ASU coaches, administrators pleased NCAA raises ban on 2 program - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

ASU coaches, administrators pleased NCAA raises ban on 2 programs

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Alabama State University volleyball coach Penny Lucas-White and baseball coach Mervyl Melendez are pleased with the recent NCAA ruling that allowed their respective teams to be eligible for postseason play this year.

Both coaches have brought energy and enthusiasm to their teams as Lucas-White and Melendez enter year three at the helm of their teams. Similar in their passions and ultra-competitive drives for success both in the classroom and in competition, the coaches have their programs on the brink of SWAC championships.

Lucas-White has led the Lady Hornets' volleyball program to back-to-back, third-place finishes in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The former collegiate and professional volleyball player has molded and shaped her program into a conference contender.

"I'm really thrilled, especially for my rising seniors who will get to compete in postseason play," said Lucas-White who, along with her staff, recently returned from China, teaching volleyball to young athletes in Chengdu, a part of the nation ravaged by earthquakes. "That's the primary reason athletes train – to compete for championships. We've knocked on the door to become a championship team, and we're looking forward to continuing that quest."

Lucas-White is especially gratified that her team is completely off the APR watch list, which means the volleyball program is released from all NCAA penalties, including any bans from postseason play.

On the baseball diamond, the Hornets took another step toward the first SWAC title in school history. Melendez led ASU to a school-record 32 wins and a first-ever berth in the SWAC Tournament semifinals. His 52 wins over two seasons is tied for the most in the program's history.

"It is exciting to know that our players will get an opportunity to compete in postseason play, and we are looking forward to a good year," said Melendez, who won his 400th career game earlier this season and has his players actively involved in campus-wide initiatives. "Our players and coaches will continue to strive for excellence on and off the field as we have over the last two years. Kudos to our administration for their support."

Because of the importance of the athletics program to the University, ASU officials launched an Academic Advising Unit for Athletics nearly four years ago. That unit consists of advisors, tutors and retention specialists.

"We had concerns that we wanted to address regarding APR scores; so, we decided to develop strategies to improve those scores," said Interim President William H. Harris. "The Academic Advising Unit is one component of an overall strategic initiative."

Acting Athletics Director Melvin Hines said the Athletics Department continues to evolve, especially in the area of hiring staff members who have expertise in compliance and academic advisement.

"We have recently hired Jaunelle White, the new Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Student Services, who has significant experience in implementing APR improvement measures and helped previous institutions improve their APR scores," said Hines. "The University and the Athletics Department remain committed to our student-athlete and to ensuring that they are successful in obtaining their degrees."

Hines said the University also is awaiting the NCAA's response to requests for waivers in relation to the football and men's basketball programs.

Head coaches Reggie Barlow (football) and Lewis Jackson (men's basketball) are hopeful that they will receive good reports.

"I'm certainly happy that Coach Melendez and Coach White have been approved for postseason play," said Jackson. "I am optimistic that the NCAA also will review our men's basketball and football programs and make a ruling in our favor; however, if they don't, our programs are prepared to keep going. The University has put a system in place to provide assistance to all of the athletic programs at Alabama State, and we will continue to move forward."

INFORMATION SOURCE: ASU Athletics Dept.

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