American Football Coaches Association lauds Penn State football graduation rates

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) has recognized the Penn State Football program for the Nittany Lions’ Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for the 23rd time in the AFCA’s annual Academic Achievement Award survey. 

The honorable mention recognition marks the 23rd time the Nittany Lions have been recognized by the AFCA in the 28 years they have been eligible. Notre Dame and Virginia lead Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions in honorable mention citations with 24, followed by Penn State and Rice (23), Boston College (22) and Vanderbilt (21).

Penn State football’s 87 percent graduation figure was second-highest in the Big Ten and tied for No. 13 overall among the nation’s 128 FBS institutions, according to 2014 NCAA data. The 87 percent figure was tied for the football program’s second-highest graduation rate (with 2011).

The Nittany Lions’ 87 percent football graduation rate was tied for No. 5 among all public FBS institutions. Penn State’s graduation figure was 16 points higher than the 71 percent FBS average and was second to Northwestern among Big Ten institutions, according to the NCAA.  

The AFCA honorable mention citation recognizes schools for having a graduation rate of 75 percent or better for student-athletes who were freshmen during the 2007-08 academic year. The criteria for the AFCA Academic Achievement Award is based on NCAA Graduation Success Rate data, having at least 15 student-athletes in the cohort and a federal Graduation Rate of 75 percent or higher.

The Penn State football program previously received AFCA honorable mention notice in 1998-99, 2001-03 and 2005-12. The Nittany Lions also were cited in 1985, '87, '88, '89, '91, '92, '93, '94 and '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 17th 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, which is consistently near the top nationally in academic success:

-- Penn State produced a record-setting academic performance during the fall 2014 semester, with 51 squad members earning at least a 3.0 grade-point average, the second-highest total in program history. Coach James Franklin’s squad set program records with 25 student-athletes earning dean’s list recognition, 57 players owning a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher after the fall semester and 21 true freshmen posting a 3.0 GPA or better last fall;

-- A Big Ten Conference-high 16 members of the Penn State football team had earned their degrees prior to the Nittany Lions’ win in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to rank in the top 10 percent among all Football Bowl Subdivision institutions;

-- Penn State’s all-time total of 63 Academic All-America football honorees ranks second among all FBS institutions;

-- The Nittany Lions’ 18 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans over the past nine years (16 first-team selections) leads the nation. John Urschel earned first-team Academic All-America accolades in 2012 and 2013 and he became Penn State’s first recipient of the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy in 2013. Penn State has had a least one first team ESPN Academic All-American in nine of the past 11 seasons;

-- A total of 348 of Penn State football student-athletes, including 20 in 2014, have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors since 1993 for owning at least a 3.0 grade point average and being a letterwinner.

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Last Updated January 22, 2015