Penn State Harrisburg’s first year as an active NCAA Division III member showed like a highlight film. Softball player Kara Boyd became the college’s first student-athlete to set a D-III record – for consecutive hits – and be named a D-III statistical champion – for triples per game. Mike Gaffey, men’s basketball coach, was named North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Coach of the Year. Our student-athletes won conference championships, gained post-season recognitions and team academic honors, and competed in a national championship.
Many of these achievements would have been unrecognized, or even impossible, before NCAA membership, which brings several opportunities to athletes and institutions. Teams become eligible for NCAA championship participation, statistics are recorded in official NCAA D-III record books, and individuals are eligible for All-American teams and post-season awards. Equally important is what an NCAA athletic program adds to the college experience.
The men’s golf team made school history when it became the first to garner a national championship berth. “The active membership gives students a chance to play for something meaningful to them – a national championship,” said Coach Brad Kane. “It also brings national attention to the values that define Penn State Harrisburg athletics – academic achievement, leadership, and sportsmanship.”
Tennis coach Becky Cecere, whose men’s team won its first North Atlantic Conference Championship in May 2011, recently was appointed to the NCAA D-III Women’s Tennis Committee, a position not open to Penn State Harrisburg coaches until the college became an NCAA member. Cecere said such appointments give the college a national presence and a voice in athletic administration at the highest level. She too acknowledged the value of D-III athletics to the life of the college.
“With Division III sports at Penn State Harrisburg, students have a wonderful opportunity to get a great education and compete in intercollegiate athletics,” Cecere said. “The success of our athletic programs also makes the campus a sought-after destination for prospective students. Athletics enhance student life and make the campus come alive.”