Championships, academics boost Penn State Athletics in 2016-17

July 19, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State student-athletes produced another superlative year in 2016-17, highlighted by several school-record achievements in the classroom and adding to the Nittany Lions’ impressive list of national and conference championships.

The Nittany Lions earned the NCAA Championship in wrestling, the program’s sixth in seven years, and nine conference titles in 2016-17 under the leadership of Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. Seven of the conference crowns were Big Ten championships, as the Nittany Lions led all conference institutions by winning titles in seven different sports.

Twenty-one Penn State programs competed in their respective NCAA Championships and the football team won the Big Ten Championship and played in one of the most thrilling Rose Bowls in the game’s illustrious history to boost the total to 22. Twenty-nine Penn State teams overall participated in post-season competition.

Nittany Lion student-athletes again shattered numerous academic records this past year, including delivering a 3.14 grade-point average during the spring semester, the highest percentage (66 percent) and number of students earning a 3.0 grade-point average during the spring semester (495), a record-tying 299 Academic All-Big Ten honorees, 97 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars and a 114 graduates this past May.

The Nittany Lions also posted more than 6,200 hours of community engagement during the past year.

“I’m very proud of the outstanding work that our students do academically, in competition and in the community,” said Barbour, who earned a NACDA Athletic Director of the Year Award this year. “I’m proud of the commitment and investment that our community, our coaches, our administration, our staff, all put into it. 

“That’s our point of difference. Lots of schools can be good athletically. Not that many institutions are good at both (academic and athletic success). I knew it coming in, but in my short time at Penn State, it has certainly been reiterated how important that is to us and I’m really proud that we are carrying on that tradition of academic excellence and working to take it to another level," she said.

For the fourth time in five years and the 12th time in 24 years overall, Penn State earned a Top 10 finish in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings, finishing No. 8. The Nittany Lions are one of only nine programs nationwide to have finished in the Top 25 in all 24 Learfield Directors' Cup final standings. 

Five Consecutive Years of Increases by Student-Athletes Earning 3.0 GPA in Spring Semester

For the fifth consecutive year, Penn State student-athletes broke the school record for the number of students with a 3.0 GPA or higher during the spring semester. Through the efforts of the students and the Morgan Academic Center staff, the number of students earning a 3.0 GPA in the spring semester has risen 9.1 percent the past five years from 450 in 2013 to 495 this past spring.

The number of Dean’s List students (3.5 GPA) has been elevated even more significantly, rising to a record 237 during the spring semester. Since the spring of 2013, the number of Dean’s List student-athletes has increased 20.3 percent, from 189 to 237 during the most recent semester. Dean’s List students must have a minimum of 12 credits, in addition to earning at least a 3.5 GPA.

In addition to an NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 89 percent, one point off the school’s all-time high, 18 Penn State teams earned perfect Academic Progress Rate scores of 1,000, up from 13 the previous year. Over the past two years, the number of teams with a single year APR score of 1,000 has risen from 10 to 18.

Five Nittany Lions earned CoSIDA Academic All-America accolades in 2016-17, the school’s highest total since having seven honorees in 2012-13. National champion wrestler and Hodge Trophy recipient Zain Retherford and football senior long snapper Tyler Yazujian were selected to the first-team, earning CoSIDA Academic All-America honors for the second consecutive year. Penn State's 198 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans all-time rank No. 4 among Division I institutions.

Penn State Student-Athlete Academic Records in 2016-17:

  • Student-athlete combined 3.14 GPA during the 2017 spring semester
  • 66 percent of student-athletes with a 3.0 GPA or higher during the 2017 spring semester
  • 495 student-athletes with a 3.0 grade-point average or higher during the 2017 spring semester
  • 237 student-athletes earned Dean’s List honors by posting a GPA of 3.5 or higher during the 2017 semester (12 or more credits)
  • 24 teams with a combined 3.0 team GPA in 2016 fall and 2017 spring semesters
  • Record-tying 299 Academic All-Big Ten honorees (3.0 GPA and a letterwinner), including a record for spring/at-large sports (145 honorees)
  • 97 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars (3.7 GPA and a letterwinner)
  • Record 114 graduates in May

One NCAA Championship and Nine Conference Titles

The Nittany Lions earned one NCAA Championship, and nine conference titles in 2016-17, including seven Big Ten Championships. The wrestling squad captured its second consecutive and sixth national championship in the past seven years, crowning five individual national champions. The women’s lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the second consecutive year and the men’s hockey squad earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance, advancing to the quarterfinals.

The Nittany Lions won Big Ten titles in field hockey, football, women’s soccer, women’s indoor track and field, wrestling (regular season), men’s hockey and men’s outdoor track and field, the program’s first. The men’s volleyball squad won the EIVA regular season and tournament titles. With its seven titles in 2016-17, Penn State has won 104 Big Ten Championships all-time.

Eleven Nittany Lion programs finished No. 10 nationally or higher in their respective NCAA Championship/Football post-season: wrestling (NCAA Champions), women’s lacrosse (NCAA semifinals), men’s volleyball (T 5th), men’s hockey (NCAA quarterfinals), football (7th), men’s gymnastics (T 7th), men’s and women’s fencing (7th), field hockey (T 9th), men’s lacrosse (T 9th) and women’s indoor track and field (T 10th).

In addition to the team successes, Penn State student-athletes delivered six NCAA individual championships and the Nittany Lions won 12 Big Ten individual and two relay titles in 2016-17.

Since March, 2007, Penn State is fourth in the nation and easily leads the Big Ten with 19 NCAA Championships. Oregon, USC and Stanford are tied for first with 20 titles. Penn State’s 19 NCAA titles are nearly double the next closest Big Ten school, Ohio State, which has 10 since March 2007. The Nittany Lions have won 77 team national championships all-time, including six NCAA titles in the past four years and their 30 NCAA Championships since 1992-93 also are easily the most among Big Ten schools.

Penn State Athletics Achievements in 2016-17:

  • NCAA Wrestling Champions
  • NCAA Women’s Lacrosse national semifinalist
  • Big Ten Champions: field hockey, football, women’s soccer, women’s indoor track and field, wrestling (regular season), men’s hockey and men’s outdoor track and field, the program’s first
  • EIVA men’s volleyball regular season and tournament champions
  • 6 individual NCAA champions
  • 12 individual and two relay Big Ten champions
  • 12th Top 10 finish in Learfield Directors’ Cup in the 24 years of program
Last Updated July 19, 2017