Greetings Bison Fans!

We have kicked off another year of Bison Athletics, and as our fall sports teams move into the meat of their schedules we have already seen many outstanding performances. Whether it’s been a big overtime win over Ohio State by the Bison field hockey team, a five-game winning streak by the men’s soccer squad, a first-place finish at Penn State’s invitational by men’s cross country, or women’s soccer’s great comeback from two goals down to win at Lehigh, the fun and excitement of the new year has begun in earnest.

It was great to see first-year head coach Anna Allison get out to such a great start with the Bison volleyball squad. The team went 2-1 at three consecutive weekend tournaments to start the year. The team has dropped a few close matches to start Patriot League play, but they have a big weekend coming up against Lehigh and Lafayette and still have a great chance to get back into the postseason hunt.

Men’s soccer gave up only one goal in that five-game winning streak, and despite falling to an upstart 6-1-1 Army team last week, Brendan Nash’s squad looks very strong. The women’s soccer team had that great 3-2 overtime victory at Lehigh, and then backed it up this week with a 2-1 home victory over Loyola in the very first meeting with the Greyhounds as Patriot League rivals. Ben Landis’s squad is now 2-1 in the conference and is just one game off the league lead.

Jeremy Cook’s field hockey team earned that terrific overtime win at Ohio State and also lost a close 4-3 contest to 16th-ranked Delaware at home. Now the Bison are already 2-0 in the Patriot League after beating Lehigh and Colgate by a combined score of 10-3.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams have both run well against tough competition thus far. The men beat Penn State, Pittsburgh and Mount St. Mary’s to win the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational in State College three weeks ago. The women took second to Penn State, but defeated Pitt and West Virginia at that meet. The Bison have also gone up against several ranked teams at the Boston College Coast-to-Coast meet, and this weekend they will be at the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, one of the largest competitions in the country with over 6,000 runners expected.

One of our very promising young tennis student-athletes, sophomore Nick Bybel, just returned from Tulsa, Okla., where he became the first Bison to be invited to the ITA All-American Championships, which features many of the top collegiate players in America. Nick defeated an opponent from Memphis in straight sets before falling to a player from Texas A&M in the second round. Nick was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year last year, and he is off to another great start in 2013-14.

The Bison men’s water polo team has been ranked as high as 14th nationally this season. John McBride’s team is off to a 6-3 start, including a win over Navy in Annapolis last week as they look to defend their Southern Division title from a year ago.

The football team opened the season with a strong performance in a 27-14 home victory over Marist. Unfortunately, some untimely injuries and turnovers proved costly in losses to Cornell on the road, and then to a Sacred Heart team that is now 5-0 on the season. Patriot League play is now here, as the Bison travel to Lafayette on Saturday. You might recall two years ago the Bison won in Easton in a blizzard. Temperatures are expected to be in the 80s this time around, and it should be a great battle between two heated rivals.

If you are reading this post on, I’m sure you noticed a brand new look to our official athletics website. We are very pleased to have entered into a partnership with NeuLion, a leading technology company that specializes in delivering sports content across numerous platforms. The new website not only streamlines the written content on which our regular visitors have come to rely, but we are now able to present considerably more video, in the form of both on-demand features and live productions via Bison Vision on the Patriot League Network.

The Patriot League’s brand new digital network launched in August, and even though the program is still in its infancy, the feedback has been tremendous. We are now able to present live action in high-definition resolution, and the best part is that every webcast is available free of charge!

At Bucknell, we have significantly increased the number of live offerings, with more than 60 contests airing on Bison Vision on the PLN just this fall alone. In the coming weeks and months, the Patriot League Network will introduce studio shows featuring news, features and highlights from around the league, and during basketball season, the league’s partners at Campus Insiders will come to campus sites and professionally produce a number of games.

These are incredibly exciting developments, as the new website and the Patriot League Network provide us with vehicles to deliver new kinds of content to our devoted followers. And you don’t have to be sitting at a computer to take advantage of it. All PLN webcasts can be seen in sharp HD on mobile devices and tablets, and the new athletics site has a streamlined mobile page that allows for easy browsing on a small screen.

One of the most recent video features to hit the new site covered the 2013-14 kickoff of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy. Now in its third year, the Leadership Academy has already grown into a keystone program within Bison Athletics. Teaching effective leadership is essential not only to achieve athletic success, but it is also part of our overreaching mission to develop well-rounded student-athletes who will be prepared for life after Bucknell.     

The featured speaker at our Second Annual Kickoff Event was Gary Sojka, who talked to our 60-plus Academy members about leadership and the notion of being at a school that values the ideal of being a true scholar-athlete. Very few individuals can command a room like Gary Sojka, and it was enjoyable watching many of our student-athletes engage with Gary for the first time. I’m positive that his words will stay with them for a long time.  

Earlier in the day, the members of the Leadership Academy traveled to Cowan for a full morning of outdoor leadership exercises under the guidance of the Bucknell ROTC command. Much more is planned for the remainder of the year, with the next Leadership Academy sessions coming up at the end of this month.

Since I last had the opportunity to write in this space, we wrapped up some facility improvements around the Kenneth Langone Athletics & Recreation Center. The volleyball and swimming and diving programs have moved into completely renovated locker rooms, and the Sojka Pavilion floor was refinished with a slightly new design.

Just before the start of the new academic year we introduced two new members of the Department of Athletics and Recreation administrative team. Chad Mason is our new associate director of athletics for operations and events. Chad came to Bucknell from Southern New Hampshire University, where he held a similar position. Chad replaced Calvin Symons, who announced his retirement at the end of last year.

I am also very pleased to have Karen Landis join us after several years working in Bucknell’s office of Development and Alumni Relations. Karen was named to the post of associate director of athletics for recreation services. Over the last year, we have significantly expanded programming in the areas of wellness and lifetime activities for students, faculty and staff, including the implementation of late-night hours at the Kenneth Langone Athletics and Recreation Center. In her new role, Karen will coordinate these fitness offerings, and she will also oversee each of our club and intramural sports.

In recent weeks, Bison Club director Todd Newcomb and I informed our coaches and staff of a fundraising goal of $2 million for fiscal year 2013-14. This is certainly a lofty goal, but it is one that I am confident that we can exceed.

In my recent travels, I have sensed a palpable excitement about the future of Bucknell University and Bison Athletics. Forgive me for employing an overused term, but Bucknell student-athletes and coaches are truly special. They are highly motivated, and they want to be successful in everything that they do.

Through your support of the Bison Club, you can help them reach those goals. As I have mentioned in the past, the Department of Athletics and Recreation’s annual budget is only partially funded by the University, which means the Bison Club plays an extraordinarily vital role in our success. While that might seem daunting, it is also exciting, because we can promise our supporters that their gifts have a direct impact on the daily lives of Bison student-athletes. From shoes and uniforms, to top-of-the-line equipment, to safe and efficient travel, to high-quality facilities and so much more, your support matters!

You can make your gift to the Bison Club online, or by contacting Todd Newcomb at 570-577-1771.

Fall is one of the best times of year for sports at all levels, and I hope you can make it back to campus to catch a game, or even come see the Bison when they are on the road in your area. Our teams love to see Orange & Blue on the road, and there is usually plenty of it.

Homecoming is just around the corner as well, and we have another great class going into the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame: Gene Depew, Molly Creamer, Ian Joseph, Becki Marshall and Jen Zimmerman. That promises to be a great weekend, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Thanks again for all of your support ... and GO BISON!

John Hardt
Director of Athletics & Recreation
Bucknell University