Former NU wrestler Craig Brester was named Nebraska's 2009-10 Male Student-Athlete-of-the-Year.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska Expands Academic Tradition with Nation-Leading 277 All-Americans

By NU Athletic Communications

Lincoln - Husker student-athletes produced another stellar year at the University of Nebraska, continuing NU's tradition of academic success. Nebraska increased its nation-leading total of CoSIDA Academic All-Americans across all sports to 277 with a Big 12-leading eight honorees in 2009-10, while also setting conference records with 178 academic All-Big 12 selections and 687 selections to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll during the year.

Nebraska's Academic All-America success continues to set the standard for the approximately 1,400 NCAA member institutions. The Husker football team leads all individual sport programs in the nation with 98 all-time Academic All-America awards, while the NU volleyball progam has captured more CoSIDA Academic All-America awards (36) than any other women's team across all sports in the nation. The Husker softball program trails only the volleyball team in its number of CoSIDA Academic All-America awards (27) across all female sports.

Brester, Griffin Capture Prestigious Big 12 Postgraduate Scholarships
Howells, Neb., native Craig Brester claimed NU's Male Student-Athlete-of-the-Year honor, while joining Griffin as a recipient of a Big 12 Postgraduate Scholarship. Brester, a three-time All-American as a member of Coach Mark Manning's Nebraska wrestling team, closed his career with a 109-21 career record at 197 pounds. As a senior, Brester took NCAA runner-up honors for the second straight year. As a junior, Brester earned Outstanding Wrestler honors while claiming the Big 12 197-pound title and powering the Huskers to a share of the conference team title. Brester was a four-time first-team academic All-Big 12 selection and a four-time NWCA All-Academic Team member.

Nebraska Female Student-Athlete of the Year Kelsey Griffin, the first Husker in history to win the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award in any sport, capped a stellar career by earning a $7,500 Dr. Prentice Gautt Big 12 Postgraduate Scholarship. A unanimous first-team All-American and the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year, Griffin powered the Nebraska women's basketball team to the best season in school history in 2009-10. A three-time first-team All-Big 12 selection both on and off the court, Griffin helped the Huskers advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 after becoming the first team in Big 12 history to post a perfect regular season. The Huskers, who tied a Big 12 record by opening the season 30-0, went 16-0 in league play. Griffin finished her career as Nebraska's school record holder with 40 double-doubles, while ranking second in school history in rebounding and third in scoring. She was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft and is enjoying a successful rookie season with the Connecticut Sun.

Cooper Becomes Nebraska's 60th Two-Time CoSIDA Academic All-American
Husker volleyball star Kori Cooper, a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, helped lead Nebraska's strong academic performance. Cooper, a middle blocker from Amarillo, Texas, was also a two-time AVCA honorable-mention All-American on the court. The three-time first-team academic All-Big 12 selection was also a two-time first-team All-Big 12 pick and a two-time first-team AVCA All-Central Region selection. A 2009 team co-captain, Cooper was also selected as one of NU's student-athlete HERO Leadership Award winners and was an eight-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll.

Joining Cooper as a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2009-10 was Nebraska baseball centerfielder D.J. Belfonte. The Kansas City, Mo., native was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after leading NU with a .376 batting average. The three-time first-team academic All-Big 12 pick was also a 2008 Nebraska Student-Athlete HERO Leadership Award recipient. Nicholas Gordon, the 2009 NCAA indoor long jump champion, added a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America award of his own. The junior from Kingston, Jamaica is a three-time All-American and two-time Big 12 champion.

Shay Powell added second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors as a member of Coach John Walker's Nebraska soccer team. Powell, who led the Huskers in scoring as a junior in 2008, was a three-time first-team academic All-Big 12 selection and an eight-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll. The senior from Dallas, Texas, also led the Huskers in scoring as a sophomore in 2007.

Nebraska softball pitcher Robin Mackin contributed second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors of her own, before having her career end abruptly due to injury. Mackin, who was in her first season playing at Nebraska as a junior in 2010, also earned academic All-America honors at Fresno State in 2008.

Kaitlin Arntz claimed CoSIDA Academic All-American by adding third-team honors for Coach Pablo Morales' swimming and diving team. Arntz, an Omaha native, posted a 3.94 GPA as an advertising major while competing in three events (100 Breast, 200 Breast, 200 IM) at the 2010 NCAA Championships. The three-time first-team academic All-Big 12 pick was also a nine-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll. Nebraska multi-event standout Bjorn Barrefors added third-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors for the men's track and field team. The sophomore from Stockholm, Sweden, is a two-time All-American and a 2010 NCAA Elite Eight Award winner. Natalie Willer, a junior from Elkhorn, Neb., capped Nebraska's 2009-10 CoSIDA Academic All-America class by adding third-team honors of her own. The All-American and two-time Big 12 champion as a pole vaulter posted nearly a 3.9 GPA as a biological sciences major.

Nebraska Leads Conference with Record 178 Academic All-Big 12 Selections
Across all sports, Nebraska student-athletes claimed a Big 12-leading 178 academic All-Big 12 selections, including an astounding 152 first-team academic All-Big 12 honorees. Nebraska's academic All-Big 12 total marked an increase of six honorees over last year and 58 since the 2007-08 academic year - the largest cumulative increase in the Big 12 over the past two academic years. Missouri ranked a distant second with 128 academic All-Big 12 honorees this year, while Texas was third with 127. Overall, the Big 12 honored 79 more student-athletes with 3.0 grade-point averages who met league athletic participation requirements in 2009-10 than it did in 2008-09.

