From the AD's Desk
Dec. 14, 2012
Greetings Bison Fans!
Final exams are upon us, which means the echoes of bouncing balls, squeaking sneakers, splashing swimmers and stampeding runners have quieted for the moment. It is almost an eerie quiet, given how incredibly busy things have been in Bison Athletics over the last several weeks.
During that time we wrapped up another fall athletics season, highlighted by a Southern Division championship and Eastern runner-up finish for the Bison men’s water polo team. All of the winter sports programs have gotten off to outstanding starts, led by the men’s basketball team at 8-1, including wins over the likes of Purdue, George Mason, Niagara and New Mexico State. We also successfully navigated a landmark Homecoming Weekend, which featured the festive public launching of Bucknell’s $500 million capital campaign and the induction of the 34th Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame Class.
“We Do.” That is the title of the half-billion-dollar capital campaign that will shape the future of Bucknell University. It is the largest and most aggressive campaign in Bucknell history. The campaign will serve to raise our endowment, specifically for scholarships, faculty and staff positions as well as program support, and also to implement six strategic academic and residential learning priorities.
As director of athletics and recreation at Bucknell, I am thrilled that the campaign will address some specific athletics initiatives, particularly in the areas of endowments for athletically related financial aid and coaching positions, the long-awaited renovation of Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium and other program and facility needs.
While Homecoming served as the launching point for the campaign, there is much work to be done, and as a loyal follower of Bison Athletics, I encourage you do your part to help support the future of our great university. These are exciting times, but we need your help in meeting our goals!
In the coming weeks and months, the campaign will be hitting the road for celebrations in various cities across the country. Stay tuned for the announcement of that schedule, and we hope you can make it to an event near you.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the campaign or wish to make a donation, please contact Todd Newcomb, Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Director of the Bison Club, at 570-577-1771 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was great to see so many alumni back for Homecoming, particularly at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which we held on a Friday night for the first time. It was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend, and it was great to catch up with the new Hall-of-Famers and their families. Dick Roush ‘51, Yetunde Daniels Rubenstein ‘00, Tyler Prout ‘00, Kevin Eiben ’01, Stephanie Bango ’02 and Craig Reynolds have all taken their well-deserved place in the Hall.
The fall season was one of growth for many of our teams. What a year it was for the men’s water polo program under second-year head coach John McBride. The Bison kept getting better and better as the season went along, they entered the national rankings in mid-October and went on to win the Southern Division championship right here in Kinney Natatorium. Bucknell defeated 14th-ranked Navy in the semifinals and upstart Mercyhurst 9-4 in the championship game to claim its first conference title of any kind since 1985. At the Eastern Championships at Princeton, the Bison defeated Harvard and Princeton to reach the final, placing them one win away from the four-team NCAA Championship. The championship game against Northern Division winner St. Francis (N.Y.) was a classic. Bucknell showed great resolve battling from three goals down in the fourth quarter to force overtime, but the Terriers eventually pulled out a 10-9 victory and went on to finish in third place at NCAAs. Bucknell finished 14th in the final national poll, and senior Brian Barron became the first Bison to be named Southern Division MVP.
It was certainly a year of improvement for both of the Bison soccer programs. The men’s team got back into the Patriot League Tournament after a one-year absence, but a highlight-reel goal by top-seeded American ended Bucknell’s season in the semifinals. The Bison started as many as four freshmen this fall, and they will have a solid nucleus coming back in 2013.
The women’s soccer team doubled its victory total and nearly tripled its goal total from the previous year. The Bison captured 10 wins for the sixth time in the last eight years under coach Ben Landis, but unfortunately the team ended up on the wrong side of a tiebreaker and did not qualify for the Patriot League Tournament despite finishing in fourth place. The team’s top five scorers were all underclassmen, so the future looks bright for the women’s soccer program as well.
Jeremy Cook’s field hockey team took on a very difficult schedule this fall, but they still finished with nine wins and easily qualified for the Patriot League Tournament. Bucknell took on the likes of UConn, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Temple, and even conference rival Lafayette was nationally ranked for most of the season. The Bison were very competitive in all of those games, and the tough competition led to an average margin of victory of 3.3 goals in their nine wins. The field hockey squad had only two seniors, including Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year Tayler Siegrist.
The Bison women’s cross country team placed three runners in the top 13, led by senior Caroline Tolli in seventh place, and finished runner-up to a very strong Navy team at the Patriot League Championship. The Bison then went on to finish 12th out of 31 teams at the Mid-Atlantic Regional, capping off a good postseason for a team that had to deal with numerous injuries throughout the year.
The men’s cross country squad struggled at the Patriot League meet, finishing fifth, but bounced back with a solid 13th-place showing at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. Sophomore John Dugan earned All-Region honors and nearly qualified for nationals.
