Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Eastern Washington claims another Big Sky Presidents' Trophy

 

The banner arrangement of Big Sky Conference Presidents' Cup winners in Reese Court at Eastern Washington University will need changing with the school's third win in four seasons. Eastern is awaiting receipt of the trophy from North Dakota which won last year's award, but is moving to the Summit League.

Make room on the gym wall at Reese Court as Eastern Washington University has earned yet another Big Sky Conference Presidents' Cup for the 2017-18 school year, the league office announced July 11.

Based on a point system for both academic and athletic success, Eastern finished ahead of Northern Colorado and Weber State to claim its third such honor in the last four seasons.

"I would like to congratulate Eastern Washington's student-athletes and the university's leadership, administrators and coaches on their third Presidents' Cup victory in four years," Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams said in a news release.

"To earn an award like this takes team effort, and the Eagles were able to find success at the highest levels both academically and athletically," she added.

Eastern joins Weber State as the only other institution which has won the award four times since it was first awarded in 2002-03. Besides winning in 2015-16 and 2014-15, the Eagles were also victorious in 2009-10.

North Dakota, which will begin play in the Summit League this fall, was the 2016-17 winner.

The award is unique in collegiate athletics in that it reinforces the Big Sky's dedication to the academic side of the student-athlete experience. Overall athletic success is combined with team grade point averages, academic progress rates (APR) and athletic points based on conference finish.

"We are thrilled to win the Presidents' Cup for the third time in four years," Eastern Director of Athletics Lynn Hickey said. "This honor reinforces our focus of combining academic success with athletic accomplishments."

The Eagles finished with 89 athletic points, including 13 from the school's Big Sky soccer championship. EWU also had top-four finishes from football, men's basketball, women's basketball, women's tennis, women's indoor track and field and men's outdoor track and field.

It was Eastern's performance in the classroom, however, which helped secure the victory. The Eagles led all institutions in grade point average with a school GPA of 3.42.

Every Eagle squad recorded a 3.0 or higher, the only conference school to do so. Eastern also had six teams register a GPA of 3.5 or higher, with women's cross country the highest at 3.71. Eastern basketball had the highest GPA among all men's sports teams with a 3.55.

In addition, the Eagles had the second-best APR in the conference, posting a 985 for the 2017-18 academic year.

Those at the heart of this award include coaches and athletic department officials who offered their reaction.

"This is a special award because it honors athletic departments for achieving at a high-level in multiple sports and multiple disciplines," Wendy Schuller, women's head basketball coach wrote in an email. "It simply speaks volumes about our student-athletes, coaches and support staff and really shows just how special Eastern Washington Athletics is."

EWU head men's track coach Stan Kerr said, "We're deeply proud of our athletes for carrying on their strong tradition of excelling both in the classroom and athletic venues."

"Our student athletes work extremely hard on the field and in the classroom, and to win the Presidents' Cup multiple times over the last few years speaks volumes to all the hard work," Chad Bodnar, head women's soccer coach, said.

This award is based on a simple foundation according to Jim Fitzgerald, assistant athletic director for student success.

"Our success starts with two words, culture and expectation," he said. "Our coaches preach these ideas when they are out recruiting and we reinforce them when our kids show up to campus the first day."

He added there is a strong academic support system in place to help student athletes as they progress thru their college experience.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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