BURNABY — When Theresa Hanson assumed the role of athletic director at Simon Fraser University in the fall of 2015, she set a pretty lofty goal for Clan athletics and its place within the 300-plus schools competing at the NCAA Div. 2 level.
“With the size of this university, its stature and with our history of past success, one of my goals was for us to be in the top 10,” Hanson said Friday, one day after the NCAA’s only non-U.S. school got its best indication yet that it’s headed in the right direction.
On Thursday, the NCAA released its latest Learfield Directors’ Cup Div. 2 standings, and the Clan, within a field of some 306 competing schools, sat sixth overall.
The Learfield Directors’ Cup is a competition that measures the overall success of collegiate athletic programs through the awarding of points for finish in various NCAA championships.
The standings for 2016-17 won’t be finalized until the end of the current spring season in June, but the Clan is well ahead of the pace it set in 2014-15 when it finished a school-best 26th.
Last season, SFU finished 55th overall.
Simon Fraser was able to make such a huge jump this season based on the fact that nine of its programs qualified for national championships.
Among those successes: Women’s basketball advanced to the Sweet 16, men’s soccer advanced to the second round of the national tournament, volleyball made the national tournament for the first time ever, and women’s cross-country running managed its best-ever finish at sixth.
As well, Clan men’s wrestler Morgan Smith finished fourth in his weight class at nationals, while swimming and indoor track and field scored a bevy of points by producing a combined 12 All-Americans.
Hanson, now 17 months into her posting as Clan athletic director, felt the biggest reason for the program’s overall rise was the work done by her coaching staff.
“I put it back on the coaches,” Hanson began. “I can give you an example of someone like (women’s volleyball coach) Gina Schmidt. This is her fourth year now and you can just see the positive impact she has had on the volleyball program. It takes time to build and recruit, so huge kudos to her. She has done an amazing job and it starts with recruiting the right athletes.
“On the other side, I look at (women’s basketball coach) Bruce Langford. He has been here for a while, and he has built a program that is pretty amazing. We have some pretty amazing coaches here and I couldn’t be prouder of the job they have done.”
Simon Fraser’s current standing of sixth place nationally translates to No. 1 at the present time in its own Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
The Clan’s 451.5 points has it just ahead of rival Alaska Anchorage (seventh, 440.5). The top school in the West Region is fifth-place California Baptist (487.5 points).
“That is a huge point of pride,” added Hanson, who accompanied the women’s basketball team to the West Region championships at Alaska Anchorage earlier this month and watched as the Clan beat the host and No. 2 nationally-ranked Seawolves in the round of 32.
“The GNAC is a tough conference and the West is a very tough region, so I think this speaks volumes to what we’re doing.”
Grand Valley State holds down the No. 1 spot with 701.5 points.
The Clan will hope to add points towards its final total over a spring season in which they compete in golf, softball and track and field.
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