Matt Morris brings a competitive drive to his studies in finance and economics.
For Skyhawks basketball standout Matt Morris, academics and athletics go hand in hand. And the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference agrees: In January, Morris was named RMAC Men's Basketball Academic Player of the Year.
"To me this is as much an honor as getting recognized for just my athletic ability," says Morris. "The competitive drive that I use for basketball translates to writing papers and taking tests. I may not be better than anyone else, but I work harder to achieve what I want to achieve, both in the class and on the court."
Morris, a Business Administration-Finance major and Economics minor from Durango, maintains a 3.64 grade point average. The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference recognizes first team, second team, and honor roll all-academic performers, selected by sports information directors at schools in the conference. To qualify for Academic All-RMAC, student-athletes must have a GPA of 3.30 or better, be a starter or reserve, and have completed two consecutive semesters or three quarters at their current institution.
Although Morris' award is an individual accomplishment, it is also another nod to a program, and an overall NCAA Division II approach, that encourages coaches to push student-athletes both on the court and in the classroom. At Fort Lewis, the success of that approach speaks for itself:
Joining Morris in the January RMAC All-Academic awards were six of his teammates: Kyle Behrens, who was first-team with Morris, along with Matt Billups, Connor Drumm, Louie LaBate, Torrey Udall and Matthias Weissl.
So far for the 2010-11 year, 40 Fort Lewis athletes have been recognized as Academic All-RMAC performers, even though the academic teams have yet to be chosen for lacrosse, golf and softball.
This year's recognition of success continues a trend: For the 2009-10 school year, 41 Fort Lewis student-athletes (including Matt Morris) were among the more than the 3,000 across the country awarded NCAA Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award. More Fort Lewis student-athletes received the national honor than any other Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference school. In the 2008-09 season, 40 Skyhawks earned the award.
"If you're a successful basketball player, you need a successful philosophy," says men's Basketball Coach Bob Hofman. "I believe our basketball program's philosophy lends itself to our students' being successful, both as students and later on in life. It's really important to us that our athletes know that we don't graduate them, it's their job to graduate themselves."
That academic emphasis is what sets Division II athletics apart, says Director of Athletics Kelly Higgins. "In Division II, it's about balance," he says. "And good coaches understand that the mission of the institution is to recruit intelligent student-athletes who have goals in life beyond college sports."
Learn more about Skyhawks men’s basketball here.