OGDEN -- For the second time in school history, Montana State University has captured the Big Sky Conference Presidents' Cup.
The Bobcats, who last won the prestigious honor in 2004-05, won a tiebreaker with Weber State for the 2011-12 Cup.
Montana, the 2010-11 winner, finished third.
The Presidents' Cup reinforces the Big Sky's dedication to the academic side of the student-athlete experience. Overall athletic success is combined with team grade point averages, graduation rates, and all-conference performers with grade point averages of at least 3.0 to determine the winner. The conference is made up of 11 full members and two football affiliates.
Montana State is the third institution in the 10-year history of the award to win at least twice. Weber State has claimed four Presidents' Cups, while Montana and Montana State have each won two. Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona have also won the award.
"The Presidents' Cup is the ultimate reward for all-around excellence in the Big Sky Conference, and we're thrilled to have won it during the 2011-12 academic year,'' said Montana State AD Peter Fields. "It takes hundreds of people working hard and doing things the right way to earn this award, from student managers and facilities personnel to the athletic administration. But it comes down to the commitment of coaches and student-athletes. We have assembled a terrific group of coaches, and the great things accomplished by our student-athletes are an expression of everything this University stands for. We ask a lot from them, and this shows how hard they work.''
Montana State finished second in the athletic portion of the competition, averaging 9.11 points per sport. The Bobcat football team shared the regular-season championship with Montana. The Bobcats finished second in men's outdoor track and field, and second in women's outdoor track and field. Montana State was also second in men's indoor track, and tied for second in women's basketball.
A total of 37 Montana State all-conference athletes finished with a GPA of at least 3.0, most in the Big Sky. Montana State's overall athletic GPA was 3.17. Eleven of Montana State's athletic teams finished with a GPA of at least 3.13. The men's cross country team led the Bobcats with a 3.57 grade point average.
"We offer our congratulations to Montana State President Dr. Waded Cruzado, AD Peter Fields, all of the staff, coaches and Bobcat student-athletes on winning the prestigious Presidents' Cup,'' said Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton. "This year's tight race reinforces the importance of having a well-rounded department. It takes a commitment from all of the student-athletes, and everyone in the athletic department to win this award.''
The past academic year was another outstanding one for the entire Big Sky. Seven of the nine teams reported cumulative GPAs of 4.0 or better, with the other two both above 2.94. A total of 92 of the 125 teams posted a GPA of 3.0 or better, an improvement of seven teams from 2010-11.
Weber State finished with the highest overall GPA at 3.265. Eastern Washington was second at 3.217. Montana's women's cross country team posted the highest overall GPA with a 3.73. Weber State's women's cross country team was second at 3.72. The best GPA by a men's team was recorded by Montana State's cross country team at 3.57.
A total of 218 athletes who earned first or second team all-conference honors finished with a GPA of at least 3.0. Montana State was first with 37, followed by Weber State with 31 and Northern Arizona with 30.
"Many of our student-athletes excel not only on the field, but more importantly in the classroom,'' Fullerton said. "I'm excited to see the strong academic reports from our institutions.''
In May, the Big Sky announced the winners of the Men's and Women's All-Sports Trophies. Sacramento State captured the Women's All-Sports Trophy, while the Montana men claimed the award for the first time since 1970-71.
Schools are awarded points based on the team finish in regular season Big Sky standings for soccer, volleyball, football, men's and women's basketball and tennis. Points are also awarded in men's and women's cross country, indoor & outdoor track and field, and women's golf by virtue of finish at the Big Sky championship. Teams are ranked according to average points per sport.