HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi men's athletic program captured its eighth consecutive Halbrook Award for highest percentage of student-athletes graduating at the recent Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities Annual Conference hosted by Mississippi Valley State earlier this month in Itta Bena.
The Halbrook Awards recognize colleges and universities that maintain and achieve high academic standards for student-athletes, thus encouraging high graduation rates. The awards were established by the State Legislature and named for former State legislator David Halbrook, whose family also endows the award program.
"What a testament to the hard work of our student-athletes who continually strive to excel both on and off their respective playing fields," said Southern Miss Director of Athletics Richard Giannini. "We constantly stress that our primary purpose for all our student-athletes is to make sure that they get a great education and graduate on time. This award shows we are meeting our academic goals and have done so for a long time.
"I especially would like to congratulate our academic staff, as well as our faculty who teach, and our coaches who demand excellence and, most importantly, to our student-athletes who have to study and do the work."
The award was one of several presented at the luncheon ceremony during the 78th annual Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities Conference, where all of the state's higher education institutions, which included public and private, as well as four-year and two-year schools, are represented.
The Golden Eagles' men's programs produced an 69 percent graduation rate in 2010-11 that was tops among the state's seven four-year public schools, which also include Alcorn State, Delta State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Former Golden Eagle student-athletes, Todd McInnis (baseball) and Chastity Riggien (women's track and field), were individually recognized as the top male and female graduate from Southern Miss who excel in academics, leadership and community service.
The award was the ninth overall for the Southern Miss athletics program.