Friday, June 24, 2011

NAU Stands Tall with Andreassen and Department's Academic Achievements

By Steve Shaff, Assistant AD/Media Relations
NAU soccer standout Kristi Andreassen.

As a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America committee, I got my ballot for the Academic All-America® Team Member of the Year yesterday. For the second straight year a Lumberjack student-athlete was on the ballot and I was very proud.

I have served on the Academic All America committee since 1994 and been the SID at NAU since 2000. CoSIDA began this program in the 1950's, and since then, has honored thousands of deserving student-athletes from numerous sports and across all divisions with these elite Capital One Academic All-America® scholar-athlete honors.

I joined the committee to honor my former boss at Florida, John Humenik, who was one of the early supporters of the program, and push our top student-athletes each year for the status of Academic All-American.

Currently, CoSIDA honors Academic All-Americans in 12 sports. Soccer’s Kristi Andreassen, who is from Tempe, Ariz., earned the distinction as the Academic All-American of the Year for women’s soccer this fall. She followed in the footsteps of track standout David McNeill, who earned the honor in his sport in 2010. It is a great honor to be an Academic All-American but to be named the “Best of the Best” in her sport is special territory.

She is well deserved and has continued to pile on the list of awards during her senior season. She is a 2011 NCAA Postgraduate recipient and NAU’s NCAA Women of the Year nominee after earning Athlete of the Year and Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete of the Year accolades on campus.

To fully appreciate the magnitude of the accomplishment takes another look at the ballot.

She is on the ballot against the best in each sport in college sports. She has some great company including household names like Butler’s Matt Howard, who led his team to back-to-back Final Four’s, Alabama’s Greg McElroy and Connecticut’s Maya Moore, one of the top collegiate basketball players of all time. There are also student-athletes from Stanford, Brigham Young and Oregon. Eight of the 12 are from BCS schools.

As Andreassen proudly puts Northern Arizona on the ballot, she represents a department that has academics at the forefront of its mission. The Lumberjacks recorded a cumulative grade point average of 3.05 GPA among its more than 300 student-athletes at the completion of the spring semester.  The positive grade report comes after a semester that produced a school-record fifty-five student-athletes participating in spring commencement ceremonies. NAU also recently had all 15 sponsored sports are exceeding NCAA academic standards in the Academic Progress Report.

NAU is doing it right. In today’s collegiate world, it is rare.

1.Matt Howard, Butler
2.Kristi Andreassen, Northern Arizona
3. Maya Moore, Connecticut

Reigning University Division Academic All-Americans of the Year
Matt Howard, Butler (Men's Basketball)
Kristi Andreassen, Northern Arizona (Women's Soccer)
Ashley Brignac, Louisiana (Softball)
Alex Klineman, Stanford (Volleyball)
Matt Rice, Western Kentucky (Baseball)
Miles Batty, Brigham Young (Men's Track/Cross Country)
Maya Moore, Connecticut (Women's Basketball)
Kofi Sarkodie, Akron (Men's Soccer)
Kayla Hoffman, Alabama (Women's At-Large)
Nick Amuchastegui, Stanford (Men's At-Large)
Greg McElroy, Alabama (Football)
Jordan Hasay, Oregon (Women's Track/Cross Country)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

NFL Lockout Reaches NAU and Flagstaff

Arizona Cardinals Training Camp in Flagstaff could be
in jeopardy if the NFL lockout persists.

By Steve Shaff, NAU Media Relations

When the NFL lockout first happened, the possibility of the season being affected was not on my radar. Sure, there was a chance but I thought the owners and players would come to an agreement before anything seriously was affected. I was wrong.

The season is going to be in jeopardy unless the two sides start compromising. While the players and owners will be losing millions daily, I will be the one getting checks from the Cardinals for the missed games in my $750 season ticket package.

The lockout extends to the City of Flagstaff in ways other than my personal seats.

As I watched the Northern Arizona football program conduct a high school skills camp today at the practice fields, I realized that the popular Cardinal training camp on campus might not happen if the lockout persists.

The three weeks of practices and national attention to the NAU campus are priceless. It is a special place – the practice fields. Sports Illustrated has listed it among the top five training camps in the league and the magazine has featured the camp in its Leading Off section twice recently for the beauty of the site.

I would miss the opportunity to watch the state’s team up-close at training camp in Flagstaff outside my office door (I work in the Walkup Skydome). Training Camp is one of the city’s top attractions in the summer and I believe the team will likely stay down in Tempe if the lockout is not resolved with more delays for a deal.

It will be a big loss for Flagstaff. Having the Cardinals in my backyard is fun. The opportunity to see Derek Anderson at my favorite Mexican restaurant or pass Larry Fitzgerald on the floor of the Dome will not happen this season.

But the lockout has had another unexpected victim – the hundreds of college football players who have been denied or at least postponed the chance to pursue their dreams as an NFL free agent.

Lumberjack quarterback Michael Herrick, safety Matt Estrada and wide receiver Daiveun Curry-Chapman worked out for the scouts in April hoping to make an impression. After not being drafted, the next chance lied in free agency. But all NFL signings has been on hold, so they are left to workout and wait.

NAU has had seven players sign with NFL teams as free agents since 2000. Former linebacker Keith O’Neil (left) parlayed that opportunity into a nice little career and a Super Bowl ring. K.J. Gerard was with the Bears last year during the playoffs and awaits a chance to make the team this year.

Selfishly, I want to see NFL football but these players are denied much more. Sure they still might get a chance but it will be a rushed experience that will limit their true opportunities after the lockout.

My message – end the lockout soon. I want to see the NFL this season and give a few players a chance to live their dreams.