While the football team’s 3-8 final record may have indicated a step back from last year’s 6-5 mark, I am confident that the program is headed in the right direction under head coach Joe Susan. Of the eight losses, four came by a touchdown or less, three came against teams that were nationally ranked at the time in Delaware, Harvard and Lehigh, and the other one came against a Colgate team that was one of the highest-scoring teams in the country and would go on to win the Patriot League title. Bucknell’s defense was once again very solid, and the offense progressed as the season went along, culminating with two wins in the final three games of the season. Coach Susan and his staff are hard at work on the recruiting trail with merit aid at their disposal for the first time, and they are already looking forward to spring practice.
You may have read that longtime volleyball coach Cindy Opalski stepped down at the end of the season. I would like to thank Cindy for her 23 years of service to Bison Athletics and we wish her well. We are conducting a national search for her successor and hope to have an announcement in that regard in the coming weeks.
The Bison men’s basketball squad is off to a terrific start at 8-1, going up against the most difficult schedule of any team in the Patriot League so far. It was great to get that season-opening win at Purdue – the program’s first against a Big Ten opponent – and George Mason, Niagara, New Mexico State, Kent State and Columbia are all quality wins. Columbia had just beaten Villanova by 18 points. GMU was coming off a win over Virginia and is always one of the top mid-major programs. New Mexico State is the defending WAC champion, and Kent State has won 20 games and gone to a postseason tournament in 13 of the last 14 years.
Things don’t get much easier after finals, as the Bison still have to face La Salle, Saint Francis (Pa.), Marist, Princeton, Loyola, Cornell and No. 11 Missouri before starting Patriot League play. And so far it appears that the Patriot League is much improved from top to bottom.
As you know, the Bison women’s basketball team was coming off a trying season and now is adjusting to the style of a new head coach in Aaron Roussell. I couldn’t be more pleased with how the team has started the year. After a couple of close losses, Bucknell won five games in a row, matching the victory total from all of last season. The team still has plenty of room to grow, but it is great to see them closing out games and getting rewarded for their hard work.
Dec. 15 would be a great time to check out both teams in action. The men’s and women’s squads come out of the finals break with the only home doubleheader of the season. The women host Longwood at 4 p.m. and the men take on La Salle at 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.
The Bison wrestling team is off to a good start. They went 2-1 last week at the Hoosier Duals, with the only loss coming to Indiana in a contest that came down to the final bout. Dan Wirnsberger’s squad is very excited about its upcoming schedule. The Bison will take on national power Iowa in the “Grapple at the Garden” event at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 16, and one night later we will host Oklahoma State in Sojka Pavilion. That will be followed by trips to Michigan State and the Virginia Duals before getting into EIWA dual-meet competition in mid-January.
The swimming & diving and indoor track & field teams already have some early competition to build on, and all four of those teams appear to be in contention for Patriot League titles later this season. In track, the Bison men were picked first and the women second in the preseason polls. In swimming, the Bucknell men were predicted to come in second and the women third.
Off the field, back in October we got more outstanding news regarding our student-athlete graduation rates. According to this year’s NCAA report, Bucknell ranks second in the nation in student-athlete graduation rate, using both the Department of Education’s formula and the NCAA’s own Graduation Success Rate (GSR), which does not penalize schools for losing transfers in good academic standing.
Factoring in student-athletes entering between 2002-03 and 2005-06, our federal rate of 91 percent was second nationally behind only Stanford at 92 percent. Bucknell’s GSR of 99 percent trailed only Dartmouth at 100 percent.
At Bucknell, our student-athletes graduate at the same rate as our student body as a whole. That is not surprising, since we fundamentally view athletics and recreation as an extension of the academic mission at Bucknell. Every decision we make here considers student-athlete education and welfare first and foremost.
A new and exciting example of that student-first ideal is the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy. This initiative, designed to help student-athletes hone their leadership skills both on and off the playing fields, is now in its second year. In October we held our inaugural Leadership Academy kickoff event at the Campus Theater in downtown Lewisburg, and the event was a big success. President John Bravman provided remarks, and the keynote speaker was Bill Gruver, the Howard I. Scott Clinical Professor of Global Commerce, Strategy and Leadership at Bucknell and one of the foremost experts on the topic of leadership.
We are planning for this kickoff celebration to become an annual event, and we already have a full docket of Leadership Academy programming in place for the spring semester. The feedback that we have received so far from our student-athletes and coaches has been extremely positive, and we are excited to build on the program in the coming years.
To all of our devoted supporters, alumni and fans, thank you so much for all that you do to help us provide a first-class experience for our student-athletes. It would not be possible without you!
On behalf of everyone in Bison Athletics, I wish you and yours a healthy, happy Holiday Season. GO BISON!
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