TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - As the University of Alabama gets the new academic year underway next week, the Crimson Tide athletics department is not only coming off a banner season in the athletic arena, but a record-breaking year in the classroom as well.
"In a year during which we accomplished so much and reached new heights in so many areas, I am exceedingly pleased with the success our student-athletes enjoyed academically," UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore said. "As we prepare for the start of another school year, I want to say how proud I am of the focus our student-athletes and coaches put on academics and the efforts Jon Deyer and our entire academic support staff put into helping each student-athlete reach their full potential."
As a group, Alabama's more than 525 student-athletes averaged over a 3.0 grade point average for the 2011-12 academic year, including 48 that maintained a career GPA of 4.0. Overall, five teams posted GPAs above 3.5 for the second year in a row.
More than 140 student-athletes earned their degrees over the last year and the latest numbers find that Alabama graduates 74 percent of its student-athletes while the general student population graduates at rate of 66 percent.
"In a year that saw our teams compete at a championship level, it was extremely gratifying to see our student-athletes carry that success over into the classroom," UA Associate Athletics Director for Student Services Jon Deyer said. "To have so many of our student-athletes recognized at the national and conference level and to have 16 of our 21 teams earn grade point averages of 3.0 or better is truly impressive."
There were 21 graduates on Alabama football's roster when it won the Tide's 14th national championship in January, one shy of the BCS National Championship Game record the Tide set in 2009. Football also had the second highest graduation rate among schools in the final 2011 BCS top 10 and has posted the second highest graduation rate in the SEC each of the past 3 years.
The SEC led the nation in Capital One Academic All-America honors again this year and the Crimson Tide once again led the SEC, tallying a school record nine honors overall in 2011-12, including a league-best seven first-team honors. Since 2000, Alabama is fifth among all NCAA Division I schools and first in the SEC when it comes to Academic All-America honors with 70. The Tide's nine honors in 2012 also pushed Alabama over 100 honors all-time, to a total of 106, which jumps Alabama to 20th all-time among all NCAA schools and 13th among Division I schools.
Leading the way among the Tide's Academic All-America honors was senior Brooke Pancake, who clinched Alabama's first NCAA Championship in women's golf in May. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native was named the 2012 NCAA Division I Female Capital One Academic All-American of the Year, marking the first time a UA student-athlete has earned that honor.
Kayla Hoffman, who closed out her tenure at the Capstone by leading Alabama to the 2011 NCAA Gymnastics Championship, capped her stellar career by earning the prestigious NCAA Top VIII award in January of 2012. The award is given annually to the top eight senior student-athletes among all NCAA sports, regardless of division or gender, for their accomplishments in athletics, academics and in the community. She is the 10th Alabama student-athlete and the seventh over the last decade to earn the honor, which is considered the highest individual accolade the NCAA bestows on a student-athlete.
The SEC also led the nation in NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships and NCAA Elite 89 recipients in 2012 with Alabama again leading the league in both categories. The Tide's five 2012 scholarship winners ranks second in the nation, just behind Stanford. Pancake, swimmer Kyle Weeks, tennis player Taylor Lindsey along with cross country runners Nathan Corder and Leigh Gilmore all earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships.
Mary Anne Macfarlane (tennis), Rachel Terry (gymnastics) and Cory Whitsett (golf) earned The NCAA's Elite 89 Award during the 2011-12 academic year. The Elite 89 is awarded to the athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average at each NCAA Championship. Alabama ranks second nationally in Elite 89 honors with seven in the award's first three years while Stanford leads the nation with 10.
On a conference level, five Alabama student-athletes were named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in their respective sports, including Barrett Jones (football), Jennifer Fenton (softball), Kim Jacob (gymnastics), Courtney McLane (women's tennis) and Pancake (women's golf). All four of the teams that won national championships in 2011-12 had an athlete named the league's top scholar for that sport. McLane won the award for the second time and Pancake earned the honor for an SEC record third time.Alabama was also prolific when it came to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, earning the accolade 246 times during the 2011-12 academic year. The Tide had 56, 48 and 87 student-athletes named to the SEC Fall, Winter and Spring Academic Honor Rolls and 55 named to the First-Year Academic Honor Roll. Alabama football had 38 players named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll in 2011 - a conference record for the sport.