Aug. 20, 2014 TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - As classes begin Wednesday for The University of Alabama's new academic year, the Crimson Tide Athletics Department is coming off one of its finest years in school history in terms of academic success. The 2013-14 school year saw the Tide attain extraordinary heights at both the individual and team level as well as an overall department.
Alabama's more than 550 student-athletes averaged over a 3.2 grade point average, including 46 that maintain a career GPA of 4.0. Overall seven teams posted cumulative GPAs above 3.5 for the year, marking the fourth year in a row that at least five teams have met that standard, while 15 of 17 programs earned GPAs over 3.0 for the academic year.
More than 100 student-athletes earned their degrees during the 2013-14 academic year. The latest numbers find that Alabama graduates 69 percent of its student-athletes while the general student population graduates at a rate of 67 percent.
There were a nation's-best 28 graduates on Alabama football's roster when it took the field for the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl, while the Tide set the BCS National Championship Game record in 2011 with 22 graduates. All together, the Crimson Tide's last three national football championship teams (2009, 2011 and 2012) featured 60 players who had earned their degrees before the BCS Championship Game even got underway. Since the 2009 season, Alabama football players have earned 117 degrees (undergrad and graduate) while still suiting up for the Crimson Tide on Saturdays.
The Alabama men's track & field squad was named the 2014 Indoor Scholar Team of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), while the women's swimming and diving team was honored by the College Swimming Coaches Association for posting the nation's highest team GPA for the fall semester.
Gymnastics All-American and NCAA Champion Kim Jacob led the way for the Crimson Tide in 2013-14, both athletically and academically. In the gym, the Raleigh, N.C., native earned the 2014 Honda Cup, which goes to the nation's top female collegiate athlete. In the classroom, she was named the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year, an honor that spans all sports and genders. Alabama is now the only school in the history of the Academic All-America of the Year to win the honor three years in a row (Brooke Pancake, 2012; Barrett Jones, 2013; and Jacob 2014). An 11-time All-American and the 2014 NCAA All-Around Champion, she led Alabama to four top-four national finishes, including the 2011 and 2012 NCAA titles. The 2013 NCAA Elite 89 Award winner also led Alabama to the 2009 and 2014 SEC Championships while pursuing a degree in exercise science.
Jacob was also one of a school-record seven student-athletes to win an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in 2014, joining Sarah DeMeo (gymnastics), Diandra Milliner (gymnastics), Daniil Proskura (men's tennis), Mary Anne Daines (women's tennis), Cory Whitsett (men's golf) and Stephanie Meadow (women's golf). The Tide's 2014 tally led the nation and gives UA a four-year total of 20 NCAA Postgraduates Scholarships, which leads the SEC and is just one behind Stanford's total for the NCAA Division I lead.
Alabama also led the nation in Capital One Academic All-American honors in 2013-14, tallying a school-record 13 honors overall, making the Crimson Tide the only NCAA Division I school to post double-digit honorees, putting Alabama five better than its closest competition. The Crimson Tide put a record six on the at-large team - Jacob, Meadow, Daines, Whitsett, Bobby Wyatt (men's golf) and Lauren Beers (gymnastics); four on the softball team - Molly Fichtner, Kaila Hunt, Haylie McCleney and Ryan Iamurri; two on the track and field/cross country list - Alexis Paine and Nia Barnes; and one on the women's soccer team - Kendall Khanna.
With its record number of Academic All-Americans in 2013-14, Alabama made a jump in the national rankings. The Tide moved from 13th all-time in NCAA Division I to tied for seventh with 127. Alabama also moved up a place when it comes to honors since 2000 with 91, one behind third-place Penn State.
Meadow, Beers and junior tennis player Emily Zabor all earned the NCAA Elite 89 Award in 2014. The Elite 89 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA's 89 championships. The Crimson Tide is now tied with Stanford for the national lead in NCAA Elite 89 Awards with 13 over the five year history of the award. No other school in the country has more than eight. Alabama gymnastics is the only program in the NCAA to go a perfect 5-for-5 when it comes to the Elite 89 Award.
Barrett Jones, who closed out his tenure at the Capstone by leading Alabama to the 2012 BCS National Football Championship, capped his stellar career by earning the prestigious NCAA Top X award in January 2014. The award is given annually to the top 10 senior student-athletes among all NCAA sports, regardless of division or gender, for their accomplishments in athletics, academics and in the community. He is the 12th Alabama student-athlete and the ninth over the last dozen years to earn the honor, which is considered the highest individual honor the NCAA bestows on a student-athlete.
On a conference level, Whitsett led the way for the Crimson Tide and the SEC after being named the male 2013-14 Southeastern Conference H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year, earning a $15,000 postgraduate scholarship in the process. Whitsett earned the singular academic honor after leading the Crimson Tide to its second consecutive NCAA Championship. He is the ninth Alabama student-athlete to earn the award since gymnast Julie Estin brought home the first honor in 1987.
Whitsett was also one of five Alabama student-athletes named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for their respective sports, giving Alabama the most honors of any school in the league. He was joined by Jacob (gymnastics), Proskura (men's tennis), Meadow (women's golf) and Daines (women's tennis). Over the past four years, Alabama student-athletes have earned this award 19 times, including going four-for-four in gymnastics, women's golf and women's tennis.
Alabama was also prolific when it came to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, earning the accolade 282 times during the 2013-14 academic year. The Crimson Tide had 49, 48 and 99 student-athletes named to the SEC Fall, Winter and Spring Academic Honor Rolls and 86 named to the First-Year Academic Honor Roll.