June 12, 2008
Rome, Ga. - With seven top 20 finishes from its spring sports teams, Shorter has just been ranked 21st in the country in the Director's Cup rankings, released today by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). Released annually, the Director's Cup rankings honor institutions maintaining broad-based athletic programs while achieving success in many sports, both men's and women's.
Shorter made the most significant improvement of any of the country's top ranked NAIA programs, jumping 66 places over the past year (the Hawks finished 86th a year ago). At the same time, Shorter's athletic program ranked highest of all of the teams in the two conferences in which the school competes - the Mid-South Conference (MSC) for football and track and the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) for all other programs. To top the year off, the school also turned in a successful bid to host the NAIA national football championship games in both 2008 and 2009. With over 400 student-athletes competing in sixteen sports (eight men's teams and eight women's teams), Shorter has been moving steadily to upgrade all of its athletic programs.
"Both Dr. [Nelson] Price (Shorter's Chairman of the Board) and Dr. [Harold] Newman (Shorter's President) believe in excellence in all endeavors, from the arts to our business school to athletics, and it is certainly our intent to honor that philosophy," said Athletic Director Bill Peterson.
In addition to strong leadership from the top, others point to the advent of the Hawks football program in 2005 as the reason for the change in Shorter's athletic fortunes. With winning seasons in two of their first three years, the Shorter football program ended the 2007 season as the nation's 28th team in the NAIA's final poll. Led by former University of Georgia assistant football coach, Phil Jones, the program has begun to make believers out of those who questioned the wisdom of Shorter taking on such a challenge.
A strong blend of athletic administrators and coaches has also contributed to the Hawks' newfound success. Peterson is a former president of a publicly traded medical device company and brings strong finance and marketing skills to the program. He is also credited for leading the charge that brought the NAIA national football championship to Rome.
"I have seen programs at the Division I level that don't have this caliber of an administrative team," said Jones, who has also coached at SMU and Gardner-Webb. "I think we have been extremely blessed."
Jones, the former Georgia assistant, is well known throughout Georgia high football circles as an excellent coach and a man of impeccable Christian character. As one of the department's senior associate athletic directors, Jones' resume also includes 25 years experience as an athletic director.
Vic Mitchell, the head women's basketball coach who serves as the school's other senior associate athletic director, also started his coaching career at UGA. With 18 years at the helm of the Lady Hawks, Mitchell is one of the most respected coaches in women's athletics.
In addition to this group, the school's former athletic director, Ricci Lattanzi, now serves as the department's Game Day Operations Manager. Considered the early architect of Shorter athletics, Lattanzi brings a tremendous amount of experience, history and local influence to the program.
Rounding out the team is the department's Sports Information Director, Grant Kersey, a recent Shorter graduate. Kersey, who began his career with the Rome Braves, has been instrumental in implementing a number of innovative sports marketing programs.
While the school has put together a strong and experienced leadership team for athletics, it is also with some help of the top young coaches in the country.
Chad Warner, men's basketball head coach, has Division I coaching experience at both the University of Georgia and with William and Mary. In his first year with the Hawks, Warner produced a 19-win season, the second most wins in the 40-year history of the program. Warner, who prepped at the Darlington Academy in Rome, has worked hard to make Shorter more visible in the Rome community.
"One of Coach Peterson's goals is to bring Shorter off the hill and into the city of Rome," said Warner. "We really believe our sports teams can help make that happen."
Another rising star for the Hawks' athletic program is softball coach Melanie Carter. Carter, a former All-American at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, has achieved an impressive 100 wins in her first two seasons as head coach. Her teams have claimed back-to-back conference regular season championships and have made back-to-back appearances in the NAIA softball national championship tournament. Even more important to Shorter, her team was recognized earlier in the year as the National Winner of the Buffalo Funds Five Star NAIA Champions of Character Award.
"We are extremely proud of our women's softball program led by Coach Carter, Coach Al Thomas (assistant), and a group of very talented young ladies who have excelled on and off the playing field," said Mitchell.
In addition to softball's top 10 ranking, Shorter had six other spring sports complete their season ranked in the top 20, while the fall yielded a conference and region championship in men's cross country and a conference tournament championship in women's volleyball. Mitchell added, "Led by Dr. Newman and Coach Peterson, Shorter's commitment to all of our athletic teams combined with excellent coaches and recruiting has been exciting for not only our college but also for the entire Rome community."
Adding to the Hawks' accolades, track head coach Scott Byrd pushed both his men and women's teams to top fifteen finishes in just the second year of Shorter's track program. Byrd, who also serves as the school's strength and conditioning coach, started as a coach and instructor at the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs.
"We feel that each and every one of our programs is directed by men and women that have an unbelievable ability to both teach and lead," added Peterson. "Any credit we receive as an athletic program needs to go to these coaches who work so hard on behalf of our student athletes."
For more information on the Hawks and Lady Hawks, or about the Shorter College Athletic Department, please visit www.goshorterhawks.com.
∑ Ranked 21st in the nation in the NACDA Director's Cup national standings
∑ Led successful bid for the NAIA National Football Championship
∑ National Winner of the Buffalo Funds Five Star NAIA Champions of Character Award in Softball
∑ NAIA National Scholar-Athlete selections - 7
∑ Conference All-Academic selections - 48
∑ Five teams nominated for the scholar team ranking (requires team GPAs over a 3.0) - men's and women's soccer, softball, volleyball, women's basketball
∑ All-American selections: 18
∑ Nationally ranked programs:
o Football - 28th
∑ National Championship qualifiers: cross country (men), indoor track and field (men and women), softball, golf (men and women), tennis (men), outdoor track and field (men and women)
∑ Conference Championships in: volleyball, men's cross country, softball, men's outdoor track and field
∑ 20-win season in women's basketball with both men and women's basketball being ranked in the NAIA Top 25 at the same time for the first time ever