The Walter Byers Scholar (also known as Walter Byers Scholarship, and Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship) program is a scholarship program that recognizes the top male and female student-athlete in NCAA sports and that is awarded annually by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It is considered[by whom?] to be the NCAA's highest academic award. The NCAA initiated the Walter Byers Scholarship program in 1988 in recognition of the service of Walter Byers. The award is a postgraduate scholarship program designed to encourage excellence in academic performance by student-athletes. The recipients each year are the one male and one female student-athlete who has combined the best elements of mind and body to achieve national distinction for his or her achievements, and who promises to be a future leader in his or her chosen field of career service. Winners receive scholarships for postgraduate study.
As of 2011[update], the stipend for each Byers Scholarship was $24,000 for an academic year. The scholarship amount is adjusted for the cost of living. The grant may be renewed for a second year based on academic progress. Financial need is not a factor in the granting of these scholarships. United States citizenship is not required to satisfy eligibility requirements. Awards from other sources will not disqualify an applicant, except that an awardee may not use more than one NCAA postgraduate scholarship. The Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship Program is separate and distinct from the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Program, which provides annual awards with smaller stipends.
The five-person Walter Byers Scholarship Committee, established by the NCAA membership and appointed by the NCAA Divisions I, II and III Management Councils, administers the program. The committee membership is required to include at least one man and one woman, at least one member from each division and subdivision of Division I, and one member each from Division II and Division III.
Among the most recognized for post-athletic career accomplishments are Randal Pinkett and Rob Pelinka. Of the winners the one most notable for having gone professional in his or her sport is National Football League veteran Rob Zatechka, who later went on to medical school.
Some winners have won other notable awards. The following lists dual winners of certain awards:
- Rhodes Scholar - Henderson, Thigpen, Pinkett
- Top VIII Award - Black, Roethlisberger, Busbee, Carney
- NCAA Woman of the Year Award - Black, Bersagel
The historical winners are as follows:
- Academic All-America
- List of Academic All-America Team Members of the Year
- Elite 89 Award
- NCAA Sportsmanship Award (student-athletes who have demonstrated one or more of the ideals of sportsmanship)
- Today's Top VIII Award (NCAA) (outstanding senior student-athletes)
- NCAA Woman of the Year Award (senior female student-athlete)
- Silver Anniversary Awards (NCAA) (former student-athletes)
- "Two Track and Field Student-Athletes Earn NCAA's Highest Academic Award". The National Collegiate Athletic Association. May 11, 2006. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
- "NCAA Highest Academic Honor Awarded to Tennis and Football Student-Athletes". The National Collegiate Athletic Association. May 1, 2006. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
- "Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship Program". National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
- Lawrence, Marta (April 29, 2011). "Gatz, Pixler win Byers Scholarships: Ohio Wesleyan swimmer, SPU runner win '11 honors". National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved September 8, 2011.
- "Walter Byers Scholarship Committee". National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
- "Medical students unveil Match Day destinations". University of Nebraska Medical Center. March 19, 2004. Retrieved January 26, 2008.
- "Previous Walter Byers Scholars". The National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved January 25, 2008.