The confetti fell at the Capital One Center in Washington, D.C., and, then, our men’s basketball team cut down the nets as Wildcats in the stands roared. The ’Cats won their first Atlantic 10 tournament and a ticket to the NCAA tournament.
They battled tightly with a Kentucky squad that, at press time, was sending four of five starters to the NBA draft.
The men’s basketball team delivered one of the extraordinary stories in a banner year for Davidson College athletics.
Last May, the Wildcat baseball team won the A-10, and defeated in-state rival (and No. 1 seed) UNC in the regional matchup in Chapel Hill before heading to the superregional at Texas A&M. Their postseason run set a new bar for Davidson baseball.
And just a few weeks ago, the men’s golf team won its first conference title in 50 years with Mike Blasey ’19 claiming the individual title.
In all, Davidson won three A-10 titles over the past 12 months. Those championships draw the spotlight, but fans like me have shared countless unforgettable moments on the track, court, field, mat and in the pool with each of our 21 sports.
Wildcats fans cheer loudly—just ask those who sit around me—for our teams and for far more than a W/L record. One in four Davidson students competes in a Division I sport. We are supporting our classmates, friends and fellow scholars. When we applaud, we are cheering for a model of athletic competition that stands for both integrity and excellence.
We are a college with outsized aspiration. When we joined the A-10, many thought we would wilt, distinguishing ourselves only as the place with the smallest student body. Ask our opponents on the baseball diamond, the hardwood and the fairways whether that sounds accurate.
At Davidson, athletics is not an add-on that overshadows education. It is a crucial part of it. Our coaches are educators. From them, our students learn how to lead and how to grow from failure. They adjust and attack problems differently. They figure out collaboration. They even master time management as they commit fully to academics and their sport.
Most of all, evidenced by these recent championships over schools with bigger budgets and higher sports rankings, our players learn that teamwork triumphs over individual talent.
A recent NCAA study tied Davidson with a handful of other schools, including Notre Dame and Princeton, for the second-highest graduation success rate in the nation. It doesn’t go unnoticed. At the end of our debut A-10 basketball season, Davidson topped Time magazine’s “Here’s Who Wins March Madness in the Classroom” bracket.
The Wildcats’ incredible year serves as a salute to two of the athletic department’s finest. Director of Athletics Jim Murphy ’78 announced in February that he will move into a new role on July 1. Murphy will hold the title of director of athletics emeritus and will serve as an advisor for finance and operations. Meanwhile, Dick Cooke will become an associate athletic director after he wraps up his 28th season as Davidson’s head baseball coach.
Both Jim and Dick embody the values we at Davidson College hold dear and the principle that “scholar athlete” is one title. I thank them both from my heart for their leadership and for their distinguished legacies.