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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.– A pair of Penn State student-athletes -- women’s swimmer Casey Francis (East Meadow, N.Y.) and wrestler Geno Morelli (DuBois, Pa.) -- have been awarded 2017 Big Ten Conference Post-Graduate Scholarships.
Francis, a three-time Collegiate Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All-American, graduated in May with a degree in kinesiology. Additional academic accolades include Big Ten Distinguished Scholar recognition and multiple selections to the Big Ten All-Academic team. Francis was a team captain this past season, a member of the 2016 Homecoming Court and received the team’s “1855 Award,” which is presented to the student-athletes’ whose improvement, transformation and personal growth mirrors that of Penn State since its founding.
In the pool, Francis qualified for and participated in the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships three times as well as the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. She held the school’s mile record for over a year and currently holds the McCoy Natatorium record in the event. Last week, Francis represented Penn State at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis.
Morelli, who transferred to Penn State after two years at Pitt, made the most of his two years in Happy Valley. He was a two-time first-team NWCA Academic All-American and two-time first team Academic All-Big Ten selection as a Nittany Lion. A 2016 NCAA qualifier, Morelli graduated with a degree in energy business and finance. He helped Penn State earn two NCAA Championships and was ranked as high as No. 10 nationally in his respective weight class this year.
Morelli was 10-1 this past season, including three pins, and ended his collegiate career with a 66-37 career record and eight pins. Morelli was awarded the prestigious Wayne Duke Post-Graduate Award from the Big Ten in March, becoming the third Penn State wrestler to win the Duke honor since its inception in 2008.
The Big Ten Conference selected two students competing in intercollegiate athletics from each of the 14 Big Ten institutions who plan to continue their education at a graduate degree program were each awarded a $7,500 scholarship, based on primarily academic achievements. Students must have maintained at least a 3.2 grade-point-average, demonstrated leadership qualities, served as an excellent role model and intended to continue their academic work beyond their baccalaureate degree at a graduate degree program.
This year’s recipients span 17 different sports and will continue their education in a variety of different disciplines, including aerospace engineering, agricultural economics, architectural studies, art history, biomedical engineering, business, chemical engineering, criminal justice, economics, environmental sciences, finance, history, kinesiology, neuroscience, operations management, physiology, public relations, psychology and statistics. All of this year’s recipients have been named Academic All-Conference during their careers.
The scholarship will be used to pay expenses of the student’s postgraduate education to include such related activities as research and teaching, as well as other expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, required course-related supplies and books. In order to retain the scholarship, the recipient must be accepted into a full-time graduate degree program within three years from the fall semester after selection.
The Big Ten Post-Graduate Scholarships are just the latest in a long list of academic laurels hauled in by Penn State student-athletes this year:
- A school record 114 Penn State student-athletes graduated in May, breaking the mark of 109, set in 2013 and matched in 2016. A total of 142 Nittany Lion students have earned their degrees thus far in 2016-17, with additional students on schedule to graduate in August.
- The NCAA reported that 18 Penn State teams earned perfect Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores of 1,000 in 2015-16, up from 13 in last year's report and 10 squads in 2013-14, representing a 44 percent improvement over the past two years. A total of 22 squads (out of 29) equaled or surpassed their yearly APR score from 2014-15 and 18 teams equaled or surpassed their multi-year (four-year) APR score from the 2016 report.
- Three Penn State teams recently received an NCAA Public Recognition Award for earning high scores in the most recent Academic Progress Rate (APR) compilation, including two of the Nittany Lions' most recent NCAA Championship squads. The three teams -- women's tennis, women's volleyball and wrestling -- earned multi-year APR scores in the top 10 percent nationally for their respective sport through the 2015-16 academic year (data from 2012-13 through 2015-16).
- The Nittany Lion wrestling team was among six squads nationwide to win an NCAA team championship and a Public Recognition Award in 2015-16.
- In November 2016, the NCAA released its annual national graduation rates study, which revealed that Penn State student-athletes earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent compared to the 84 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2006-07 through the 2009-10 academic year. The 89 percent graduation figure was just one point off Penn State's 90 percent all-time graduation record mark and one point higher than last year's figure.
- The 2016 NCAA data revealed student-athletes from seven Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent, an increase of two from last year's five teams. The seven Nittany Lion squads posting perfect graduation scores were: men's basketball, field hockey, women's golf, women's gymnastics, men's soccer, softball and women's tennis.
- During the 2016 fall semester, a school record 24 teams posted a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. A total of 498 student-athletes earned at least a 3.0 GPA, with 223 garnering a GPA of 3.50 or higher to earn Dean's List recognition.
- Penn State has had 195 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans all-time, which ranks fifth among all NCAA institutions and fourth among Division I schools.