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Hoisting the Cup

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June 22, 2006
Gary Pine
AZUSA, Calif. – For the second consecutive year, Azusa Pacific University has captured the Directors’ Cup, emblematic of the Cougars being the best athletics program in the NAIA for the 2005-06 year.

The Cougars scored 836 points in 12 of their 14 intercollegiate sports to out-distance Lindenwood University (Mo.), which was second with 754 points. Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.) enjoyed its best finish ever, placing third with 614 points, while Oklahoma Baptist was fourth at 612.5.

The Directors’ Cup is a national awards program in which intercollegiate athletics programs garner points based on how far its teams advance into their respective postseason. The eventual Directors’ Cup champion receives a Waterford Crystal Trophy to signify its overall victory for the academic year. Along with Azusa Pacific, Stanford University (NCAA Division I), Grand Valley State University of Michigan (NCAA Division II) and Williams College of Massachusetts (NCAA Division III) each won the 2005-06 Directors’ Cup for their respective associations. All 4 institutions are repeat winners from last year.

A year ago, Azusa Pacific won its first-ever Directors’ Cup with an NAIA record 883 points. In tallying this year’s 833, Azusa Pacific became the first NAIA school to score back-to-back 800-point seasons. However, more significant, Azusa Pacific won this year’s trophy without the benefit of any sport winning a national championship. Pacific Lutheran University (Wash.) is the only previous NAIA Directors’ Cup champ to accomplish such a feat, taking the inaugural 1996 Cup in similar fashion.

“To win the Cup again without the aid of a national championship speaks volumes to the breadth of talent in our program,” said Azusa Pacific Director of Athletics Bill Odell. “Our athletics success does not rest on the strength of two or three programs, but on all programs. We have great coaches, good facilities, a terrific location and most of all an outstanding academic institution, ingredients which when put together produce the unique kind of success that we have enjoyed the past two years.”

Of the 12 sports that scored for Azusa Pacific, 11 advanced to at least the “Sweet 16” of their postseason pursuit.

Led by the 2005 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Coach of the Year Phil Wolf, men’s soccer posted its first-ever NAIA national runner-up finish, advancing to the NAIA title game. Women’s outdoor track & field, and men’s tennis posted similar results, finishing second in their championship pursuits. Women’s tennis and men’s outdoor track & field were in the final four, and men’s cross country finished fifth in the NAIA.

For the third straight year, football qualified for the 16-team NAIA Championship Series, while men’s basketball, appearing its 11th straight NAIA Tournament, advanced to the Elite Eight for the fourth time in the past 6 years.

GSAC Coach of the Year Chris Keife, in only his second year at the helm, led Azusa Pacific back into the NAIA Women’s Volleyball Championship Tournament for the first time in 5 years. Meanwhile, fellow GSAC Coach of the Year Jason Surrell continued his excellent work, leading the NAIA’s top-ranked Cougar women’s soccer team to its fourth GSAC title in 6 years and the team’s eighth straight NAIA Tournament berth.

Azusa Pacific’s rise to the top of the NAIA has a direct correlation to the university’s added emphasis placed on women’s sports over the past 15 years. This year, the Cougars tallied Cup points in 6 women’s sports and 6 men’s sports. The women accounted for 398 points while the men collected 435.

“Balance is our key to success,” Odell added. “We believe that every student-athlete deserves the opportunity to compete at the highest level of his/her talent, and that when they graduate from Azusa Pacific, they walk away with the personal satisfaction of enjoying a unique and excellent athletic experience.”

Azusa Pacific’s victory in the Directors’ Cup not only signifies the institution as the best in the NAIA, but the Cougars also lead a parade of Golden State Athletic Conference members that collectively establish the GSAC as the premier athletic conference in the NAIA. The GSAC is the only NAIA conference to place 3 members in the Cup’s Top 10, and 5 in the Top 25. Following Azusa Pacific’s lead, Concordia finished sixth in this year’s Cup race with 596 points followed by Point Loma Nazarene (555) in eighth, Vanguard (424) in 21st, and California Baptist in 23rd (404.5).

“There isn’t a conference in the nation that prepares in members for national championship competition better than the GSAC,” said Odell. “Across the board, the GSAC excels in every sport. We have great rivalries, intense competition and excellent athletes that put this conference at the top of the NAIA ladder.”

The Directors’ Cup is a program that honors institutions maintaining a broad-based program, achieving success in many sports, both men’s and women’s. Initiated by the National Association of Collegiate Directors’ of Athletics in conjunction with USA Today, the Directors’ Cup began in 1994 for NCAA Division I programs and was expanded in 1996 to include Division II, III and NAIA member institutions.

Last year, Azusa Pacific joined UC San Diego (Division III in 1998) and Cal State Bakersfield (Division II in 1998) as the only Southern California schools to win a Directors’ Cup. The Cougars are now the first Southern California school to claim back-to-back titles. Stanford has won an unprecedented 12 straight Directors’ Cup championships at the NCAA Division I level. Additionally, Azusa Pacific is the only member of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) to have ever won a Directors’ Cup.

The Directors’ Cup trophy will be officially presented to Azusa Pacific Sept. 23, during halftime ceremonies of the Azusa Pacific-Wisconsin-La Crosse football game.

Azusa Pacific Finishes in Directors’ Cup

Year Finish Points
2006 First 836
2005 First 881
2004 Second 700
2003 Third 643
2002 Third 578
2001 Third 630
2000 Third 607
1999 Second 500
1998 Eighth 290
1997 Third 486
1996 Fifth 495.5

Click here for further information on the Directors' Cup and complete 2005-06 standings for all associations.