Sandestin, Fla. — Capping off one of the most successful academic years in school history, Western Kentucky University claimed the Vic Bubas Cup along with three individual awards at the Sun Belt Conference’s annual spring meetings Tuesday.
WKU was presented the Bubas Cup, given to the school gaining the most cumulative points in the league’s 19 sponsored sports, for the fourth time in the last seven years on the strength of a conference-record nine championships. In fact, WKU became the first Sun Belt school to win the conference in 50 percent of the sports it participated in (nine of 18), after claiming or sharing SBC titles in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field, women’s cross country, women’s swimming and diving, and soccer.
The Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers also recorded upper-division finishes in volleyball (second in the East Division and runner-up at the league tournament), men’s swimming and diving (third), men’s cross country and golf (both fourth) and baseball (tied for fifth). WKU finished with 142.5 points, seven more than runner-up Middle Tennessee. North Texas (105.5) was the only other school to surpass the century mark in the standings.
WKU joins South Alabama and former league member South Florida as the only schools to win the Bubas Cup five or more times.
The school also recorded another league first by having a student-athlete win one of each of the three end-of-season awards. Crystal Kelly was chosen the Female Student-Athlete of the Year, which is based on outstanding leadership, achievement and character. Meredith Goodson claimed the Female Postgraduate Scholarship and Wes Brown was selected the Male Sporting Behavior Award winner.
Kelly, a native of Louisville, Ky., was named the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and holds the league’s career scoring record with 2,803 points, the 12th-highest total in NCAA history. A State Farm Coaches’, Associated Press and cbssportsline.com All-America selection, Kelly became just the fifth player in conference history to be named to the all-Sun Belt team all four years of her career.
She finished her time on the Hill with nine school career records including most rebounds (1,258), games started (130), field goals made (953), field-goal percentage (.617), free throws made (886), free-throw attempts (1,137), points per game (21.6) and rebounding average (9.7).
Kelly was selected by the Houston Comets in the third round of the 2008 WNBA Draft with the 31st overall selection, the highest pick ever for a WKU student-athlete.
A Newnan, Ga., resident, Goodson earned $2,000 towards her postgraduate education in recognition of her superior academic achievement. The two-time team captain was a first-team all-Sun Belt selection in 2007 after helping the Lady Toppers claim their first-ever regular season championship. In addition to matching the school season record with 14 wins in the fall, Goodson’s .861 save percentage and 0.73 goals-against average were second-best in the SBC — ranking 19th and 40th in the country, respectively — while her 87 saves were the second-highest total on the WKU season record list. She also posted a career-best five shutouts as the Lady Tops finished 14-3-3, 8-1-2 in the Sun Belt.
In four years of action, Goodson set school career records with 37 victories, 330 saves, 75 matches started and 6,301 minutes played.
Off the field, Goodson was voted second-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV one year after earning third-team Academic All-America honors. A member of the Chi Alpha Sigma National Collegiate Athletic Honor Society along with the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Societies, she has been accepted into Georgia’s School of Pharmacy.
Brown was recognized for his outstanding leadership and achievement in the classroom, on the field of play and in the community. During his final season, he ranked third on the squad in the 200-yard Butterfly, 200-yard Breaststroke and the 200-yard Individual Medley — in addition to ending the year sixth in the SBC in the Fly, his time of 1:50.40 in the event put him fifth on the all-time top performer list on the Hill. Brown also finished 2007-08 fourth on the team in the 400-yard Individual Medley.
A two-time team captain, the Bowling Green, Ky., native helped the Toppers claim three straight league championships during his career.
Brown was selected second-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV as a junior, while this winter he was one of 29 males who participated in winter sports chosen to receive an NCAA postgraduate scholarship. He was also a member of the WKU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee the last two years, serving as chairman in 2007-08, has been a member of the brass ensemble at his church and played in the WKU concert band for one semester.
He earned the L.Y. Lancaster Award for Excellence in Biology this year, awarded to the biology major who has been accepted into medical school, has been judged to be among the top 10 percent of all pre-med students, and exhibits leadership in campus/community activities. Brown will attend Louisville’s School of Medicine beginning in August.
Six of WKU’s nine Sun Belt champions participated in NCAA Championships, headlined by the men’s basketball team’s run to the Sweet 16 in March. The women’s basketball team also played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003, Janet Jesang placed 47th at the NCAA Cross Country meet, and the men’s 4x400-meter relay team of Gavin Smellie, Romaine McKay, Alexander Larin and Terrill McCombs earned All-America honors after placing eighth in the finals at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Members of both the men’s and women’s outdoor title-winning squads will participate in the NCAA Mideast Regional in Fayetteville, Ark., May 30-31.
Additionally, the volleyball team earned the Sun Belt’s first-ever at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, men’s cross country ran in the NCAA Southeast Regional meet and Brent Long of the men’s golf team was invited to participate in the NCAA Championships this month.