University wins BIG EAST Presidents’ Award


Courtesy of the Big East Conference

Caroline Coladonato

The annual Big East Presidents’ Award has been awarded to Villanova University for the 2017-18 academic year. The award is given to a Big East institution that has excelled academically, athletically and community-wide. This is the second year the University has won since the honor was created in 2015. 

“The Big East Presidents’ Award was created to recognize the full scope of student-athlete achievement, and we extend our congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for their exceptional performance this past year in the classroom, in competition and in the community,” Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said. 

A selection committee of athletic and academic administrators from each Big East institution chose Villanova for the award. Each university provides the committee with comprehensive information that highlights accomplishments in all three categories. 

 “Villanova student-athletes continue to embody the values and characteristics that define our University community,” University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D. said. “From academic and athletic excellence, to inclusivity and service to others, I am extremely proud to have such wonderful representatives of Villanova. I congratulate everyone involved with Villanova Athletics on receiving this honor.”

“We are honored to receive the distinguished BIG EAST Presidents’ Award,” Director of Athletics Mark Jackson said. “This award is a result of a collaborative effort that begins with the leadership and support of President Father Peter Donohue and is followed by the unified commitment toward academic excellence, athletic achievement and a willingness to serve the greater community exemplified by our coaches, staff and student-athletes on a daily basis. This is truly an award reflective of the entire Villanova community.”

During 2017-18, Villanova had 15 of its teams that compete in the Big East receive NCAA  Academic Progress Rate recognition. Collectively, the University had a school record of 18 teams earn APR public recognition. With 82 percent of its programs recognized, the Wildcats had the highest percentage nationwide for Division I programs. Villanova’s men’s and women’s basketball teams both qualified for the NCAA Tournament, with the men’s team winning the national championship. 

Overall, Villanova student-athlete GPA for its Big East teams (nearly 450 student-athletes) was 3.298 for the fall semester and 3.137 for the spring semester. For the 2017-18 year, Villanova student-athletes had an overall GPA of 3.217. 

A total of 162 BIG EAST student-athletes were included on the University’s Dean’s List (3.5 GPA or above) in the fall semester and 183 in the spring semester.  For the Villanova Athletic Director’s Honor Roll (3.2 GPA or above), 274 student-athletes were honored in the fall semester and 279 in the spring. In 13 years of the public recognition awards, the University has had a total of 130 teams recognized. The Wildcats are ranked among the top 90 percent of Division I programs.

In addition to the men’s and women’s basketball achievements, the men’s track and field team won its fourth indoor Big East title in five years and had 18 student-athletes account for 25 Big East honors. The men’s lacrosse team earned its highest ever national ranking (No. 4), as well as a spot in the NCAA Big East Tournament. The volleyball team finished 18-12 and earned a spot in the four-team Big East Tournament. The men’s swimming and diving team achieved its best finish since 1993 in the Big East Championship, finishing in second place. 

The softball team closed out the distinguished 27-year career of coach Maria DiBernardi by making it to the Big East Tournament. The men’s basketball team received special distinctions as they made their way to the third national championship in school history.  The Wildcats, led by coach Jay Wright, established a school record with 36 victories against only four losses and won each NCAA Tournament game by more than 10 points. 

Finally, Villanova student-athletes recorded 2,920 hours of community service work over the course of the 2017-2018 school year. The St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service, held annually in September, featured 360 student-athletes, coaches, and staff volunteering throughout the Philadelphia area. Participants travelled to schools, churches and community centers. 

Mark Jackson, Director of Athletics, and Malcolm Grace, Assistant Athletic Director, also started a new program among student-athletes called UNITAS. The new program was designed to encourage feedback on a range of topics important to student-athletes. 

The athletic department hopes to have constructive conversation to enhance mutual understanding about topics in the following areas: Women and Gender Equity, Mental Health, International Student Equity and Ethnicity and Diversity. In partnership with the Title IX Coordinator and the Office of Health Promotion, enhanced educational programming was developed for Sexual Violation Prevention training. Seminars were held for various groups and teams of student-athletes throughout the year on hazing, sportsmanship, social justice, alcohol and drug prevention, social media and Athletics and the Law. 

The trophy presentation will take place at the men’s basketball game on Nov. 14.