Sophomore free safety wins NCAA "Elite 88" Award for having the highest GPA among championship participants
Eastern Washington University sophomore free safety Jeff Minnerly, a 2008 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., has been awarded the "Elite 88" Award by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
He received the award for having the highest cumulative grade point average among the participants in Friday's 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. Kickoff is 4 p.m. Pacific time and the game versus Delaware will be televised on ESPN2.
Minnerly was a 4.0 student at Ferris where he excelled in football and basketball, and is currently an accounting major at EWU with a 3.91 grade point average.
"Obviously it's a great honor and a nice surprise," said Minnerly, a former quarterback who has started nine of 14 games this season for the 12-2 Eagles. "It's nice to be rewarded for working hard in school. I'm very excited and very proud."
Founded by the NCAA, the Elite 88 award recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site at each of the NCAA's 88 championships.
All GPAs are based on a straight grading scale to ensure consistency among institutions. All ties are broken by the number of credits completed. Eligible student-athletes are sophomores or above who have participated in their sport for at least two years with their school. They must be an active member of the team, traveling and competing at the championship.
"I like to show other student-athletes that they can do it too," said Minnerly of being a role model for his teammates and other student-athletes. "Just because you are playing a sport doesn't mean you can't be successful in the classroom. If that means being a role model for other student-athletes and helping them toward the same academic success, I'm all for it."
Earlier this season, Minnerly was honored as an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was also chosen for the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII squad as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). He will also be selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the second time in 2010.
A former Eastern quarterback, Minnerly had a team-high eight tackles in his starting debut as a safety versus Nevada on Sept. 2. He then had four tackles, a forced fumble and his first career interception in a 21-14 win over Northern Arizona on Oct 9. His other interceptions came on Oct. 23 versus Sacramento State and Dec. 17 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs against Villanova. He has 48 tackles, three interceptions and four passes broken up for the year.