As The Summit League enters its fourth decade of Division I athletics, the performance level continues to rise to higher standards. A memorable 2011-12 campaign celebrated numerous record-setting and remarkable achievements for The Summit League, its member schools and student-athletes during the league’s 30th anniversary season.
“Ascending” and “improving” are common adjectives used in media coverage of The Summit League as it continues its renaissance. Consisting of nine member institutions with over 3,000 student-athletes competing in 19 championship sports, The Summit League has enjoyed unprecedented success and development in recent history.
Since rebranding as The Summit League in 2007, the league has
produced 54 All-Americans, 37 Academic All-America selections and
seven NCAA Championships. In the past seven seasons, Summit League
teams have achieved final national rankings in six different
sports, won NCAA regional championships in two sports and advanced
in three additional NCAA team championship tournaments. That level
of success carries into both the classroom and athletic
Record-Setting 2011-12 Season
In 2011-12 alone, The Summit League nearly doubled its all-time NCAA Champions total by claiming four national titles. IUPUI’s Chen Ni became the first female to win multiple NCAA crowns when she claimed her second platform diving championship in three seasons. The Summit League produced its most successful NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships to date when its student-athletes won three titles. Southern Utah’s Cameron Levins, one of three finalists for the prestigious Bowerman Award, won the 10,000-meter and 5,000-meter races and became The Summit League’s first student-athlete to finish first in multiple events at a single championship. Oral Roberts’ Jack Whitt gave the league its third title when he won the pole vault competition.
Two additional student-athletes collected NCAA statistical championships as Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton became The Summit League’s first men’s basketball national scoring leader and Western Illinois’ Sammy Marshall was softball’s national leader in stolen bases per game.
The Summit League’s growth and success is most evident at the annual Basketball Championships. Its 2012 event set a record for total attendance, including the all-time highest women’s tournament figure and the third-best overall men’s draw. The last four tournaments occupy each of the top four all-time tournament attendance totals in league history.
Popularity of The Summit League’s marquee event reaches
beyond the arena. The 2012 Basketball Championships marked the
first time in league history that all 14 men’s and
women’s tournament games appeared on national cable
television. Since 2009, every tournament game has been televised,
including the men’s championship on ESPN2 and the
women’s title game on ESPNU.
Men’s Basketball enjoyed a stellar season on and off the court. The Summit League finished 2011-12 with its highest RPI ranking in history, placing 16th among Division I conferences after peaking as high as No. 11 earlier in the season. A record five teams played in national postseason tournaments with one, Oakland, making the deepest run in league history with three wins and a semifinal appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The league-wide success translated to unprecedented fan support and an all-time best home attendance figure.
Throughout the 2011-12 season, The Summit League measured up well against men’s basketball leagues across the country and finished with a .500 or better record against 15 of the 17 mid-major conferences. Against both Division I and overall non-league competition, The Summit League amassed its highest victory total and posted its best winning percentage on record. Under the national spotlight, The Summit League was one of only two conferences with multiple participating teams to post perfect records in nationally-televised BracketBuster games.
In women’s athletics, The Summit League sent a record four teams to compete in national women’s basketball postseason tournaments, including an all-time high three in the WNIT. The volleyball season saw The Summit League ranked as high as No. 13 among the 33 Division I leagues in the Pablo Ranking system.
With three national champions and the two-highest placing teams in league history at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, The Summit League solidified itself as one of the national leaders in the sport. During the Indoor season, The Summit League finished ninth among men’s Division I leagues in the final USTFCCCA conference index. A combined 12 men’s and women’s Indoor and Outdoor All-America honors went to Summit League student-athletes.
The Summit League emphasizes a balance of outstanding athletics
and academics. The NCAA honored a record 15 Summit League teams for
APR success that included finishing among the top 10 percent for
their sport. Individually, North Dakota State’s Amy Anderson
continued to garner recognition as one of the NCAA’s top
student-athletes by earning the National Golf Coaches
Association’s Dinah Shore Trophy recognizing achievement in
athletic performance, grade point average and community service.
Similar honors went to IUPUI’s men’s soccer standout
Perez Agaba, who earned selection to the Lowe’s Senior CLASS
All-America team. A total of seven Summit League student-athletes
were named to their sport’s Capital One Academic All-America
teams, includes three first team honorees.
Origins and Evolution
In 1982, the present-day Summit League was formed by commissioner F.L. “Frosty” Ferzacca as the Association of Mid-Continent Universities with eight schools competing in five championship sports at the Division I level. Later known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League has grown to a combined enrollment of over 144,000 students at nine universities, four of which are based in top-58 U.S. metro populations (Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Omaha).
The Summit League’s two newest members, South Dakota and Nebraska Omaha, compete together for the first time in 2012-13. Admitted to the league in 2009, USD completed its initial year of league competition in 2011-12 and is eligible for all championships this season. UNO joined the league in 2011 and is in its first year of Summit League competition before becoming fully eligible for all sport championships in 2015-16.
Current Summit League member institutions include: IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne), IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis), UMKC (University of Missouri-Kansas City), the University of Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota State University, Oakland University, the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, and Western Illinois University. Eastern Illinois University competes as an associate member in swimming and diving and men's soccer and Oral Roberts University is an associate member for men’s soccer. These member institutions pride themselves on providing quality athletic, academic and social experiences for their student-athletes.
The Summit League sponsors 19 championship sports: baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's indoor track and field, men's and women's outdoor track and field, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball. The league champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in all applicable sports.
Since its inception in 1982, The Summit League has had several transcendent moments on the national stage. In 1986, Cleveland State upset third-seeded Indiana in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on its way to a berth in the Sweet 16. A decade later, Valparaiso captured the nation's attention when Bryce Drew hit "the shot" to topple No. 4 seed Mississippi in an NCAA first-round game that sparked its 1998 Sweet 16 run.
More recently, Oral Roberts' baseball program finished the 2004 campaign with a national-ranking and became the first Summit League school to reach an NCAA Super Regional in 2006. Three years later in 2009, North Dakota State became the league’s first softball team to win an NCAA regional and advance to the Super Regional round. During the 2008-09 basketball season, South Dakota State's women's team was nationally-ranked throughout the year and capped its season with an NCAA Tournament first round victory.
The League has produced nine NCAA champions, four Olympic medalists and numerous All-Americans in the sports of track and field, swimming and diving and cross country. Several professional athletes and draft choices have come directly from The Summit League, including three Major League Baseball first round picks, a pair of NBA first round choices, and one WNBA selection. Former Summit Leaguer Kevin Duckworth (NBA) was a two-time all-star during his professional career.
To coincide with The Summit League’s 30th Anniversary Season, the league released a list of its Top 30 Distinguished Contributors from the Division I era as selected by a panel of voters from member schools and media. Four individual NCAA champions and three Olympic medalists along with four NBA players and two World Series Champions headlined The Summit League's list of top student-athletes, coaches and administrators that was the jewel of the anniversary celebration.