Alabama Athletics Heads into New Academic Year Coming Off Strong Classroom Showing in 2016-17
As The University of Alabama begins its 2017-18 academic year on Wednesday, the Crimson Tide’s Athletics Department is coming off another extraordinary season in the classroom.
The success Alabama’s student-athletes enjoyed during 2016-17 continued to enhance the Tide’s well-established tradition of excellence in the classroom. On a department-wide basis, Alabama’s more than 550 student-athletes averaged better than a 3.25 grade point average, including 61 who maintain a career GPA of 4.0. Seven UA teams posted cumulative GPAs above 3.5 for the year, marking the seventh year in a row that at least five teams have met that standard, while 14 of 17 programs earned GPAs better than 3.0 for the academic year.
More than 150 student-athletes earned their degrees during the 2016-17 academic year, including the winter, spring and summer graduations. The latest numbers reveal that Alabama graduates 71 percent of its student-athletes while the general student population graduates at a rate of 67 percent.
Alabama’s success on the football field over the past decade has coincided with its success in the classroom. The 2016 squad featured 22 players who already had degrees in hand going into the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Since the 2008 season, Alabama has had 130 degrees earned (graduate and undergraduate) by players who were still suiting up for the Crimson Tide after having graduated. Since the 2010 season, Alabama has seen an impressive 14 players earn a master’s degree before stepping foot on the field. In 2016, the Crimson Tide was tied for second among all bowl teams with a total of 22 players who earned their degrees prior to the start of postseason play. Three of the 22 earned their master’s degrees during the 2016 season.
Alabama Athletics’ phenomenal success in the classroom in recent years has perhaps been best demonstrated by the staggering numbers the Tide has put up when it comes to the CoSIDA Academic All-America program.
In 2016-17, Alabama Athletics once again led the nation in First Team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, totaling seven. The Tide also garnered three second-team accolades to tally 10 honors over the past season, giving Alabama double-digit Academic All-Americans for the fourth year in a row.
The Tide had more student-athletes earn first-team recognition than all but three other NCAA Division I schools had combined first, second and third team honors in 2016-17. Alabama and Minnesota (11) were the only schools to earn double-digit Academic All-America honors during the academic year, with the Gophers earning three first-team, three second-team and five third-team certificates.
In the spring, Alabama became the first school in history to have four student-athletes earn a place on the men’s Academic All-America At-Large team in the same year, with all four coming from the Tide’s swimming and diving program and all four – Connor Oslin, Anton McKee, Pavel Romanov and Luke Kaliszak – earning first-team recognition. It was Oslin’s and McKee’s third Academic All-America honor, the second for Romanov and the first for Kaliszak.
Alabama also led the nation in overall at-large honors with six with gymnasts Mackenzie Brannan and Keely McNeer earning first-team honors on the women’s side of the slate. It was Brannan’s second Academic All-America nod and McNeer’s first.
Alex Gholston was named a First Team Track and Field Academic All-American for the second year in a row, marking the fifth year in a row the women’s track and field/cross country program has had a student-athlete earn a place on that prestigious list.
The Tide softball team had two players earn Academic All-America honors this season, with Sydney Littlejohn earning her second nod while Chandler Dare made the list for the first time. Both women earned a place on the second team. Alabama softball student-athletes have earned 23 Academic All-America awards over the Tide’s 21-year history, including at least one award winner every year since 2008.
Volleyball’s Krystal Rivers became Alabama’s first Academic All-American of 2016-17, earning second-team recognition in the fall. It was her second such nod and marked the third season in a row that at least one Tide volleyball student-athlete has earned the honor.
McKee also extended Alabama’s streak of Academic All-Americans of the Year when he earned his second-consecutive honor in 2017, marking the eighth year in a row that a Crimson Tide student-athlete has earned that designation for their respective sport. Overall, an Alabama student-athlete has earned Academic All-American of the Year 11 times since 2004.
With four huge Academic All-America classes in a row, Alabama has made a significant jump in the national rankings over that span, moving from 13th all-time in NCAA Division I following the 2012-13 academic year to fifth following 2014-15. The Crimson Tide remains first in the SEC and fifth all-time with 159 honors following the 2016-17 season. Alabama has also made a significant jump when it comes to honors since 2000 sitting in third place with 123, close behind second-place Notre Dame. The Tide is ranked first among Division I schools since 2010 with 77 and third since 2000 with 123.
Alabama Athletics also celebrated another NCAA Top 10 Award honoree when softball standout Haylie McCleney received the accolade during the NCAA Honors and Delegates Celebration in January 2017. It was Alabama’s 14th honor overall and its NCAA-best 11th since 2002. Over the past decade, Crimson Tide student-athletes lead the nation in NCAA Top 10 Awards with seven with Stanford and Georgia tied for second with four.
After a school-record seven student-athletes earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships in 2014, Alabama has added nine more over the last three years, including four in 2016-17 with Rivers, Oslin, McNeer and McKee all earning the prestigious scholarship. The Tide’s 2016-17 tally gives UA a six-year total of 29 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In 2016-17, the Crimson Tide was the only Division I school to have two student-athletes earn men’s NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships for the winter period and the only school to earn three postgraduate scholarships, men and women combined, during the winter.
On a conference level, McKee earned the league’s top honor, taking home the men’s 2016-17 Southeastern Conference H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, earning a $15,000 postgraduate scholarship in the process. McKee is the first UA swimmer, to earn the conference’s highest academic accolade. With McKee’s honor, Alabama has the most in the award’s 32-year history with 11. The Crimson Tide has earned eight honors since 2000, the most in the SEC over that span. McKee’s win also puts Alabama in first place when it comes to the men’s side of the slate with six.
Additionally, three Crimson Tide students were named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for their respective sports during the 2016-17 academic year. Oslin (men’s swimming and diving) won his second such honor in a row, while Rivers became the first in league history to earn both SEC Volleyball Player and Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the same season, while Danielle Spielmann earned women’s tennis’ sixth honor in the past seven years. Over the past six years, Alabama student-athletes have earned this award 31 times.
Alabama was also prolific when it came to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, earning the accolade 372 times during the 2016-17 academic year. The Crimson Tide had 78, 65 and 127 student-athletes named to the SEC Fall, Winter and Spring Academic Honor Rolls and 102 named to the First-Year Academic Honor Roll.