A new Sports Illustrated and MONEY magazine joint venture has ranked the 100 Best Colleges for Sports Lovers, and Centre came in at #47 in the nation in the “Athlete Opportunities” category and #79 overall.
Centre is the only Kentucky college or university to appear on the list that, while dominated by Division I schools, includes a surprising number of Division III colleges.
But then again, the new ranking, SI and MONEY insist, “would never advocate choosing a school solely based on gridiron greatness or Olympic medal hauls.” Instead, they sought “to compile a list of great colleges for students who love sports—but who also want a high-quality, affordable education that positions them for career success.”
Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan, Duke and Virginia lead the list, but D3 Middlebury in Vermont and Bowdoin in Maine cracked the top 10. In all, 27 D3 colleges made the list.
“This recognition as one of the top 50 institutions in the nation in pursuit of excellence for the student-athlete experience—regardless of NCAA classification—is empowering,” says Brad Fields, Centre’s director of athletics and recreation.
“We take great pride in the hard work of our student-athletes and coaches,” Fields adds, “not just to field highly competitive teams but also to engage in impactful learning in- and outside of the classroom.”
To even be considered for the list, all top 100 schools were first held to high standards that focused on “affordability, academic excellence and career outcomes” (20 percent of overall ranking).
Deemed one of the nation’s best values, Centre has also been among the top 50 colleges in America in the U.S. News & World Report ranking 23 times in the last quarter century. Outcome rates for Centre graduates have been similarly remarkable. Based on a 96 percent response rate, 98 percent of the most recent graduating class is employed or pursuing advanced study within a year of graduation.
From there, the ranking focused on “athlete opportunities” and “fan experience” (40 percent each), and it was in terms of student-athlete opportunities that the College ranked among the nation’s top-50 colleges. In fact, this kind of excellence is a Centre tradition, going back nearly a century.
Centre athletics first distinguished itself on the national stage in 1921, when the “Praying Colonels” football team beat then three-time national champion Harvard by a score of 6-0 to capture the national champion title.
Of course, college athletics has changed much since then, but Centre’s varsity teams have maintained a high level of success. Nearly 600 student-athletes (or some 40 percent of the overall student body), compete in 23 intercollegiate varsity sports, and since joining the Southern Athletic Association for the 2012-13 season, Centre has claimed 38 conference titles.
All-America honors are becoming fairly routine as well, with three female athletes achieving that status this year alone. They include Destinie Graves of the women’s soccer team, Nicole DeHerde of the field hockey team and cross-country runner Serena Gale-Butto. Within the last five years, student-athletes represented by 10 different sports have earned 21 additional All-America awards.
Three Centre student-athletes have also won individual national championships: Chris Fuggman ’80 (men’s swimming), Chris Morris ’11 (men’s golf) and Chrys Jones ’11 (men’s track and field). Even more recently, Centre football kicker Jordan Gay ’13 has enjoyed a successful career in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills.
Increasingly, Centre student-athletes have access to some of the finest facilities in the country at the D3 level as well. In addition to nearly $100 million in campus improvements and capital projects over the last eight years, Centre has strengthened its athletic facilities.
Over the last five years alone, additions include a new turf field (for field hockey and women’s lacrosse), softball field, throws area for track and field, an indoor practice facility for baseball and softball, and a new grass soccer field and facility that features a 75×120-yard playing surface, a 7,000 square foot locker room building, seating for 500 fans and a brand new press box.
by Michael Strysick
March 15, 2017