Over the past two years, Nebraska has claimed 350 academic All-Big 12 certificates across all sports, while no other Big 12 school has accummulated 250 honors. Nebraska's men's and women's track and field programs headlined the Huskers' success in the classroom, combining for an amazing 62 academic All-Big 12 awards, including 56 first-team selections. In addition to the track and field teams leading the Big 12, the women's basketball, soccer and men's cross country each produced league-leading totals in their respective sports, while football, women's cross country, wrestling and men's tennis teams added the second-highest number of academic All-Big 12 selections in their sports.

NU student-athletes also earned a record-setting 687 spots on the Big 12 Commissioner's Fall and Spring Academic Honor Rolls, 61 more than the 2008-09 academic year and a remarkable 208 more than the 2005-06 campaign, when NU also led the conference. To earn a spot on the honor roll, a student-athlete must earn a 3.0 grade-point average during the semester. During the fall and spring semesters combined, a Big 12-leading 80 Husker student-athletes produced perfect 4.0 semester GPAs.

Huskers Honor 278 at Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet
The University of Nebraska Athletic Department took one special night to honor its own student-athletes on April 18 at the 20th annual Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet. A total of 278 student-athletes were honored during the banquet at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

In addition to Brester and Griffin earning Nebraska's top individual honors as Student-Athletes of the Year, Coach Jay Dirksen's men's and women's cross country teams swept the 16th annual Herman Awards honoring the Husker teams with the top team grade-point averages. It was the women's cross country team's ninth all-time award, while the men added their eighth award including their seventh in the past eight years.

The hard work, dedication and commitment of Nebraska's student-athletes in the classroom resulted in 121 current or former student-athletes earning degrees from August of 2009 through May of 2010.

In fact, the Huskers continued to set the graduation standard among Big 12 Conference with an Exhausted Eligibility Graduation Rate of 94 percent. The Exhausted Eligibility Rate surveys the graduation rate of scholarship student-athletes who entered the University of Nebraska from 1993 through 2002 and exhausted their athletic eligibility at Nebraska.

Innovative Life Skills Program Continues to Set Standard in Community
In the community, Husker student-athletes reached nearly 100,000 people throughout the state of Nebraska in 2009-10. Cornerstone outreach programs included the "Read to Succeed" Book Drive, Special Olympics, Husker Connect, American Education Week and "School is Cool" assemblies.

In the fall of 2009, the Husker Life Seminar in collaboration with the College of Education and Human Sciences was implemented as a requirement for every incoming Husker student-athlete. Nearly 200 student-athletes completed the seminar, which focused on the transition to college life while learning skills to succeed as a college student.

In addition to those programs, individual student-athletes volunteered more than 3,000 hours of service, making countless appearances in classrooms and community groups statewide throughout the year. Each Husker team completed at least two service projects during the year, demonstrating NU's overall commitment to community service.

The 2009-10 season marked the seventh year of the Huskers' innovative Life Skills Award of Excellence Team Competition, which was expanded in 2009-10 to include winners from both men's and women's divisions. Coach Chuck Chmelka's men's gymnastics team captured its first award, while Coach Pablo Morales' women's swimming and diving program won the award for the second straight year. The Life Skills Award honors the teams demonstrating the strongest commitment to all phases of the life skills program, including outreach, education and leadership. The Life Skills Award was presented at the annual Nebraska's Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet in April. Thirty Husker student-athlete leaders were also recognized at the annual HERO Leadership Breakfast, honoring those who have consistently gone above and beyond establishing themselves as excellent leaders and role models. Blake Lawrence of the NU football program was named the Gerard Postgraduate Scholarship Life Skills recipient.

2009-10 Academic Highlights

* 277 All-Time CoSIDA Academic All-Americans across all sports [leads nation]

  • 98 Football Academic All-Americans (leads all sports, all time)
  • 36 Volleyball Academic All-Americans (leads all women's sports, all time)
  • 27 Softball Academic All-Americans (No. 2 among all women's sports, all time)

* 8 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans (3 first-team, 2 second-team, 3 third-team)

  • First-Team: Kori Cooper (Volleyball), D.J. Belfonte (Baseball), Nicholas Gordon (Track & Field)
  • Second-Team: Shay Powell (Soccer), Robin Mackin (Softball)
  • Third-Team: Kaitlin Arntz (Swimming & Diving), Bjorn Barrefors (Track & Field), Natalie Willer (Track & Field)

* Dr. Prentice Gautt Big 12 Conference Postgraduate Scholarship Winners ($7,500 each)

  • Kelsey Griffin (Women's Basketball), Craig Brester (Wrestling)

* 2010 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award Winner - Kelsey Griffin (Women's Basketball)

* Big 12-Leading 178 Academic All-Big 12 Selections Across All Sports (3.0 GPA or above)

* Big 12-Leading 152 First-Team Academic All-Big 12 Picks Across All Sports (3.2 GPA or above)

* Big 12-Leading 687 Student-Athletes Honored on Big 12 Commissioner's Fall and Spring Honor Rolls (3.0 GPA or above) 61 more honorees than 2008-09; 208 more honorees than 2005-06

* 80 Student-Athletes Earned Perfect 4.0 GPAs in either the Fall or Spring Semester (led Big 12)

* 121 Student-Athletes Earned Degrees from August 2009 through May 2010

  • (August 2009--14; December 2009--37; May 2010--70)

* 94 percent - Nebraska's Exhausted Eligibility Graduation Rate (1993-2002) (Leads Big 12)

* Male Student-Athlete of the Year - Craig Brester, Wrestling (Mechanized Systems Management)

* Female Student-Athlete of the Year - Kelsey Griffin, Women's Basketball (Biological Sciences)

* Men's Herman Award Winner - Men's Cross Country Team (3.34 Cumulative GPA in 2009)

* Women's Herman Award Winner - Women's Cross Country Team (3.709 Cumulative GPA in 2009)

* Life Skills Team Award Winners - Men's Gymnastics; Women's Swimming and Diving


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