JONESBORO (ASU) – After finishing fourth for a six-place jump in the Sun Belt Conference's annual Bubas Cup standings in 2010, Arkansas State Athletics took another step this year toward cementing its place among the top all-sports programs in the league by moving up to third and showing that its recent success is no aberration.
A-State has now posted its best back-to-back finishes in the Bubas Cup since 1999 and 2000, and the Red Wolves continued to raise the bar this year despite scoring its third most points ever a year ago for its best results in the standings in over a decade.
ASU's 15 programs that count toward the Sun Belt's all-sports standings combined to score a school-record 109 points, giving the Red Wolves their first top-three finish since 2000 and their seventh all-time in 20 years as a member of the conference. A-State scored 11.5 more points than it did last year when it moved from 10th to fourth in the standings.
The Red Wolves passed North Texas, a perennial top-three finisher, in the standings this year for the first time since 2001 and closed the gap on second-place Western Kentucky and champion Middle Tennessee to just four and 17.5 points, respectively. ASU finished 26 points behind the Hilltoppers and 50.5 back of the Blue Raiders in 2010.
Making the Red Wolves' top-three finish an even bigger accomplishment, their nationally-ranked bowling team, which made its fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championships, did not factor into their score since the Sun Belt doesn't sponsor the sport.
Additionally, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and North Texas all have at least one more sport counting toward their score and all three have a budget considerably larger than that of the ASU Athletic Department. In fact, only one school within the conference has fewer sports than A-State that are factored into their Bubas Cup score and just two schools have a smaller budget than ASU.
"When you look at the overall improvement of the Sun Belt Conference while also considering that we're operating with a lower budget and have fewer sports than many of the top finishers in the Bubas Cup, these results are even more impressive," said ASU Director of Athletics Dr. Dean Lee. "We've been able to maximize our resources, accomplishing more with less in a lot of cases.
"We're pleased to be able to move up to a third-place finish this year, but we will continue to strive for improvement," added Lee. "I think this clearly shows that we are already among the elite overall programs in the conference. That is a tribute to the student-athletes we currently have and that we are continuing to bring in, as well as the quality coaches and staff we have in place."
For the second straight year ASU had numerous sports improve their finish in the standings over the previous season. Even after nine sports improved their finish in 2010, 10 sports did so this year and five of those ended the year among the top three teams in the Sun Belt standings. A-State had 10 teams that collected a top-five spot in one of the 19 sports sponsored by the league.