Wright State athletic director Bob Grant never allowed himself to get his hopes up over winning the McCafferty Trophy, which is awarded to the Horizon League school with the most across-the-board success in sports each year.
The Raiders have only 14 teams, the Division-I minimum, and are in the bottom half of the conference in athletics spending.
But after having won league titles in men’s soccer and men’s and women’s basketball, and seeing how well some spring squads were faring, Grant started believing the program’s first McCafferty crown was within reach — at least until talking a few weeks ago with soon-to-be-retired media relations director Bob Noss.
“I said, ‘Bob, could we win it?’ Bob has been around forever, and he said, ‘Aw, BG, we’ll do well, but I don’t think so,’” Grant said. “We just never think we can. There’s been years when we thought we did pretty well and finished fifth or sixth.”
But athletic department employees have been sharing high-fives while getting over a mild case of shock this week after learning the school finished at the top of the 10-member conference. The men’s teams were first in the all-sports standings, while the women were tied for fourth.
“I don’t think we’re wired or funded to do this. It’s very gratifying,” Grant said. “The credit all goes to our student-athletes and our coaches. They’re the ones doing it.”
Points were awarded for regular-season places and league tournament showings. Also contributing to the Raiders’ cause were the baseball team, which won a regular-season title, and the second-place women’s cross-country team.
Women’s basketball and men’s golf won tourney crowns, while men’s basketball and men’s soccer advanced to the finals.
Since joining the Horizon League in 1994-95 (known then as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference), the Raiders have had just three top-three finishes.
“The golf team jumping up and going to the NCAAs — no one saw that coming. I don’t think people saw men’s soccer being ranked in the Top 25 all year and winning a title. (Coach) Rick Williamson in track and field and cross country, he’s a guy who overachieves every year and does more with less and gives you McCafferty points when you don’t think you’ll get them,” Grant said.
The hiring of men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy and women’s coach Katrina Merriweather three years ago also is paying dividends.
“You hate to say Scott and ‘Trina have built those programs up so much that you expect it, but you do. And same with baseball. I’d say in the last five years, we’ve had the best baseball program in the state of Ohio, and that’s no hyperbole,” Grant said.
The Raiders also are reaching new highs academically. The department just surpassed 50 consecutive terms with an overall GPA of 3.0 or better, and four programs earned NCAA recognition for top-tier Academic Progress Rate scores.
Grant — a Wright State graduate who has worked about 35 years at the school, the last 11 as AD — might not have been able to see this day coming, but he’s grateful it happened on his watch.
“Growing up in the athletic department, and the athletic department growing up around me, it does make it more special,” he said. “This place is more than a job for me. It’s been my life. It’s where I met my wife. My kids, from the time they were in the womb, were around Wright State athletics.
“To show this kind of overall success — at a difficult time financially for the university and at a time when the university needs good news — I’m thrilled and proud we can shine a positive light on it.”