UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Following another outstanding fall athletic campaign, highlighted by two Big Ten titles, Penn State sits sixth in the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Final Fall Standings.
Penn State will be looking for its 14th Top 15 finish in the 18-year history of the Directors’ Cup, placing in the Top 25 every year, with eight Top 10 finishes. Stanford, who won its 17th consecutive Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup for 2010-11, currently sits in first place. Penn State is one of two Big Ten schools that sit in the current Top 10 (Michigan is fifth).
With all seven fall NCAA championships now completed, including men’s cross country, women’s cross country, women’s field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and football, Penn State has accumulated 264 total points heading into the spring.
Most recently, Penn State football earned 25 points after achieving a 9-4 season and an appearance in the TicketCity Bowl. The women’s volleyball team earned 64 points for making it to the third round of this year’s NCAA Tournament. The women’s soccer team also earned 64 points after advancing to the NCAA third round this season and winning its 14th consecutive Big Ten title. In addition, the field hockey team placed fifth and the women’s cross country team finished 13th at the NCAA Championships.
The Nittany Lion football team finished the 2011 season with a 6-2 record in Big Ten play, earning a share of the Leaders Division title. Penn State played in its fourth consecutive New Year’s Day bowl. Defensive tackle and First Team All-American Devon Still (Wilmington, Del.) had a phenomenal senior season, earning many accolades including his selection as the Big Ten Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year. The Nittany Lions have a 67-23 (75.3) record since the start of the 2005 season, the nation’s No. 12 winning percentage over the past seven seasons.
The women’s soccer team continued its conference dominance with its 14th straight Big Ten title and 17th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore Maya Hayes (West Orange, N.J.) and junior Christine Nairn (Arnold, Md.) were named First Team and Second Team NSCAA All-Americans, respectively. Hayes, who made the trip to St. Louis as a Herman Trophy finalist, was also named the Big Ten Forward of the Year. Junior Lexi Marton (Aurora, Ontario) and senior Ali Schaefer (Henderson, Nev.) were First Team All-Big Ten picks and sophomore Taylor Schram (Canonsburg, Pa.) and senior Emma Thomson (Nottinghamshire, England) were Second Team selections.
The women’s volleyball team made its 31st appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2011. The Nittany Lions are one of just two programs to participate in every event since its inception in 1981. Sophomore Katie Slay (Raleigh, N.C.) was an AVCA Second Team All-American and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors.
For the first time since 1998, head coach Charlene Morett and the Penn State field hockey team was crowned the Big Ten Tournament champions, after defeating the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 6 in the tournament championship game. The Big Ten champion Nittany Lions finished the season with a 17-6 overall record and also earned an NCAA First Round victory over the Northeastern Huskies. In addition, junior Kelsey Amy (Sweet Valley, Pa.), redshirt junior Ayla Halus (Hershey, Pa.) and freshman Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) earned All-American honors.
Senior Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.) of the women’s cross country team blitzed to a 16th-place finish, earning her first career All-American finish at the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Lane’s outstanding finish propelled the Nittany Lion women to a 13th-place finish in the team standings – the highest finish of any Big Ten program in the race, and the best effort by a Penn State women’s squad since 1996. Lane, who took the Big Ten crown as well, raced to the second-best finish by a Nittany Lion woman in the NCAA era, covering the 6,000-meter course in 20:03.
Penn State is one of only nine programs nationwide that has finished in the final Top 25 in every Directors’ Cup Standings, being joined by: Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Southern California, Stanford, Texas and UCLA.
Penn State has won 21 NCAA Championships since 1993-94, its first full year in the Big Ten Conference, more than double every other Big Ten institution. Iowa and Minnesota are tied for second with nine. The Nittany Lions’ 10 NCAA Championships since March 2007 lead the nation.
The Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings were developed as a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and USA Today. Points are awarded based on each institution’s finish in up to 20 sports — 10 women’s and 10 men’s.