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Sun Devils score impressive number of Academic All-Americans

Arizona State softball player hitting the ball
October 16, 2014

For Sun Devil Athletics, the most visible measure of success typically comes from the scoreboard. But behind the scenes, when it comes to academics, ASU’s athletes are putting up some very impressive numbers as well.

Since 2000, ASU has produced 70 Academic All-Americans – a number surpassed by just six schools in the country. In the Pac-12 alone, only Stanford, with 86 Academic All-Americans, has produced more. In the more than 60 years that Academic All-American awards have been given out, ASU has the 16th-most in the nation and ranks third in the Pac-12, behind Stanford and UCLA.

Academic All-Americans are selected from a national pool of scholar athletes by the College Sports Information Directors of America. An athlete must have at least a 3.2 grade point average, depending on the sport, and be a significant on-field contributor to the team.

Jean Boyd, a defensive back for the Sun Devils in the early 1990s, is now the senior associate athletic director for ASU’s Student Athlete Development. He points to the many changes in the university as a whole that have impacted the academic success of ASU’s student-athletes.

“Look at what has happened at ASU in the last 15 years,” says Boyd. “We’ve seen Dr. Crow’s arrival as president, ASU’s rapid ascent as a highly regarded academic institution, the continued evolution of Barrett, the Honors College, and the effort to increase the number of merit scholars. It all really ties in together.”

Boyd says the change in campus atmosphere has helped open up recruiting circles so that some of the highest achieving athletes in all sports are considering Arizona State University in greater numbers. Barrett is a key draw for many of the athletes, with nearly 40 Sun Devil student-athletes enrolled in the honors program.

“Our coaches, especially the ones who have been here for a longer period of time, would say we are able to get in the conversation with a different profile of athlete than we were 20 years ago,” Boyd says. “The status of ASU has moved from ‘good school with a social life’ to ‘great academic institution.’”

Kevin McGraw, a faculty member in the School of Life Sciences, serves as chairman of the Sun Devil Athletics Board, a group of faculty members and key university administrators focused on keeping strong connections between academics and faculty and Sun Devil Athletics. In his four years with the board, he has seen firsthand efforts to help students reach athletic and academic success.

“I’ve been most impressed with how ASU personalizes the student-athlete support and enhances their academic experience in a diversity of majors,” McGraw says. “Recruiting academically strong kids is a priority, and once they arrive on campus they're off and running."

Across the board, ASU’s academic numbers are continuing to rise according to Boyd. This past spring, he says Sun Devil Athletics saw the highest overall GPA for its students for a single semester – a 3.05 for 525 students in the program. The school also hit record marks for the Academic Progress Rate, a measurement by the NCAA showing the progress of every athlete in the program toward graduation.

Boyd says his bottom line in all of the academic support efforts is simple: to help the students succeed in all that they do.

“Our goal is that every individual student-athlete would maximize their human potential as they compete for championships,” he says. “We want to help them become a champion for life.”

For a complete list of ASU Academic All-Americans visit: