BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Three years of Conference USA membership. Three years of
leading Conference USA in championships. And, not only that, WKU student-athletes
have also contributed to the highest cumulative grade point average across the board
in program history to wrap up one of the most well-rounded athletic years in school
history in 2016-17.
At the top of those accomplishments, two student-athletes stood tallest as
football’s Forrest Lamp and volleyball’s Alyssa Cavanaugh have been named WKU’s John
O. Oldham Student-Athletes of the Year for 2016-17.
“Our coaches and student-athletes deserve enormous credit for their many successes,
unprecedented in some cases, on and off the playing field,” said Director of
Athletics Todd Stewart. “Three years ago, we became the 14th and final member of
the current Conference USA alignment. We only had one chance to make a first
impression. Now, three years later, to have more than twice as many total
conference championships as any other league member is quite an accomplishment.
Coupled with a cumulative grade point average for student-athletes and a spring
semester GPA that were each the highest in program history, WKU Athletics has much
to be proud of. However, each year brings new challenges and loftier goals remain.
A rising tide lifts all boats, and we take pride in helping to shine a favorable
light on our great university.”
When WKU joined C-USA to begin the 2014-15 year, Stewart’s mantra was, “You only
have one chance to make a first impression.” If WKU’s record-tying eight titles that
year didn’t put the league on notice that the new kids on the block were for real,
the two years to follow it certainly did. Since 2014-15, the Hilltoppers have led
C-USA in total championships for three consecutive years and have as many total
championships (21) as seven other teams in the league combined. Rice is the only
other league school with even double-digit championships as the Owls have secured 10
championships over that span, less than half WKU’s total.
This past athletic year, WKU won seven C-USA titles including two in football, two
in volleyball, two in women’s basketball and one in track and field. And the manner
in which the Hilltoppers secured those titles was even more impressive. On the
gridiron, WKU defeated C-USA opponents by a margin of 29.1 points, passing the 2015
team as the second-most dominant championship team in league history. On the
hardwood, the Lady Toppers tied the record for most league wins in a season,
becoming just the fifth team in C-USA’s 20-year history to finish with 16 conference
victories. In volleyball, the Lady Toppers have not lost a home match to a league
opponent since joining C-USA and became the first team since Tulsa’s 2011 squad to
sweep more than 62 percent of matches played last season.
Record Highs in Academics
When it comes to getting a degree and a winning culture on the playing field, there
has never been a better time to be a Hilltopper. For the 2016-17 academic year,
WKU’s student-athletes combined for the highest cumulative GPA (3.06) in history,
including a record-high percentage of student-athletes with a semester GPA of 3.0 or
higher at 65 percent. All of this was aided by a record semester this past spring
when WKU student-athletes posted a 3.10 cumulative semester GPA.
For the 2016-17 academic year, 88 WKU student-athletes earned the ultimate prize,
their college diploma, and posted a cumulative GPA of 3.08. Conference USA
recognized 157 student-athletes with Commissioner’s Honor Roll accolades for posting
3.0 or higher cumulative GPAs and 53 of those student-athletes received academic
medals for posting GPAs of 3.75 or higher.
At the annual TOPSY awards, WKU’s annual academic awards ceremony, the men’s golf
team and women’s soccer teams were honored as the top academic teams, while Colin
Frizzell (men’s golf) and Andreanna Christopoulou (women’s tennis) were named the
male and female academic student-athletes of the year.
Winning Culture Continues
For the third consecutive season, WKU ranked in the top five nationally in combined
winning percentage across football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and
volleyball. And, in 2016-17, no one in the country has won as many matches across
those four sports (262) than the Hilltoppers while the program’s 75.1 winning
percentage is second nationally behind only Florida State (76.2).
WKU’s success was not limited to just the regular season, either. Hilltopper and
Lady Topper teams were regular representatives in postseason play as volleyball,
football, women’s basketball and softball all extended their seasons past the
regular schedule while track and field had multiple individual qualifiers at the
NCAA regional and national meets.
John O. Oldham Student-Athletes of the Year
WKU’s success as a whole is represented on the team level to an even greater degree.
And, individually, two student-athletes put together seasons that will have them in
consideration for all-time Hilltopper greats: Forrest Lamp and Alyssa Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh put together a tremendous junior campaign on The Hill in 2016 as she
became the first Lady Topper Volleyball player ever to earn three All-America
accolades in a single season (AVCA, PrepVolleyball.com, VolleyballMag.com).
Additionally, Cavanaugh was tabbed Conference USA’s Player of the Year after
collecting her third First-Team All-Conference accolade in as many years. The
Louisville, Ky., native also picked up C-USA All-Tournament Team honors for the
second time of her career. Academically, Cavanaugh earned a spot on the C-USA
Commissioner’s Honor Roll for her efforts in the classroom. She put together
arguably one of the best seasons by an offensive player across the board, becoming
the only outside hitter in the nation to hit .343 or better on more than 1,000
swings. In addition, Cavanaugh led C-USA with 516 kills on the season, a mark that
ranked No. 18 nationally and No. 6 on the WKU single season list. Cavanaugh is the
first Lady Topper volleyball student-athlete to win the award since Ashley Potts in
Lamp laid his claim to the mantle of greatest offensive lineman, and some would also
argue greatest player, in program history in 2016, wrapping up an incredible career
protecting the quarterbacks on The Hill. A two-time All-American and three-time
All-Conference performer at left tackle, Lamp started all 51 games of his career,
third-most in school history, and started 49 consecutive games beginning with his
first game as a redshirt freshman in 2013. The Venice, Fla., native did not allow a
sack of WKU quarterbacks over his final two seasons, and left WKU with three
consecutive bowl championships and consecutive C-USA titles while also captaining
WKU’s offense to the highest scoring offense in the nation in 2016. Not only that,
he also earned his degree from the University in December. Following the season,
Lamp made history yet again, becoming WKU’s highest-ever draft selection when he was
picked No. 38 overall by the Los Angeles Chargers, wrapping up a whirlwind
postseason which included trips to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine and 2017 Reese’s
Senior Bowl. Lamp is the first Hilltopper offensive lineman to win the award since
Brian Bixler in 1995-96.