FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A pair of top-six finishes at the recently completed NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and a return to the NCAA Softball Tournament has helped move the University of Arkansas into the Top 25 in the 2016-17 Learfield Directors’ Cup released Wednesday morning by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of America (NACDA). The Directors’ Cup tracks the nation’s most successful intercollegiate athletics programs for their performances throughout the year.
The Razorbacks earned 153.5 combined points in outdoor track and field while netting 25 points in softball. Arkansas has earned a total of 789 points and ranks 22nd in the next to last standings of the Directors Cup. Only baseball remains to be added in the final standings set to be published after completion of the College World Series. Arkansas is one of eight Southeastern Conference (SEC) programs in the top 25 of the most recent standings.
Arkansas added 80 points to its total with a fourth-place finish on the men’s side at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Coach Chris Bucknam’s squad earned a spot on the podium for the fourth time in the past five years at collegiate track and field’s final championships event. The Razorbacks racked up 33 team points in Eugene including eight points from a trio of national runner-up finishes from Jack Bruce in the 5,000 meters, Clive Pullen in the triple jump and the Hogs’ 4×400 Meter Relay team (Rhayko Schwartz, Eric Janise, Roy Ejiakuekwu and Obi Igbokwe).
The Razorback women’s track and field team tallied 73.5 Directors’ Cup points for its sixth-place team finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The two-day competition saw the Hogs score 38.2 team points while collecting two silver medals and a bronze medal along the way to earning the program’s fifth-consecutive top-10 NCAA outdoor team finish. Nikki Hiltz was national runner-up in the 1,500 meters as was Lexi Weeks in the pole vault. Taliyah Brooks finished third in the heptathlon. The top-six finish capped a season which saw the women’s team win its third-consecutive SEC Triple Crown (cross country, indoor and outdoor championships).
Arkansas’ remarkable turnaround in softball, including its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2013 earned 25 points. Coach Courtney Deifel led the Razorbacks to a 31-24 record, the program’s first SEC Tournament appearance in four years and a spot in the NCAA Norman Regional. The run to the postseason came only one season after Arkansas won 17 games, including just one in the SEC, during Deifel’s inaugural season.
The Razorback women’s golf team made a final round run at the NCAA Columbus Golf Regional, but came up a couple strokes shy of advancing to the NCAA Golf Championships. Arkansas finished eighth in the team standings at the regional. Sophomore Cara Gorlei tied for seventh individually and advanced to the NCAA Championships in Sugar Grove, Illinois. For its performance, women’s golf earned 43.5 points for the Directors Cup standings.
Arkansas men’s golf team also earned a berth to the NCAA postseason, competing at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional. The Razorbacks finished eighth as a team, two spots shy of a return to the NCAA Golf Championships earning 28.5 points. Freshman Mason Overstreet finished sixth in the regional to advance to the final NCAA competition where he turned in a performance of a lifetime. Overstreet recorded a blistering final round to make a run at the individual national title, before finishing as the national runner-up. Overstreet becomes the second player in school history to finish inside the top five at the National Championship, joining R.H. Sikes who won the program’s only National Title in 1963.
Another strong season from the Razorback women’s tennis team resulted in a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and 50 points. Coach Michael Hegarty led his squad to an 18-10 record and the program’s first NCAA opening round win (Wichita State) since 2011. Arkansas garnered a top-20 national ranking for 10 consecutive weeks and earned 10 wins over nationally ranked teams. Sophomore Ana Oparenovic and senior Shannon Hudson competed in the NCAA Tournament in singles, with Hudson making a Round of 32 appearance. Hudson also teamed with freshman Giulia Pairone in the doubles draw with the duo advancing to the Round of 16.
Coach Andy Jackson and the men’s tennis team earned 25 points for a second-straight trip to the NCAA Tennis Championships. Arkansas was selected for the Fort Worth Regional where it fell to Florida State in the first round. Seniors Mike Redlicki and Jose Salazar advanced to the NCAA Tournament singles and doubles draws. The duo advanced to the Round of 16 in doubles, while Redlicki also earned a first-round win in singles.
Arkansas tallied 258.5 points in the winter sports segment of the Directors Cup competition. The Arkansas men’s track and field team completed its 2017 indoor campaign with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas. The Razorbacks were led by senior Clive Pullen who jumped his way back onto the top of the triple jump podium, earning the second NCAA national title of his career. The top-five finish earned Arkansas 75 Directors’ Cup points.
The Razorbacks tallied an additional 75 points when the women’s track and field team also earned a fifth-place national finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Arkansas scored championship team points in four events, including 12 points in the pentathlon, led by national runner-up Taliyah Brooks. Arkansas earned 8.5 points in the pole vault with three top eight finishers.
Gymnastics not only earned a spot to the NCAA postseason, it competed at home in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Barnhill Arena. Arkansas finished tied for third in the regional, one spot short of qualifying as a team for the NCAA Championships. Freshman Jessica Yamzon and junior Braie Speed advanced to the NCAA Championship as individual all-arounders and vault specialist, respectively. Arkansas’ team performance netted 58.5 points in the Directors Cup competition.
The Razorback men’s basketball team recorded one of the best seasons in school history, ending the year with a 26-10 overall record including finishing tied for seventh for the most wins in the history of the program. Arkansas ended the season winning nine of its final 12 games, including a trip to the SEC Championship game and the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. The Hogs tallied a win over Seton Hall in their tournament opener before falling to eventual national champion North Carolina in the second round. The memorable season on the hardwood bolstered the Razorbacks Directors Cup total by 50 points.
Arkansas earned a total of 205 points in the fall segment of the competition, led by a pair of Top 20 performances from its cross country programs. The men’s cross country team earned 75 points by returning to the top five of the NCAA Cross Country meet for the first time in a decade. The Razorbacks’ top-five team finish was their best performance since 2006. Arkansas has ranked in the Top 10 nationally in four of the past seven seasons. Arkansas women’s cross country raced to a 19th-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championship, earning 55 points. Arkansas has now finished as a top-20 national cross country power five years in a row, dating back to its 14th-place finish at the 2011 national meet.
The Razorback soccer program earned 50 points for its historic 18-5-1 season marked by several program milestones, including finishing ranked No. 19 in the final National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Top 25 poll. The Razorbacks secured wins over two top-five programs at home (No. 2 – Duke, No. 4 – Florida) as well as eight SEC victories and a nine-game home win streak, both school records. Arkansas advanced to the championship match of the SEC Tournament and hosted its first NCAA Tournament match in program history, earning a thrilling 2-1 win over Memphis in overtime.
Faced with the most competitive home schedule in Razorback Football history, Arkansas won seven games, including its first win over SEC Eastern Division Champion and No. 11 Florida in 34 years. The Razorbacks advanced to their third-consecutive bowl game playing ACC Coastal Champion Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl. The loss to Virginia Tech was the first for Coach Bielema at Arkansas after back-to-back bowl victories. Arkansas tallied 25 points from its third-consecutive football bowl appearance.
Last year in the 2015-16 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, Arkansas tallied 820 points and finished 23rd, the eighth Top 30 finish in the past nine years. The Razorbacks’ also earned a top-25 finish in the final rankings for the sixth time since the previously independent men’s and women’s athletics programs were combined in 2008.
The Directors’ Cup program has been tracking the success of the nation’s top intercollegiate athletics programs since 1993-94.