Based on the NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of football student-athletes who enrolled in 2004, the award is given annually to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision team with the highest GSR, at least 15 students in the GSR cohort and a Federal Graduation Rate of 75 percent or better. Boise State and Miami (Ohio) shared this year's Academic Achievement Award with a 100 percent graduation rate, while Northern Illinois was one of 44 schools named to the honorable mention list.
Among the 44 honorable mention teams, which includes institutions who graduated 75 percent or more of their football student-athletes, NIU was one of 15 schools at the top of the list with a GSR of 90 percent or higher. Those 15 teams are Air Force, Army, Boston College, Central Florida, Duke, Florida, Iowa, Miami (Fla.), Navy, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rice and Stanford.
Including Miami, NIU was one of four Mid-American Conference teams recognized in 2011 as Ohio and Bowling Green were also among the AFCA's honorable mention squads.
This year's award marks the fourth time the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate (GSR) formula has been used to select the winner of the AFCA Academic Achievement Award. From 1981 to 2007, the award was presented based on a formula used by the College Football Association and AFCA.