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Holiday Greetings from Middle Tennessee State University

In this season of gratitude, we are thankful for your friendship and support.

Wishing you and your loved ones peace, health, happiness and prosperity in the coming New Year.

Press play for a special holiday greeting from Middle Tennessee State University.

Sincerely,

Sidney A. McPhee

President

Athletic Highlights

Blue Raider sports teams had another exciting and productive year in 2014. Since our University accepted an invitation to join Conference USA in November 2012, Blue Raider squads have consistently attended postseason play, won championships, and achieved C-USA All-Academic team status. Here are just some of the many recent athletic and academic highlights achieved by MTSU student-athletes.

Along with a bowl-eligible football team for the fifth time in the last six years, MTSU had a women’s cross country team that won its first-ever conference championship; tournaments hosted by both men’s and women’s golf; and a soccer team that produced its 11th winning season in the last 12 years.

During the fall 2014 semester, 11 of 15 teams had semester team GPAs of 3.0 or higher, 104 student-athletes made the Dean’s List (3.5+), and 32 had perfect 4.0 GPAs. Overall, 191 of 343 student-athletes had a 3.0 or higher (56 percent).

Five student-athletes made the Conference USA All-Academic Team during the fall season (below). They were Jordan Parker (football), Kelsey Branstetter (soccer), Kelsey Brouwer (soccer), Tori Hawkins (soccer), and Shadrack Matelong (cross country).

In nine years under Coach Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee football has achieved bowl-eligibility six times (including five in the last six years).

The Blue Raider football team finished second in the C-USA East Division for the second straight season with a 5–3 record. All three losses were on the road, and two were to eventual bowl teams.

Conference USA’s 2014 All-Conference football teams, as selected by the 13 head coaches, included nine MT players: safety Kevin Byard (1st Team), offensive lineman Darius Johnson (2nd Team), offensive lineman Isaiah Anderson (2nd Team), linebacker T. T. Barber (2nd

Team), running back Reggie Whatley (Honorable Mention), running back Shane Tucker (Honorable Mention), defensive end Shubert Bastien (Honorable Mention), defensive tackle Pat McNeil (Honorable Mention), and linebacker DJ Sanders (All-Freshman Team).

Linebacker Leighton Gasque finished his Blue Raider career with 22.0 quarterback sacks to rank second all-time at Middle Tennessee.

Safety Kevin Byard led C-USA with six interceptions, giving him 15 for his career so far. That ranks second all-time at Middle Tennessee and is first among all active NCAA players. In the 2015 campaign, Byard will be chasing the Blue Raider career record of 17 set by James Griffin (1979–82).

Middle Tennessee became just the 31st NCAA Division I women’s basketball program to reach 800 all-time victories with its 76–68 win at UAB on January 4.

On November 23, Middle Tennessee was at Ole Miss for a historic women’s basketball game: for the first time in Division I women’s basketball history, a father and son coached against one another. Coach Rick Insell faced off against his son, Coach Matt Insell of the Rebels. (MT won by six.)

Middle Tennessee’s senior forward Jacquez Rozier (from Waynesboro, Georgia) has been nominated for the 2015 Allstate Good Works Team, announced by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Rozier, the lone four-year senior on the Blue Raider squad, has logged nearly 50 hours of community service since his arrival on campus. This prestigious community service award recognizes distinguished student-athletes who have demonstrated commitment to enriching the lives of others and contributing to the greater good of their communities.

Volleyball’s Chelsea Ross enjoyed a strong fall campaign, earning First-Team All-Conference honors after finishing the year second in kills with 280. The junior also won the C-USA Spirit of Service Award, which recognizes significant community service, academic standing, and participation in their sports.

Middle Tennessee senior soccer player Kelsey Branstetter (pictured on page 18) garnered CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District honors. Branstetter holds a perfect 4.00 GPA as a double major in Athletic Training and Exercise Science.

On November 1, the women’s cross country team won its first-ever conference title by capturing the Conference USA Championship at Eagle Point Cross country Course in Denton, Texas. Coach Dean Hayes earned his 49th career conference title in his 50th year, and Assistant Coach Keith Vroman was named C-USA Coach of the Year.

Hannah Maina represented Middle Tennessee at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, in November. Maina became just the second woman in Middle Tennessee history to reach the NCAA Championships.

Athletic Highlights

T.T. Barber, shown here forcing a fumble against Navy, was named the Blue Raiders’ MVP of the Armed Forces Bowl by members of the media.

T.T. Barber, shown here forcing a fumble against Navy, was named the Blue Raiders’ MVP of the Armed Forces Bowl by members of the media.

