Matt Besler and the MLS All-Stars will face Manchester United on July 27.

Three Notre Dame Student-Athletes Earn NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships

Feb. 25, 2009

Feb. 25, 2009

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Three University of Notre Dame student-athletes, Matt Besler (men’s soccer), Brittany Bock (women’s soccer) and Patrick Smyth (cross country), have been awarded a postgraduate scholarship through the NCAA. A total of 29 student-athletes nationally who competed in a fall sports, which included cross country, football, soccer and water polo, received the $7,500 scholarship.

The NCAA awards up to 174 postgraduate scholarships, 87 for men and 87 for women, annually. The scholarships are awarded to student-athletes who excel academically and athletically and who are in their final year of intercollegiate athletics competition. The one-time grants of $7,500 each are awarded for fall sports, winter sports and spring sports. Each sports season (fall, winter and spring), there are 29 scholarships available for men and 29 scholarships available for women. The scholarships are one-time, non-renewable grants.

The three NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipients are the most from Notre Dame for a single sports season. Notre Dame boasts a total of 47 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipients since 1966. This marks the fourth straight year that a Fighting Irish student-athlete has garnered an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and Notre Dame has had eight honorees in the past three years alone. With the three fall recipients, Notre Dame already has matched its most NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships for a single academic year. The Fighting Irish also had three in 1968-69, 1974-75 and 2006-07.

Besler (Overland Park, Kan.) is the first Notre Dame men’s soccer player to garner a postgraduate scholarship through the NCAA. The central defender was named the 2008 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar Athlete of the Year. In addition, he earned first-team All-America honors from the NSCAA and garnered first-team Academic All-America accolades from ESPN the Magazine and the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). He is the first Notre Dame men’s soccer player to be named a first-team All-American and a first-team Academic All-American.

The two-time team captain played every minute during the 2008 season and helped the Irish post seven shutouts along with tallying three points on a goal and an assist. Notre Dame registered a 12-7-2 record in 2008 and earned the No. 12 seed in the NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish notched a 7-2-2 league mark and captured their second straight BIG EAST regular-season title.

In January, Besler was selected eighth overall in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft by his home state Kansas City Wizards. That marked the highest a Notre Dame player had ever been taken in the MLS draft.

In the classroom, Besler finished with a 3.518 cumulative grade-point average and graduated in December with a degree in pre-professional studies and psychology from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. Besler was named to the dean’s list in the fall of 2008 after posting a 3.846 semester GPA.

For his career, Besler played in 90 games, including 73 starts. He started every match over his final three seasons and only missed one game during his collegiate career. Besler totaled 17 points on five goals and seven assists in an Irish uniform. He helped Notre Dame gain four straight berths to the NCAA Championship, including the program’s first two trips to the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2007. The Kansas product also earned his third straight all-conference honor in 2008 as he was named to the all-BIG EAST first team.


Brittany Bock



Bock (Naperville, Ill.), who plays at both the midfield and forward positions, was a co-captain for the Irish during her senior campaign in 2008. She helped the squad post an undefeated regular season, win the BIG EAST tournament and make a run to the national title game. Bock played in 22 games, while making 17 starts. She ranked third on the team in scoring with 21 points (6G-9A).

For her efforts, she garnered second-team All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST honors, as well as being a semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy. She also earned a spot on the Lowe’s Senior CLASS All-America Team. Bock became the 13th Irish player to earn multiple All-America honors in her career, coupling this year’s second-team citation with last year’s first-team award.

Bock also is a two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American (including a first-team honoree this year) while compiling a 3.365 cumulative GPA as a marketing major in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. She is just the 12th student-athlete in Notre Dame athletics history (and the second Irish women’s soccer player) to garner All-America and Academic All-America honors in the same year on two occasions.

Bock garnered dean’s list honors in the spring 2008 term (3.70 GPA) and had an impressive 3.834 GPA this past summer. She was awarded $2,000 towards graduate studies as an institutional winner of the 2008-09 BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete award. Bock also is a member of Notre Dame’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The 2007 BIG EAST Co-Offensive Player of the Year, Bock ranks 12th in school history with 46 goals and 121 points in her career. She was part of a senior class that posted a 92-10-3 mark in four years with the Irish. Bock and the rest of the class of 2009 appeared in three NCAA College Cups, including two trips to the national title game. On January 16, Bock was the first Notre Dame player to come off the board in the inaugural Women’s Professional Soccer Draft, going fifth overall to the Los Angeles Sol.

Bock is the fourth Notre Dame women’s soccer player to earn an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, joining Jen Renola (1997), Jenny Streiffer (2000) and Vanessa Pruzinsky (2004) as recipients. She is the 20th student-athlete in Notre Dame history to earn an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship while also being named both an All-American and Academic All-American, and, along with Renola and Streiffer, the third from the women’s soccer team to do so. She also joins Renola, Bob Arnzen (basketball) and Tom Gatewood (football) to become just the fourth student-athlete of the 20 to earn All-America and Academic All-America honors in multiple years.


Patrick Smyth



Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah) is a five-time All-American. He is the first Fighting Irish cross country runner to be selected for the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

He has been one of Notre Dame’s standout distance runners for the past four years. He finished 10th at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships to earn his third cross country All-America honor. He finished 36th in 2006 and 15th in 2007, garnering All-America recognition with both performances.

Smyth was named the Great Lakes Region Male Athlete of the Year in 2007 and 2008, after winning the regional cross country race in consecutive years. Smyth also is a four-time all-BIG EAST selection, finishing in the top-10 of the conference race during each of his four years with the Irish.

Smyth also has earned two track All-America honors in 2007 and 2008 in the outdoor 5,000 meters.

The Salt Lake City, Utah native has a 3.491 grade-point average and will graduate in May with a degree in history. He was named to the dean’s list in 2008.

To qualify for an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, a student-athlete must have an overall grade-point average of 3.200 (on a 4.000 scale) or its equivalent, and must have performed with distinction as a member of the varsity team in the sport in which the student-athlete was nominated. The student-athlete must have behaved, both on and off the field, in a manner that has brought credit to the student-athlete, the institution and intercollegiate athletics. The student-athlete also must intend to continue academic work beyond the baccalaureate degree as a full-time or part-time graduate student.

Nomination information is sent to faculty athletics representatives for fall sports in September, for winter sports in January, and for spring sports in March. Selections are made three times each academic year. The nomination must be submitted during the appropriate seasonal category for the sport using the online scholarship submission system. Candidates are screened by seven regional selection committees and the award recipients are selected by the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Committee.

The NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship was created in 1964 to promote and encourage postgraduate education by rewarding the Association’s most accomplished student-athletes through their participation in NCAA championship and/or emerging sports. Athletics and academic achievements, as well as campus involvement, community service, volunteer activities and demonstrated leadership, are evaluated. An equitable approach is employed in reviewing each applicant’s nomination form to provide opportunity to all student-athlete nominees to receive the postgraduate award, regardless of sport, division, gender or race. In maintaining the highest broad-based standards in the selection process, the program aims to reward those individuals whose dedication and effort are reflective of those characteristics necessary to succeed and thrive through postgraduate study in an accredited graduate degree program.