Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Football Team Sets Record GPA

By Brian Rosenthal

Dennis Leblanc has crunched the numbers like any good veteran academic director would, and he’s determined that if Adrian Martinez sticks on his current path, the Nebraska quarterback could become a nominee for Academic All-America honors this fall as a sophomore.

If that holds true, and Martinez is honored, he would be the first Nebraska quarterback in more than 20 years to become an Academic All-American.

The last one?

That would be Scott Frost, now the Nebraska head coach.

Frost earned second-team honors in 1997, so Leblanc, the Nebraska Senior Associate Athletic Director of Academics, likes to kid Martinez that he could top his coach by making first team.

Either way, it’s of no coincidence to Leblanc that the Nebraska football team’s latest academic achievement has come with Frost at the helm.

Entering the spring semester, the Huskers’ 3.001 team cumulative GPA is the highest Nebraska football team GPA since the school began tracking it in 1992-93. In addition, the 3.008 team GPA from the fall is the football program’s highest in a fall semester since 1989-90.

“I was ecstatic to see our team GPA come out where it was,” said Frost, beginning his second season as Nebraska’s head coach. “It shows we have a lot of people doing things the right way. I’m obviously grateful to Dennis and Keith Zimmer in Life Skills and all the academic support people that are helping our team.”

Leblanc deflected that praise directly back to Frost.

“In tracking these grade point averages for 30 years, it’s pretty remarkable when you look at it,” Leblanc said. “When people talk about coach Frost and how he’s changed the culture, it’s just amazing when you look at what he’s done. I knew it was going to improve a lot (with academics), but I didn’t know it would be that significant.”

For example, 60 percent of football student-athletes had a 3.0 or better GPA in the fall 2018 semester. That was an increase of 14 percent compared to the fall 2017 semester.

Also, at the completion of the fall 2018 semester, 54 percent of football student-athletes had a 3.0 or higher GPA. That compares to the 44 percent who had a 3.0 GPA following the fall 2017 semester.

Leblanc credited Frost and his assistants for holding players accountable, noting how the coaches won’t accept excuses from the football student-athletes.

“They found out real quickly a new sheriff was in town,” Leblanc said, “and that we need to do what he says.”

Leblanc said Frost’s assistants don’t want to let down their head coach, so they follow through with the student-athletes, who don’t want to disappoint the assistants, or Frost, for that matter.

None of this comes as a surprise to Martinez.

“Coach Frost and the rest of the coaches, academics matters to them, and it matters to us,” Martinez said. “It’s definitely something I’m proud to talk about and proud to be a part of.”

Martinez, who also earned the Outstanding Male Newcomer award at Night at the Lied ceremonies on Sunday (above), credited his teammates for working hard in the classroom, and he lauded Nebraska’s academic support system, including his academic adviser, Caleb Hawley, and Leblanc.

“College isn’t necessarily easy,” Martinez said. “It’s going to be tough, but here at Nebraska, you have all the resources you need, not only to be successful on the field, but off of it. If you need tutors, if you need some sort of help, you know it’s available.”

Martinez said he knew about Nebraska’s strong academic support system for its student-athletes and the Athletic Department’s strong history of academic success when he first arrived on campus as a true freshman.

“But,” he said, “I never really understood the full extent until I got involved.”

Martinez then saw firsthand Nebraska’s unyielding commitment to assisting its student-athletes in their college education, from offering strong academic counseling and tutorial support to providing mentoring and educational assessments.

In addition to the football team's aforementioned academic accomplishments, more than 23 percent of football student-athletes achieved a 3.5 or higher GPA in the fall semester, and better than 20 percent carried a 3.5 or higher GPA following the fall 2018 semester.

“It just shows that guys are taking the title of ‘student-athlete’ seriously,” Frost said. “It’s easy to want to go to a school like this and just play football, but we have a lot of guys who are excelling not only on the field, but in the classroom.”

Among projected 2019 football senior student-athletes, 13 of the 22 are on track to graduate by August and play the 2019 season as graduate students. Six more seniors are scheduled to graduate in December.

“Kids want to get degrees and do well both on and off the field,” Frost said. “Parents especially want their kids to do well, not just on the field, but in the classroom and in life. Our team’s an example of that right now.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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