Jan. 13, 2006

On the heels of the University of Notre Dame’s first Bowl Championship Series football appearance since the 2000 regular season (in the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl), Irish student-athletes – and, in particular, the Irish football squad – continue to excel at the highest level both on the playing field and in the classroom.

Here are the latest achievements by Notre Dame student-athletes:

* Notre Dame stands first in the final set of fall sports standings released in the 2005-06 United States Sports Academy Division I Directors’ Cup all-sports competition sponsored by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (formerly known as Sears Directors’ Cup).

Fall NCAA competition earned the Irish 412 points based on their third-place finish in men’s cross country (85 points), their seventh-place finish in women’s cross country (69 points), their quarterfinal appearance in women’s soccer (73), their third-round appearance in men’s soccer (64), their NCAA regional semifinal appearance in volleyball (64) and their final 11th-place standing in football (57 points, based on the final USA Today poll after the bowl games).

Sports Illustrated on Campus ranked Notre Dame’s overall athletic program number one in the country in its weekly updates throughout the fall of 2005.

* Sixteen of 20 athletics programs at the University of Notre Dame compiled graduation rates of 100 percent, and none were below 90 percent, according to the new Graduation Success Rate measurement developed by the NCAA and announced in December. NCAA figures showed that, among Notre Dame’s men’s sports, baseball, cross country/track, fencing, ice hockey, soccer, swimming and tennis achieved 100 percent GSR scores. Football scored 96 percent, golf was 92 percent and basketball was 90 percent (lacrosse is not included because the program did not offer grants in aid during the years covered in the survey).

The Irish women’s programs with a GSR of 100 percent were basketball, cross country/track, fencing, golf, lacrosse, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Soccer scored a 94 percent GSR.

* Among the 119 NCAA Division I-A institutions, Notre Dame had the highest percentage of its sports with 100 percent GSR scores, with an .800 figure (16 of 20). In football, Notre Dame achieved a 96 GSR rating, with only the United States Naval Academy (at 98) ranking higher among the Division I-A schools. And, when the final USA Today football poll of coaches is re-ranked by football GSR score, Notre Dame (11th in the actual poll) finishes first in that tabulation at 96, just ahead of Clemson at 94 (21st in actual poll).

* While the Irish football team has returned to the ranks of the nation’s elite programs under first-year coach Charlie Weis (the Eddie Robinson national coach-of-the-year award winner), and led by Associated Press All-Americans Jeff Samardzija (a consensus All-America selection) at wide receiver, Brady Quinn at quarterback and Tom Zbikowski at safety, the Notre Dame football team achieved unprecedented results in the classroom during the 2005 fall semester. The Irish football players combined for a 3.04 team grade-point average during the ’05 fall semester, marking the highest semester average ever achieved by the football squad. That figure includes 56 of 97 players achieving a 3.0 average or higher.