Penn State Football recognized by AFCA for academic achievement

University Park, Pa. — The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) again has recognized the Penn State Football program for the Nittany Lions' Graduation Success Rate in the AFCA's annual Academic Achievement Award survey.

The honorable mention citation marks the 18th time the Nittany Lions have been recognized by the AFCA in the 22 years they have been eligible.

The AFCA is holding its annual convention this week in Nashville, Tenn.

According to the "2008 NCAA Division I Graduation Rates Report," Penn State football student-athletes earned a Graduation Success Rate of 78 percent, easily above the national GSR average of 67 percent. For the third consecutive year, the Nittany Lions posted the second-highest GSR among all teams in the Big Ten Conference, trailing only Northwestern.

Penn State earned the second-highest Graduation Success Rate among teams in the final 2008 Associated Press poll. Texas Tech (79) was one point ahead of the Nittany Lions, who earned the highest GSR among the squads that played in the five Bowl Championship Series contests.

Penn State was one of four Big Ten institutions (joined by Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin) to be recognized by the AFCA for having a graduation rate of 70 percent or better for student-athletes who were freshmen during the 2002-03 academic year. The NCAA's Graduation Success Rate data includes only student-athletes receiving athletic aid and is generated from four years of graduation data.

Coach Joe Paterno's program previously received AFCA honorable mention notice in: 1998-99, 2001-02-03-05-06-07. The Nittany Lions also were cited in 1985-87-88-89-91-92-93-94-95, when Penn State was a member of the College Football Association, which conducted the graduation survey at the time. In 1996 and '97, Penn State was not a CFA member, but had a graduation rate of better than 70 percent. The AFCA is in its 11th year of presenting the award.

The AFCA Academic Achievement recognition is the latest success in a long line of academic achievement for members of the Nittany Lion football program, who consistently are near the top nationally in graduation success:

• Eighteen Nittany Lions had earned their degrees prior to the Rose Bowl clash with USC. Among the 18 graduates were four players who have another year of eligibility in 2009: quarterback Daryll Clark (Youngstown), wide receiver Kevin Cousins (Richmond, Va.), wide receiver Devin Fentress (Chesapeake, Va.) and wideout James McDonald (Washington, D.C.)

• Penn State had a program and nation's best five players on the 2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America team, with four earning a first team honors, also a school record. Senior tackle Gerald Cadogan (Portsmouth, Ohio), junior linebacker Josh Hull (Millheim), junior kick snapper Andrew Pitz (Bettendorf, Iowa) and senior safety Mark Rubin (Amherst, N.Y.) earned first team accolades. Sophomore guard Stefen Wisniewski (Bridgeville) was a second team choice.

Penn State's four first team selections and five overall selections led the nation. Brigham Young, Dayton and North Dakota State were the only other schools with more than two honorees.

Penn State became the first school to have five Academic All-America football players since Nebraska in 1997. The Nittany Lions were the only Big Ten Conference team with more than one Academic All-American.

• The Nittany Lions had 17 Academic All-Big Ten football honorees in 2007, improving their conference-leading total to 226 from 1993-2008.

Coach Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions (11-2) won their second Big Ten title and Bowl Championship berth in the past four years during the 2008 season. Penn State was No. 8 in the final Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls, earning its 22nd final Top 10 ranking under the Hall of Fame coach. The Lions won at least 11 games for the 14th time under Paterno.

Penn State has earned one of the nation's Top 10 records since the start of the 2005 season, posting a 40-11 (78.4) mark, good for No. 9 nationally. The Nittany Lions have won 42 of their last 53 games overall, dating to the final two games of the 2004 season.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010