Junior Baker Steinkuhler was one of 155 Huskers to graduate in 2011-12.
Photo by BreAnna Haessler/NU Media Relations

Huge Class of Grads Highlights 2011-12 Academic Year

By NU Athletic Communications

Huskers Increase Nation-Leading CoSIDA Academic All-America Total to 299
University of Nebraska student-athletes produced another outstanding year in 2011-12, continuing NU's tradition of academic success. A record total of 155 student-athletes earned their bachelor's degrees from Nebraska from August of 2011 through May of 2012, while the Huskers added eight more CoSIDA Academic All-Americans to their nation-leading total of 299 across all teams and all sports.

A record class of 82 Husker student-athlete graduates earned degrees in May of 2012, while 57 Huskers picked up their diplomas in December of 2011. Those big classes were added to the 16 student-athletes who graduated in August of 2011 to make up the largest class of student-athlete graduates in a single season from the University of Nebraska.

Nebraska's eight CoSIDA Academic All-Americans led the Big Ten Conference and ranked among the highest totals in the nation across all divisions. The Huskers expanded their lead over national No. 2 Notre Dame in the all-time CoSIDA Academic All-America standings to 76. While Nebraska is on the brink of 300 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, Notre Dame has produced 223 since the program began in 1952. No other school in the nation has yet to approach 200. NU leads the nation in CoSIDA Academic All-Americans since 2000 with 109, extending its nation-leading streak to 41 consecutive years with at least one academic All-American.

Nebraska's CoSIDA Academic All-America success continues to set the standard for the approximately 1,400 member institutions. The Husker football team leads all individual sport programs in the nation with 102 all-time CoSIDA Academic All-America awards, including 2011 first-team honorees Austin Cassidy and Rex Burkhead and second-team selection Sean Fisher. Penn State football ranks second among all sports with 60. Cassidy earned first-team honors for the second straight season, while Burkhead and Fisher claimed their first spots on the academic All-America team.

The Nebraska men's track and field program added three academic All-Americans of its own, including three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American Bjorn Barrefors, who became the 13th Husker student-athlete to claim honors on three occasions. Barrefors earned first-team accolades for the second straight season and was joined by teammate Nate Polacek on the first team in 2012. Brett Grieb added third-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors. The 32 combined academic All-America honors for the men's and women's track and field program since 2002 lead the nation.

The Nebraska wrestling team added two CoSIDA Academic All-America awards in 2012, led by first-teamer Tucker Lane. He was joined by second-team CoSIDA Academic All-American Josh Ihnen, who earned the first award of his career.

In addition to continuing its CoSIDA Academic All-America tradition, Nebraska student-athletes continued to earn prestigious national postgraduate scholarships. Lane, a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, earned a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship worth $7,500.

Three Huskers Push Football Program's Academic All-America Total Past 100
Senior safety Austin Cassidy became the 24th two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American in the illustrious history of Nebraska football when he claimed first-team honors for the second straight season in 2011. Cassidy, who started all 13 games for the Huskers on the field, became just the 13th Husker football player to win two first-team academic All-America awards and the first since Kyle Vanden Bosch in 1999 and 2000. The Lincoln, Neb., native shined on the field as a graduate student after earning his bachelor's degree in psychology in May of 2011. He ranked fourth on the team with 70 tackles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown at Minnesota.

Junior I-back Rex Burkhead added first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors after an outstanding season on and off the field. The native of Plano, Texas, rolled to 1,357 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. The Doak Walker Award semifinalist produced the seventh-highest rushing total in school history and the most rushing yards by a Husker back since 1997. A history major, Burkhead was also chosen as one of Uplifting Athletes champions of 2011-12 for helping to put a national focus on helping children with rare diseases.

Junior linebacker Sean Fisher contributed second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors to the Husker program after appearing in 10 games and notching 24 tackles. The pre-medicine/business administration major from Omaha, Neb., added three tackles for loss for the Blackshirts in 2011. Fisher, Burkhead and Cassidy were among 27 football student-athletes to earn spots on Nebraska's first academic All-Big Ten squad in 2011.

The Husker football program supplied 47 of the record 155 Nebraska student-athlete graduates in 2011-12.

Husker Track Program Produces More Outstanding Academic Performances
Track and field All-Americans Tyler Hitchler and Ashley Miller captured Nebraska's top individual academic honors when they were named the 2012 Male and Female Student-Athletes of the Year. It marked the second consecutive season that a pair of track and field student-athletes earned NU's top academic honors, joining Nicholas Gordon and Natalie Willer in 2011.