MTSU became a full-fledged member of Conference USA last summer, following 13 years in the Sun Belt Conference. On September 21, the Blue Raiders enjoyed their first competition against a Conference USA opponent when the football team traveled to Florida Atlantic and defeated the Owls in overtime 42–35. I am very proud of the strong transition our teams, coaches, and staffers have made to this new level of competition!

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

    • During the fall 2013 semester, nine of 15 teams had a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher; 85 student athletes made the Dean’s List (3.5+ GPA); and 27 had a perfect 4.0. Overall, 165 of 312 student-athletes had a 3.0 or higher (53 percent).
    • For the fourth consecutive year, all 17 of Middle Tennessee’s athletic teams earned a multiyear Academic Progress Rate (APR) of over 930, according to the annual report released by the NCAA in June. Twelve of MTSU’s 17 sports reached their highest APR average since scoring began in 2004–05. Two teams—men’s golf and men’s cross-country—received NCAA Public Recognition Awards based on their rank in the top 10 percent in each sport.
    • On November 4, MT Athletics, Sinclair Broadcasting, MTSU’s College of Mass Communication, and Nelligan Sports Marketing announced a partnership to broadcast an 11-game local television package consisting of one football game and 10 men’s and women’s basketball games. The entire 11-game production airs on MyTV 30 in Nashville, with the exception of one game that will be shown on CW 58. Students in the Electronic Mass Communication department will once again produce and direct all the broadcasts.
    • Head track and field coach Dean Hayes recently received the United States Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association’s Jimmy Carnes Distinguished Service Award, which is presented to those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their service to the association and to the sports of cross-country and track and field.
    • The Blue Raider football squad went 6–2 in league play and tied for second in the C-USA East Division on its way to accepting a bid to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl against Navy. Seventeen student-athletes played in the game (in Fort Worth, Texas) with a degree in hand. That total tied for fifth most nationally.
    • The Blue Raider women’s basketball team hosted the number-four ranked University of Tennessee squad in November, drawing a Murphy Center crowd of 11,227—the second largest in history. In December, the Blue Raiders also drew 10,028 attendees to the Murfreesboro City Schools Education Day game against Kennesaw State.
    • Conference USA announced the fall recipients of the league’s Spirit of Service Award, and sophomore soccer goalkeeper Kelsey Brouwer was among the 16 honorees. Brouwer logged 42 hours of community service during the summer and fall semester, volunteering at Hobgood Elementary School and coaching a youth soccer team. Brouwer has also donated her time with Habitat for Humanity and Grace Works Food Bank and helped with wetland reserve cleanup at Garrison Creek. She has also worked with the Rutherford Country Special Olympics. The Franklin native maintains a 3.919 cumulative GPA while majoring in business and minoring in economics and finance. She was named to the Conference USA All-Academic second team this fall and helped the Blue Raiders pick up their 12th consecutive National Soccer Coaches Association of America Team Academic Award. Brouwer’s high marks in the classroom helped MTSU post a 3.62 cumulative team GPA.
    • Volleyball’s Tyler Richardson garnered AVCA Honorable Mention All-America honors at the annual AVCA Convention in December. Richardson was also named to the AVCA South All-Region team and the All-Conference USA First Team. Richardson ranked 12th nationally in hitting percentage at .414 in 2013.
    • ESPN’s Gameday was in town in the fall to interview Blue Raider freshman Steven Rhodes.

      ESPN’s Gameday was in town in the fall to interview Blue Raider freshman Steven Rhodes.

      Freshman Steven Rhodes joined the football program following five years of service in the U.S. Marines last August. After he enrolled, the NCAA declared that he had only two years of eligibility and would have to sit out the 2013 season since he played recreational football as a Marine for two years. The story made the national news, which led quickly to an NCAA decision allowing Rhodes to play immediately (and maintain four years of eligibility). Rhodes played in all 13 games and had 10 tackles.

    • Men’s golf opened its season last fall at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, finishing ahead of preseason top-25 teams Texas, South Carolina, and North Florida. MTSU ended the fall season at the 2013 Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Hawaii, finishing ahead of 15th-ranked Baylor and 42nd-ranked ETSU, tallying a 19-under score of 845, the fifth best 54-hole total in school history.
    • Avery George of the women’s golf team earned Conference USA Golfer of the Week honors on Oct. 9. George was the only player in the 90-person field at the Lady Pirate Intercollegiate to shoot under par, posting a winning score of 215 for one-under par at the 6,004-yard, par 72 Greenville Country Club course.
Senior women’s basketball standout Ebony Rowe was named the NCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Dec. 3. She also reached 2,000 career points on Dec. 29 at Clemson, becoming just the second active NCAA player to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

Senior women’s basketball standout Ebony Rowe was named the NCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Dec. 3. She also reached 2,000 career points on Dec. 29 at Clemson, becoming just the second active NCAA player to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

