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California's Michael Saffell named Pac-12 Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Feb 2, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO — CALIFORNIA’s Michael Saffell was named the 2020 Pac-12 Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the Conference announced today. The award, which is presented in each of the 24 sports sponsored by the Pac-12, was established to honor collegiate student-athletes that are standouts both academically and in their respective sports disciplines. 

Saffell is the first Bear to earn the Pac-12 Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year award since kicker Matt Anderson was honored in 2017. The senior offensive lineman from Huntington Beach, Calif., graduated from Cal’s prestigious Haas School of Business in December 2020 and was accepted into the university’s Master of Information and Data Science program, where he began taking classes in January 2021. Previously, Saffell achieved first-team Pac-12 All-Academic honors in 2018, earned a spot on the first Pac-12 Academic Honor roll in 2019, and garnered national recognition as a nominee for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in both years. 

He was named a national semifinalist for the 2020 William V. Campbell Trophy and 2020 Wuerffel Trophy — considered to be college football’s premier awards for academic success and community service, respectively. In addition to his studies off the field, Saffell has excelled as the lead ambassador for the Cal Athletics Summer Reading Challenge since 2019, promoting reading comprehension through numerous visits with thousands of elementary-aged students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he helped transition the program online by continuing his visits through a virtual format. 

On the field, Saffell has seen action in 28 career games with 23 starts, including all four Cal contests as a season-long co-captain with defensive back Camryn Bynum, linebacker Kuony Deng and quarterback Chase Garbers. Heading into the season, he earned placement on the Rimington Trophy watchlist, an award honoring the nation’s top center. Despite Cal’s COVID-19 shortened campaign, Saffell received honorable mention for All-Pac-12 honors, as voted upon by Pac-12 coaches. 

In order to be eligible for the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, student-athletes must be a senior (in athletics eligibility), on track to receive a degree, have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher, participate in at least 50 percent of the scheduled contests in the sport and have a minimum one year in residence at the institution. Each Pac-12 institution may nominate one individual per sport, and the winners are selected by a committee of Pac-12 staff members at the conclusion of each sport’s regular season. The athletics accomplishments of the nominees are a consideration in voting for the award.

A Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be named in each of the Pac-12’s 24 sponsored sports: baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, beach volleyball, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, football, men’s golf, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, men’s rowing, women’s rowing, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, softball, men’s swimming & diving, women’s swimming & diving, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s track & field, women’s track & field, women’s volleyball, and wrestling. The award was first established during the 2008-09 academic year.

ALSO NOMINATED: Rhett Rodriguez, ARIZ; Sam Noyer, COLO; Dru Mathis, ORE; Andrzej Hughes-Murray, OSU; Jet Toner, STAN; Ethan Fernea, UCLA; Erik Krommenhoek, USC; Keegan Markgraf, UTAH; Elijah Molden, WASH; Oscar Draguicevich III, WSU.