to student athletes who either started for their team or were an important reserve and who maintained at least a 3.30 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale). The athletes must also have completed a full year at their current institution and reached sophomore athletic eligibility.
Harding’s 43 awards tied for 41st out of universities in the United States and Canada, and for 14th among NCAA Division II schools. In the GAC Harding had 12 more awards than Oklahoma Baptist, which placed second. In the state of Arkansas, it had nine more than the University of Arkansas.
Harding’s assistant athletic director Scott Goode explained his involvement in the process.
“The nominating starts about halfway through a sports season,” Goode said. “I have access to the GPAs … and I’ll nominate as many student athletes as are eligible.”
After nominations go out, CoSIDA members receive a ballot and are able to vote on student athletes in their district. Harding’s district includes the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and the Northern Sun intercollegiate conferences, along with the GAC. After district winners are announced, they are nominated for the All-America award.
Goode said he believed Harding’s track record of academically successful atheletes was due to both efforts of coaches and students alike.
“I think it works from both directions,” Goode said. “We have coaches looking for that, and we have student athletes looking to find that.”
Over the past decade, the Harding sport with the most All-America honors was men’s track with 12 athletes receiving the award. Women’s track tied for second place with seven awards.
“I’ve been really impressed with their character and commitment and their ability to balance the commitments that they have with social clubs, churches, academics and athletics,” said head track and cross-country coach Don Hood, “And so to carry those kinds of GPAs while doing all that just says a lot about their commitment to being excellent in every part of life.”
Junior decathlete Matthew Hipshire, who received the Academic All-America honor in 2019, confirmed the mindset that Hood recognizes in his athletes. “My parents instilled in me really early on a strong work ethic,” Hipshire said. “I know that in order to do as well as I want to do I have to put in work.”
This year’s Academic All-America recipients for men’s and women’s soccer, football and volleyball have already been announced and can be found at Hardingsports.com. Winter sports will be recognized in February, and spring sports in May or June.