University wins Big East Presidents’ Award



Jack Judge

For the second year in a row, the University has won the Big East Presidents’ Award for exemplifying excellence in academics, athletics and service in the 2015-2016 academic year. 

The trophy was presented to the Student Athlete Advisory Committee Leadership Team consisting of Michael Waterfield ’17, Callie Duliba ’17 and Karlie Krisipin ’17 at the Villanova vs. Georgetown game this past Tuesday. Val Ackerman, Commissioner of the Big East stated that the award “was created to recognize the full scope of student-athlete achievement,” highlighting performance inside and outside of the classroom. “We commend Father Peter Donohue, Mark Jackson, and Villanova’s coaches, administrators and faculty for their commitment to a complete collegiate experience and lifetime success for the extraordinary young people who represent Villanova on surfaces of play,” Commissioner Ackerman also said. 

Villanova student-athletes demonstrated a commitment to the classroom with an overall grade point average of 3.25 for the 2015-16 academic year. 133 student-athletes in the fall and 153 in the spring made the Dean’s List. All 24 varsity sports had a 3.0 GPA or higher and spring 2016 marked the 26th straight semester where the composite GPA of all teams was over 3.0. However, this is the first time in school history where all 24 teams earned a GPA above 3.0 with the water polo team boasting a 3.552 team GPA for the semester. On the men’s side, the Cross Country team had the highest mark of any men’s sport with a term GPA of 3.342. Of the 555 student-athletes, 77 percent (426 student-athletes) had a term GPA over a 3.0 in the spring including 15 student-athletes from nine different teams with a perfect 4.0 GPA for the Spring 2016 semester. Some individual academic achievements include Patrick Tiernan ’16 winning the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Excellence Award for Cross Country along with Ryan Arcidiacono ’16 winning the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Excellence Award for Men’s Basketball. Arcidiacono ’16 was also a first team Senior CLASS All-American. Track & field/cross country student-athlete Thomas Trainer ’16 was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, and teammate Rob Denault was named a CoSIDA Academic All-American. 

The accomplishments made on the athletic field mirror those achieved in the classroom. Patrick Tiernan ’16 became the first runner to win three consecutive BIG EAST cross country championships and finished his season as runner up at the NCAA Championship. The Women’s Cross Country team also secured a birth to the NCAA Championship as a whole. Women’s Volleyball set their highest win total since 1993 with 25 wins and also earned their 2nd NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. Winning 16 of 18 events, Women’s Swimming and Diving won its third consecutive BIG EAST title where Darby Goodwin ’19 was selected as the Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Championship meet. Men’s Indoor Track & Field also won their third straight BIG EAST championship after winning seven events and garnering 28 All-BIG EAST honors in the process. Women’s Basketball earned their fourth straight 20-win season as Adriana Hahn ’19 was named BIG EAST Sixth Woman of the Year and Katherine Coyer ’16 won the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award. Women’s Softball posted a record of 32-18 where Kate Poppe was voted BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year and Lauren Hanna was chosen BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. For Men’s Baseball, the largest group of Villanova all-conference players in more than 20 years with five student-athletes selected to the All-BIG EAST team. Men’s  Outdoor Rrack & Field produced three all-Americans: Patrick Tiernan ’16, Jordy Williamsz ’16 and Ben Malone ’17. Sterling Pierce ’19 was named Most Outstanding Track Performer at the BIG EAST Championship. Last but not least, Men’s basketball were crowned National Champions after beating The University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Wildcats finished the season with their best win total in program history of 35–5 as they defeated countless ranked opponents and securing the No. 1 ranking for the first time as well.

The final aspect of the award, service, is central to the student athlete experience here. The highest number of recorded volunteer hours in school history was set with a total of 3,123 hours of community service in 2015-16. Student-athlete service is highlighted annually at the St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration Day of Service as more than 400 student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff participated at 135 service venues this past year. Many Villanova student-athletes and their teammates also helped out and volunteered at the Special Olympics Fall Festival and in Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week as well where Student-athletes donated and packed meals for those living in poverty. The University also hosted its annual  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in January where students and student-athletes alike disperse in the community to offer their help. Student athletes also participated in Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative in the Philadelphia area which provides youth with information about healthy living. There are many service trips and other volunteer opportunities that student-athletes participated as all are united in the creed of Veritas, Unitas and Caritas.

University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A, Ph.D. summed up the tremendous 2015-16 academic year by saying, “Receiving the BIG EAST Presidents’ Award for the second year in a row is a testament to the strong emphasis that Villanova places on academics and community service while competing at the highest levels of collegiate athletics. I commend the BIG EAST Conference for recognizing the accomplishments of our student-athletes beyond the field of competition, and I congratulate Villanova’s student-athletes, coaches, administrators and athletics staff who share in this honor.”