Miller, who captured second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 2011, was a three-time All-American on the track, including first-team in the indoor distance medley relay and second-team in the outdoor 1,500 meters in 2012. Miller, who was a co-captain on both the NU women's cross country and track and field teams, was chosen as Nebraska's female recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor. The Tipton, Iowa, native was also the women's track and field team's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.

Hitchler, a first-team All-American in the discus in 2012, was a three-time All-American for the Huskers. The Fremont, Neb., native earned second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 2011. He was also Nebraska's male recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Hitchler is also a two-time Nebraska Student-Athlete HERO Leadership Award winner and a four-time member of the Nebraska Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. A member of Mortar Board, Hitchler has also been accepted into medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Bjorn Barrefors, a senior from Stockholm, Sweden, became the 13th three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American across all sports in Husker history by claiming first-team accolades in 2012. Nate Polacek, a senior from Kearney, Neb., joined Barrefors on the first team as a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American. Junior Brett Grieb (York, Neb.) contributed a third-team academic All-America award to help give the NU men's and women's track and field program a combined 10 CoSIDA Academic All-America honors over the past two seasons.

The men's and women's track and field and cross country programs contributed 36 graduates during the academic year, including all four of Nebraska's Student-Athletes of the Year from 2011 and 2012, and five former CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Hitchler, Miller, Willer, Gordan and Adam Dailey.

Nebraska Opens Big Ten Era with 190 Academic All-Conference Selections
Across all sports, Nebraska student-athletes claimed 190 academic All-Big Ten selections - just two shy of last year's school-record 192 conference academic awards as members of the Big 12.

The Nebraska baseball (17), women's tennis (7), bowling (4) and women's rifle teams (4) all led the conference in academic All-Big Ten selections in 2011-12. The Husker football (27), softball (10) and men's golf teams (6) all finished second among Big Ten schools in their respective sports in academic all-conference picks.

Over the past four years, Nebraska has amassed nearly 740 academic all-conference certificates across all sports.

Husker student-athletes also earned 667 spots on the first Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll during the fall or spring semesters of 2011-12. 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 or spring semesters, 92 Husker student-athletes produced perfect 4.0 semester GPAs.

A total of 65 Husker student-athletes captured Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholar awards. Those student-athletes produced 3.7 or better grade-point averages during the fall and spring semesters of 2011-12, while also earning letters in their respective sports.

More Than 300 Huskers Honored at Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet
The University of Nebraska Athletic Department took one special night to honor its own student-athletes at the 22nd annual Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet. A total of 303 honor medallions were presented to Husker student-athletes at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

In addition to Tyler Hitchler and Ashley Miller earning Nebraska's top individual honors as Student-Athletes of the Year, Coach Bill Spangler's men's golf team (3.509 GPA) and Coach Scott Jacobson's women's tennis team (3.644 GPA) claimed the 18th annual Herman Awards. The awards are presented to the Husker teams with the top team grade-point averages. It marked the fourth award for the women's tennis program in the past eight years, while the men's golf team claimed its third award in the history of the program, including the second straight honor.

Overall, the more than 600 Nebraska student-athletes amassed a combined 3.145 GPA in 2011.

The hard work, dedication and commitment of Nebraska's student-athletes in the classroom resulted in 155 current or former student-athletes earning their bachelor's degrees from August of 2011 through May of 2012.

Nebraska Life Skills Continues Innovative Approach to Community Outreach
In the community, Husker student-athletes from all sports combined to complete nearly 300 individual outreach requests and over 50 team outreach events impacting several thousand people in and around Lincoln. Under the leadership of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, thousands of shoes were donated by student-athletes and athletic department staff for the "Souls4Soles" program, which provided shoes to those in need world-wide. Student-athletes served as motivational speakers for "Middle School Matters," American Education Week and "School is Cool" assemblies to promote the importance of education and responsible choices. Nearly 50 Huskers participated in weekly mentoring programs to serve as role-models to Lincoln Public Schools students.

In the fall of 2011, the Husker Life Seminar in collaboration with the College of Education and Human Sciences entered its third year 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 college students.

The Life Skills staff continues to coordinate a number of major life skills events focusing on personal and career development. Student-athletes attended annual events, including the Student-Athlete Career Fair, Involvement Fair, Networking Night, Career Clinics and Tom Osborne Senior Session. All events are aimed at promoting total personal development and preparation for life after sports.

The 2011-12 season marked the ninth year of the Huskers' innovative Life Skills Award of Excellence Team Competition, which includes winners from both men's and women's divisions. Coach Bo Pelini's Nebraska football team captured the award on the men's side, while Coach Pablo Morales' swimming and diving team claimed the honor on the women's side.

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 award was presented at the annual Nebraska 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. Ashley Guile from the Husker softball team also received the prestigious Heart and Soul Award, which recognizes exemplary community service and leadership.


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