  • The men’s tennis team was ranked 50th in the nation in the preseason ITA poll announced Jan. 3. Sophomore David Fox was in both the national singles and doubles ranks as he prepares for his second season as a Blue Raider. A native of the United Kingdom, he is ranked 98th in the nation in singles competition and 22nd when teamed with fellow sophomore Victor Cornea in doubles.
  • Ground was broken Oct. 28 on a new indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park that will greatly enhance MTSU’s tennis program and provide greater opportunities for the burgeoning local tennis community. The $3.7 million structure will feature eight indoor courts, an electronic scoreboard, a pro shop, locker rooms, a lounge area, and meeting area. The facility will be open to the general public and serve as the home of the Blue Raider men’s and women’s tennis programs. The project is part of the University’s $80 million Centennial Campaign announced in 2012. The state-of-the-art building is expected to be ready by fall 2014.
  • Middle Tennessee was one of just 12 programs nationally to go to a football bowl game and compete in both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments during the 2013 calendar year. Joining the Blue Raiders were North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Miami (Florida), Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, UCLA, and Syracuse.

MTSU Paints the Town Blue for C-USA

Two hundred fourteen days since the initial announcement, it’s finally official: Middle Tennessee is a full-fledged member of Conference USA after 13 years in the Sun Belt Conference, and a citywide celebration, “Paint the Town Blue,” is underway today.

MTSU head football coach Rick Stockstill, center, talks with media during a “Paint the Town Blue” event today at Sam’s All American Sports Grill to celebrate the Blue Raiders’ official move to Conference USA from the Sun Belt Conference. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU fans filled the Sam’s All American Grill at the Stones River Mall to overflowing for the historic first-day event to celebrate the university’s new membership in C-USA.

Coaches and administrators were overjoyed at the turnout.

“It’s phenomenal,” football head coach Rick Stockstill said. “The support, the buzz, the excitement at Sam’s has been amazing.”

“This is exciting,” added women’s basketball coach Rick Insell. “I’m starting my ninth year here and I’ve never seen this much excitement and enthusiasm. The students, faculty, the players … it’s unbelievable. I could see this coming, and we’re not through yet.”

Director of Athletics Chris Massaro called it “a historic day for the university and it’s fun to share it with the fans. You can feel the excitement. I know our student-athletes and staff are excited. It’s a chance to elevate the entire university.”

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said that the university and the surrounding community are collaborating in a great partnership.

“To see the community come out and support the university and its athletic program, I’m really excited to see this kind of response,” he said.

“The university depends on this town and this town depends on the university. It’s a mutual relationship that is beneficial to both. And it’s great to see it working the way it is working.”

McPhee added that he had heard “reports of many of our fans wearing our (MTSU) shirts at the various businesses” holding events throughout the day.

Employees and owners of more than 50 businesses and restaurants wore specially designed T-shirts with the inaugural C-USA logo today throughout Murfreesboro.

“I think it’s really going to help us build our brand better and help grow athletics at MTSU,” Jonathan Sisco, a fifth-year senior pitcher/infielder from Murfreesboro who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, said today at the Boulevard Bar and Grill across the street from the MTSU campus.

“I think the top-tier teams are definitely going to be a lot better competition for us.”

Head baseball coach Jim McGuire admitted that the travel in the new conference will be a bit tougher, but he noted that there will be two C-USA teams the Blue Raiders will not have to play each year they’re in the conference. Those teams will rotate and won’t be the same teams each season.

“Conference USA is one of the top baseball conferences in the country,” McGuire added. “It’s always rated somewhere from fifth to seventh.”

Jonathan Sisco

Football players distributed posters and schedule cards around town, and a handful were at Reeves-Sain Drug Store and at Chick-fil-A at the Murfreesboro Town Centre, signing autographs and providing information on the move to Conference USA.

On Sept. 21, the Blue Raiders will have their first competition against a Conference USA opponent when football travels to Florida Atlantic. Six days later, soccer hosts UAB, and volleyball travels to Rice. The first C-USA football game at home is Oct. 5 against East Carolina.

The C-USA membership also includes the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The league office is located in Irving, Texas.

As proud members of the Sun Belt Conference, the Blue Raiders dominated the conference by winning nine All-Sports trophies and 58 conference championships.

MT, which joined the Sun Belt on July 1, 2000, leaves the SBC with a league-best 50 conference football wins while also ranking first in victories over automatic qualifying conferences. Other notable milestones in the MT-Sun Belt partnership include:

  • MT’s four Overall Sun Belt Athletes of the Year and 40 Coach of the Year winners.
  • Men’s basketball head coach Davis’ status as the SBC’s all-time winningest coach.
  • The MTSU’s women’s basketball program winning more than 80 percent of its conference games.
  • The Blue Raiders also played on national television 46 times since 2004.

