With the 2007-08 academic year approaching, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the highlights from the past season for Washington State University Athletics.
Iím sure when any Cougar fan thinks of the 2006-07 season, the success of the menís basketball team immediately comes to mind.
But, before I reflect on what was one of the greatest basketball seasons in school history, I want to point out that this was a great year for WSU Athletics away from the athletic arena, as the department earned three national honors.
The year began on a great note in September when the Athletic Department was recognized as a Program of Excellence by the Division I-A Athletic Directors' Association. Several months later, the department earned another national accolade, the Diversity in Athletics Award presented by the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A&M University. For the second consecutive year, we were honored in the "Overall Excellence in Diversity" and "Title IX Compliance" categories. Most recently, the department was a recipient of the inaugural "Opportunity Awards," presented by the Womenís Sports Foundation (story on page 3).
All three of these prestigious national awards are a reflection of the commitment we have to our student-athletes by providing them one of the best collegiate experiences in the nation. It also is a testament to the hard work of our staff in all aspects of the development of our student-athletes.
These awards, along with the success from our menís basketball team, placed WSU on the national stage in 2006-07.
The 26 wins by the team tied it with the 1941 national runner-up squad for the most in school history and was good enough to earn a No. 3 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. Not only did the Cougars make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994, they posted their first NCAA Tournament win in 24 years with a first round defeat of Oral Roberts University.
Head Coach Tony Bennett achieved one of the most decorated seasons that any coach has seen, earning numerous coach of the year honors, including Naismith and Associated Press accolades.
On the women's side of the hardwood, we welcomed new head coach June Daugherty and said goodbye to student-athlete Kate Benz, who completed one of the greatest women's basketball careers in school history by becoming the program's all-time rebounding leader and only the 11th person to reach the 1,000 point milestone.
The men's cross country team earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Championships, finishing 29th. It was the men's first trip to the national championship meet since 1998. The women's golf team qualified for an NCAA Regional appearance for the sixth straight year, finishing 11th, just six shots off eighth place and a berth at the NCAA Championships.
Erin McCleave qualified for the NCAA Championships and earned All-America honors in two events to become just the third WSU swimmer to earn All-America honors and only the second to do so multiple times. Diana Pickler (2nd) and Julie Pickler (9th) attained their fourth All-America certificates with their pentathlon finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships and Julie Pickler picked up her fifth All-America honor with her runner-up finish in the heptathlon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships (story on page 4).
Our student-athletes achieved in the classroom as well, earning a cumulative GPA of over a 3.0. In addition, nearly 100 student-athletes earned a spot on conference all-academic teams (see page 13).
Finally, I want to thank you for your support of WSU Athletics. Without your financial backing, our student-athletesí successes would not be possible. In addition, your support plays a significant role in the development of our facilities, such as the continued renovation of Martin Stadium, and our basketball facilities through your donations to the "A.D.'s Fund for Basketball Excellence."
In all of our sports I believe we have the most important pieces in place to be successful. Year in and year out, it is our goal to be competitive in the Pac-10 and nationally in each of our programs while continuing exemplary achievements in the classroom.
Once again, I deeply appreciate your support of our programs whether through ticket purchases, donations, sponsorships, volunteerism, or by being a great Cougar Fan. Your commitment to Cougar Athletics is making a difference in the lives of our student-athletes.
I look forward to what we can achieve in 2007-08, and I know you are as well.