TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Stefan Brits has distinguished himself as an elite athlete and scholar throughout his Florida State career and on Friday, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) conferred its top honor on the Seminoles’ doctoral candidate in chemistry.
Brits headlines the 45-member 2016 Academic All-America Division I Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country team as the 2015-16 CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year.
The Cape Town, South Africa native, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average as a graduate student in the doctoral chemistry program at FSU, joins Garrett Johnson (2006-07) as the second Seminole to collect Academic All-American of the Year honors. No other NCAA Division I track & field/cross country program has produced two separate Academic All-American of the Year selections.
“Most coaches never have anybody even in contention for the best scholar-athlete in our sport, particularly a sport like track & field, where there are literally tens of thousands of Division I athletes,” Florida State coach Bob Braman said. “For him to be that special, that singular guy as Garrett Johnson, our Rhodes Scholar was, it’s just unbelievable that I could have two guys that represented our program and go beyond All-American and Academic All-American, to be the best of the best. That’s incredible. You can’t even put it into words how special it is for our program.”
Brits, who owns the top collegiate long jump mark in 2016 (8.22 meters/26-11.75) and will represent South Africa at the Olympic Games later this summer in Rio de Janeiro, was blown away by the news.
“It means that I’ve accomplished what I came here for, starting my freshman year,” Brits said. “I came here to do both on a high level, not just to come here and just do track & field, because there’s a life after track & field.”
A five-time All-American on the track, highlighted by his third-place finish at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships, Brits becomes just the second Seminole to earn CoSIDA Academic All-America honors four times over the course of his career, joining Javier Garcia-Tunon.
“There is no more deserving person than Stefan in the whole country,” Braman said. “It’s not a surprise he got chosen because he’s that good. It was really great that they were able to consider all of his graduate work…His graduate work has really been spectacular and of course, he has a real career outside the sport of athletics.”
The Florida State Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country programs have now produced 20 Academic All-America honorees since the inception of the CoSIDA program. The Seminole men trail only Nebraska (25) for the all-time lead among Division I programs.
“This means that the hard work that you’ve done wasn’t for nothing, and that is was recognized by someone else…that you’ve worked hard for something and it paid off,” Brits said. “It’s good feeling to know that four or five years you’ve worked that hard and it has been recognized.”
Brits earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical science, posting a 3.938 grade-point average.
Braman has a special appreciation for Brits’ academic acumen in chemistry.
“As a son of a chemistry professor, I’d put him at the top, of course,” Braman added. “I think my perspective, and I’ve had 33 years of doing this, is shaped by chemistry because it was so difficult for me being the son of a chemistry professor. I think it’s the hardest curriculum. Some people take to it and they’re successful. Most people do not. It’s a unique thing.
“I’d put him right up there with anybody I’ve ever coached, and I’ve seen people become extraordinarily successful in all walks of life. I think Stefan is going to be world-class in whatever he decides to do.”
Brits has compiled a world class career since arriving at Florida State in January of 2012. He is the first Florida State athlete to represent the school while pursuing a doctoral degree. A four-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection, he has been FSU’s Elite 90 nominee at six NCAA Championship events over the course of his career. He is a three-time recipient of the Golden Torch Award for posting the team’s highest GPA and a two-time winner of the Golden Nole Award, presented to an athlete who demonstrates comprehensive excellence.
Earlier this spring he was selected Florida State’s top Male Student-Athlete of the Year, an honored bestowed upon him by the Atlantic Coast Conference.
On Wednesday, Brits was selected as the ACC Men’s Outdoor Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, capping a season that saw him break his own ACC Outdoor Championships record in the long jump (8.22 meters), which he had held since 2013. At the time Brits’ conference title-winning leap was the sixth-best mark in the world and helped him secure a spot on South Africa’s 2016 Olympic team.
In addition to winning the ACC title, Brits qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships with the fourth-best mark at the NCAA East Preliminary (7.68m), though an injury prevented him from competing at the championship meet.
Brits is the fourth Florida State athlete to be named CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year, joining Johnson and former baseball standouts Buster Posey (2007-08) and James Ramsey (2011-12).