 

MTSU cheerleaders pose with golf coach Whit Turnbow, front right, and his daughter, Reagan, today during the university’s historic first day as a member of Conference USA. The citywide event was headquartered at Sam’s All American Sport’s Grill at the Stones River Mall. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)MTSU Blue Raiders Blaine Sidders, left, and Cody Clark sign a MTSU Football poster for a young fan today while celebrating the first-day Conference USA “Paint the Town Blue” event at the Chik-fil-A restaurant on Old Fort Parkway. (MTSU photo by Darby Campbell)

 

You also can watch a video from the day’s events as well as one from last fall’s official C-USA announcement below.

 

 

What is True Blue?

Everett Bratten – Advertising/Public Relations Major

“I am True Blue” began at MTSU as an affirmation of the best ideals shared by the Blue Raider community. It signals our values, our commitment to student success and our devotion to the institution. It also calls upon all of us – students, alumni, faculty, staff and administration alike – to be valuable contributors to the progress and success of our University.

It was introduced in August 2011 when it was read aloud by our incoming freshman we welcomed at convocation. It is the first line of the True Blue Pledge, which spells out our four core values: honesty and integrity; respect for diversity; engagement in the community; and a commitment to reason, not violence. The pledge, as well as the other work by the President’s Task Force on Nonviolence and Conflict Resolution, came as an outpouring of grief and resolve from the tragic death of Lady Raiders basketball player Tina Stewart.

True Blue has been in use for centuries. We have used it from time to time, as have other colleges, professional sports teams and others sharing blue as a signature color. Its roots go back to the Middle Ages, so in that sense, the phrase is perhaps is owned by no one – or perhaps everyone. I would like to think that with its core definition of loyalty and faithfulness, it takes on the characteristics of the entity putting it forward.

We were overwhelmed by the response that True Blue has received on campus since its debut. Our Student Government Association adopted it as its official motto and redesigned its seal to emphasize True Blue. The pledge was incorporated into numerous student and civic events as a reflection of school pride and values. Students produced videos on what it means to be True Blue as class projects. Omicron Delta Kappa planned a True Blue Leadership Day as its core activity for the year. Athletics singled out its top players with its first True Blue Leadership Awards.

True Blue was not intended to be a marketing slogan – and perhaps that is why it has connected with some more deeply than just a catch phrase. It sprang from a tragedy and now stands for the very best of what we expect from one another.

We’re in great company

Blue Raider football and men’s golf were recognized June 14 with NCAA Public Recognition Awards for student-athlete academic progress.

It’s been said before that you are often known by the company you keep.

We learned recently that, when it comes to the academic performance of our football team, the NCAA says we are in a very small and exclusive club of quality universities.

The Blue Raiders were one of just 12 FBS football programs honored by the NCAA’s Public Recognition Awards for student-athlete academic progress. The honorees: Air Force, Boise State, Clemson, Duke, Miami of Florida, MTSU, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rice, Rutgers and Vanderbilt.

Blue Raider football and men’s golf were recognized June 14 by the awards, which are based on the teams’ most recent multi-year Academic Progress Rates, or APR. This marks the second straight year both MTSU programs have been honored by the NCAA.

The awards are given each year to teams with APRs in the top 10 percent in each sport. The Blue Raiders join Florida Atlantic as the only Sun Belt programs to have more than one sport honored. And this comes just after we were awarded our eighth Vic Bubas Cup, our fourth in a row, for the best team in all sports inside the Sun Belt this season.

I am proud that our athletics programs strive for excellence on the playing field and in the classroom. My thanks to Athletics Director Chris Massaro and all of our coaches for their leadership, as well as the hard work and strong results put forward by our student-athletes.

Make our guests feel welcome

Incoming students tour the MTSU campus during CUSTOMS

With CUSTOMS, transfer days, youth camps, athletic camps, band camps and Governor’s School for the Arts, we are hosting thousands of future Blue Raiders or potential Blue Raiders this summer.

They are staying in our residence halls, eating in our dining facilities, and using our classrooms and athletic fields. They will be accompanied by parents, advisors and teachers who will carefully evaluate the experience they have on our campus.

Please be mindful of your interactions with these important campus visitors.  Watch for folks who look lost and offer directions.  Smile and speak to them in the Grill or the Bookstore.  Be patient if their rowdiness jangles your nerves just a little bit.

For many of these young people, they are forming a first and lasting impression of their fit with this University. Take the initiative to speak to our new students and parents, help them find their way, answer their questions, and encourage them in knowing that they have made a great choice in coming to MTSU.

This is everyone’s job.

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