AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific capped its final year of membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) by winning an unprecedented eighth consecutive Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup trophy, signifying it as the NAIA’s top overall athletics program for the past eight years.
“It's been a wonderful run the past eight years, and this past season represents that whole span of those cups. A wide variety of sports scored, and there was balance across the board. In Cougar athletics, everyone matters,” said first year athletic director Gary Pine.
In order to win its eighth straight Cup, Azusa Pacific had to hold off the highest-scoring runner-up in Directors’ Cup history, scoring 918 points to finish with a 62-point cushion over second-place Shorter University, which ended up with 856 points. Previously, only two other Directors’ Cup runner-ups have scored over 800 points, with Simon Fraser doing so twice with 818 points in 2008 and 817 points in 2010.
The Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup program awards points based on an institution’s finish in up to 12 NAIA championship sports (six women’s and six men’s). The trophy presentation for the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup winners will take place in conjunction with the 2012 NACDA Convention on Tuesday, June 26 at Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas during the Directors' Cup Awards Luncheon. Azusa Pacific’s 918-point final total is the third-highest in NAIA history, with the Cougars posting 978.25 and 947 points in consecutive years in 2007 and 2008.
The Azusa Pacific women’s track & field program claimed the 2012 NAIA Indoor National Championship, giving the school its 37th NAIA title overall and its seventh women’s track & field national championship. The Cougars edged two-time defending indoor national champion Oklahoma Baptist by just a half-point, resulting in a 100-point contribution towards the 2011-12 Directors’ Cup.
Azusa Pacific was the only NAIA program to score at least 300 points in all three of the sport championship seasons (fall, winter, and spring). The Cougars opened up the 2011-12 season with a strong fall campaign powered by top-10 finishes in NAIA championship events from five fall sports, including four top-five performances. Women’s cross country led the way with 90 points for a runner-up finish, while women’s soccer took third place and football and volleyball both registered fifth-place finishes. Men’s soccer registered another 53 points for a ninth-place finish.
Along with the women’s indoor track & field championship, Azusa Pacific produced three more top-10 finishers in winter championships, including fifth-place in both women’s basketball and women’s swimming and diving, along with ninth-place in men’s indoor track & field.
For the first time ever, four NAIA programs tallied more than 400 points in the NAIA’s spring championship season. Azusa Pacific was one of them, scoring 438 points on five top-ten finishes to hold off the challengers which included Directors’ Cup runner-up Shorter (426.5 points in spring) and third-place Embry-Riddle (452 points in spring). Oklahoma Christian led all NAIA schools in the spring with 455.5 points and also finished in the top 10 of the 2011-12 Directors’ Cup standings.
During the spring, Azusa Pacific played in the championship game of the NAIA National Championship Opening Round tournament it hosted, resulting in a 10th-place national finish worth 57 points. The Cougar softball team registered a ninth-place finish (53 points) in its second consecutive NAIA Tournament appearance, while women’s tennis claimed fifth place and men’s tennis notched third to account for another 153 Directors’ Cup points. To close out the year, men’s outdoor track & field recorded a second-place finish while women’s outdoor track & field claimed third to provide Azusa Pacific with its final 175 Cup points of the 2011-12 season.
“The Cup has been a great measuring stick, and has created so much interest in our athletics program. We'll be forever grateful to NACDA and Learfield Sports for their idea and support of the Cup program,” said Pine. “So many student-athletes, coaches, and administrators share in our Cup success, and I'm pleased for them that we can go out on top.”
Since the inception of the Directors’ Cup program at the NAIA level in 1995-96, Azusa Pacific is the only NAIA institution to appear in the top 10 of the standings all 17 years, and the Cougars conclude their NAIA membership with 14 consecutive top-five Directors’ Cup finishes, a total unmatched by any other NAIA athletics program. Only two other schools have recorded eight consecutive top-five showings, and currently the next-longest streak of top-five finishes in the NAIA is two (Shorter and Embry-Riddle).
In July 2011, Azusa Pacific was accepted into the first year of a three-year NCAA Division II membership process, making the 2011-12 year the final season of NAIA competition for the Cougars. In 2012-13, Azusa Pacific will join NCAA Division II’s Pacific West Conference in all sports except for football, which will compete in NCAA Division II’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Scoring
Women’s Sports (top 6 scores are used to calculate overall Directors’ Cup scoring total): Women’s Indoor Track & Field (1st place – 100), Women’s Cross Country (2nd – 90), Women’s Outdoor Track & Field (3rd – 85), Women’s Soccer (3rd – 83), Women’s Swimming & Diving (5th – 75), Volleyball (5th – 73), Women’s Basketball (5th – 70), Women’s Tennis (5th – 70), Softball (9th – 53)
Men’s Sports (top 6 scores are used to calculate overall Directors’ Cup scoring total): Men’s Outdoor Track & Field (2nd – 90), Men’s Tennis (3rd – 83), Men’s Indoor Track & Field (9th – 69), Football (5th – 60), Baseball (10th – 57), Men’s Soccer (9th – 53)
Azusa Pacific’s Directors’ Cup Scoring and Winning Margins (2004-05 through 2011-12)
2004-05: 881 points (182-point margin of victory)
2005-06: 836 points (82-point margin of victory)
2006-07: 978.25* points (182-point margin of victory)
2007-08: 947 points (129-point margin of victory)
2008-09: 915 points (141-point margin of victory)
2009-10: 820 points (3-point margin of victory)
2010-11: 820.75 points (68.5-point margin of victory)
2011-12: 918 points (62-point margin of victory)
*NAIA Directors’ Cup scoring record