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By Randy York
The number 300 is significant in all kinds of ways. Nebraska hosted one of its greatest celebrations at Memorial Stadium in celebration of its 300th consecutive sellout at home. Nebraska’s Bill Straub, one of the best if not the best bowling coach in America, has bowled approximately 30 300 games in a sport where that number reflects perfection. Google the significance of the number 300 and you’ll discover it’s used 30 times in the Bible. The number 300 can be a meaningful milestone, and sometime next fall, Nebraska expects to honor its 300th CoSIDA Academic All-American across all sports.
Right now, Nebraska’s number is 299 and will hold through the summer. That’s 76 more Academic All-Americans than Notre Dame, which ranks second on the all-time chart, followed by MIT, Penn State and Stanford. The 2011-12 athletic year has been another record run for Nebraska Athletics. The Huskers added eight more honors to its ever-expanding chart, two fewer than third-place MIT but six more than second-place Notre Dame. Stanford gained one this past season, but The Cardinal still trail the Huskers by 131 honorees.
We bring this to your attention because the all-time Academic All-American display featured prominently in Nebraska’s West Stadium lobby continues to be an important factor when Dennis Leblanc leads a tour for potential recruits. Leblanc, Nebraska’s senior associate athletic director for Academics, knows that the display is more influential to parents than to student-athlete prospects. But in the ensuing weeks after a visit, that display tends to sharpen the focus in the minds of recruits who excel both athletically and academically. It galvanizes and it’s a conversation-starter, plus a source of pride for both the school and all of the past, present and future student-athletes who have left or will leave their legacy.
This past year, one Nebraska athlete, Big Ten Conference decathlon champion Bjorn Barrefors, earned his third Academic All-American honor. Three more Huskers – football’s Austin Cassidy, wrestling’s Tucker Lane and track and field’s Nate Polacek – won their respective second Academic All-American honor. One thing I know about Barrefors – he’s smart, competitive and driven. He’s a European who sees the world differently, but has grown to love the Nebraska experience. And that’s a good thing because, barring any injury or setback, Barrefors will become the first Husker ever to be a four-time Academic All-American. He was a second-team Academic All-American as a freshman and has added first-team honors as a sophomore and junior. Here’s the interesting thing about Barrefors: Because of the timing of his redshirt season, he will be ineligible for NCAA indoor competition in his last year as a Husker, but he will finish his collegiate career during the 2013 outdoor season.
So let the countdown begin to Nebraska Academic All-American No. 300. Who knows? Maybe the Huskers will produce one in soccer, a sport that usually announces its selections earlier than football. If an Academic All-American does not emerge from soccer, then here’s hoping that Rex Burkhead and Sean Fisher share in that highly anticipated milestone. Both are positioned to become back-to-back Academic All-Americans this fall, and with Nebraska, we’ve learned there may be others pushing just as hard as they do – on the field and in the classroom.
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