When kinesiology professor Stephen Hardy watches the UNH football team, he, like many fans, thinks about numbers.
Not statistics or goals, however, even though in UNH's season opener, senior quarterback Ricky Santos (at right) became the conference leader in all-time touchdown passing. No, Hardy is thinking grades.
This past year, UNH's football team was named to the NCAA academic progress rate honor roll, a list that includes schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke and Stanford. "When you see the company our football team keeps, it's extraordinary," says Hardy, who is the faculty representative to the NCAA.
"It started with (former coach) Bill Bowes," he says. "He set a tone when he came here of humbleness, hard work and the values of character." Hardy says that attitude has continued with current coach Sean McDonnell '78, who played for Bowes. "We want kids who are going to work at it," says McDonnell. "Those who stick their nose to the grindstone in the classroom are going to do that on the field."
Defensive end Matthew Perdoni '08, a sociology major, graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. "You have to work to get a good grade and to do well on the field," he says. "We have meetings as a team that are basically like taking another class. We're constantly learning new things."
Santos could become the first player to win two Walter Payton awards--the prestigious honor given annually to the most outstanding football player in Division I-AA football, now known as the Division I Championship Subdivision.
"Ricky's a good example because he has a solid work ethic in the classroom and on the field," Hardy says. "He very much represents UNH football--overlooked but also over-performing."
Santos is overlooked no longer. He was named the National Offensive Player of the Week by both the Sports Network and College Sporting News following the team's 48-35 victory over Marshall on Sept. 15. It was the third time since 2004 that the team defied the odds and beat a Division FBS, formerly I-A, opponent.
With only five returning starters on a young defense, McDonnell says the team faces a demanding schedule this fall. But Hardy, for one, isn't worried. "This is something of a golden age for athletics," he says. "I feel lucky that I'm a part of it."Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents