After leading Liberty Athletics to another banner year, including a fifth-straight Big South Sasser Cup, Director of Athletics Jeff Barber has been selected as one of four FCS Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year award winners.
Joining Barber (Southeast) as fellow FCS Under Armour AD of the Year award winners are Jim Fiore, Stony Brook (Northeast), Gene Taylor, North Dakota State (Central) and Peter Fields, Montana State (West). Fiore will be honored during NACDA's 47th Annual Convention Wednesday at the James J. Corbett Awards Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas.
The Under Armour AD of the Year Award program was created to honor intercollegiate directors of athletics for their commitment and administrative excellence within a campus and/or college community environment.
The award spans seven divisions (NCAA FBS, FCS, Division I, II, III, NAIA/Other Four-Year Institutions and Junior/Community Colleges) and annually honors 29 athletics directors (four from each division) as regional winners, and one international recipient.
During the 2011-12 athletic year, Liberty once again was a dominant force at the conference, regional and national levels of intercollegiate athletics.
Under Barber's leadership, Liberty captured the Big South Sasser Cup award for the fifth year in a row, crowning Liberty the top athletics program in the Big South Conference. Liberty became the first program to win the conference's top award five consecutive years.
Additionally, it was Liberty's 10th Sasser Cup title in the last 14 athletics seasons. That is the most Sasser Cup crowns ever earned by a Big South institution, one more than Coastal Carolina's nine Sasser Cups.
Liberty captured 10 Big South championships in 2011-12, including two regular-season titles and eight tournament crowns. The Flames won the regular-season title in women's basketball and shared the regular-season crown in volleyball, while claiming the conference tournament championship in men's cross country, men's soccer, volleyball, men's and women's indoor track & field, women's basketball, men's golf and men's outdoor track & field.
In total, 12 of the 17 Big South athletics programs Liberty sponsors finished first or second in either the Big South regular-season standings or at their Big South Championship event. The list also includes women's cross country (second place), football (second place), women's outdoor track & field (second place) and baseball (Big South Championship runner-up).
Liberty sent three different programs (women's basketball, men's soccer and golf) and three individuals to NCAA Championship events in 2011-12, spotlighted by a 10th-place finish by the golf program at the NCAA Men's Golf Championship in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Barber was instrumental in continuing the success of Liberty's football program when he hired Turner Gill on Dec. 14, 2011 as the program's eighth head coach. Gill, the former Kansas head coach and standout quarterback at Nebraska, inherits a program that has finished the last four years ranked inside the Top 25 and has won seven or more games each season during the same time span.
During his six-year tenure as Director of Athletics, Barber has continually fought to ensure that Liberty student-athletes compete in the latest on-campus facilities.
This past year, Liberty began to construct a brand new 2,500-seat baseball stadium and a three-court basketball practice facility, plus completed a new field hockey and lacrosse complex and started renovations to the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex.
Meanwhile, Fiore was named the 2011-12 Under Armour Northeast Region Athletics Director of the Year.
Wrapping up his ninth year as Director of Athletics; three of them under current University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., Fiore has worked tirelessly to lead Stony Brook University on an aggressive course for success in all aspects of intercollegiate athletics. He has been widely praised for his unparalleled success, directing an athletics department that is widely considered a model for rising athletic departments across the country. Since arriving to Stony Brook in July 2003, Fiore has undertaken a major restructuring of the intercollegiate athletics program, including the hiring of new coaching and administrative staff, implementing dramatic facility upgrades and celebrating unprecedented revenue generation. For the near future, Fiore is focused on building Stony Brook University Athletics into the premier athletic program in the Northeast Region among all public research universities.
Under Fiore's leadership in 2011-12, Stony Brook enjoyed its most successful year ever as an athletic program, capturing nine conference championships, sending six of its programs to a national postseason tournament and celebrating the program's first-ever individual national champion.
The football team won the Big South Conference title for the third straight season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship. The women's cross country team completed a half-decade of dominance after capturing its fifth consecutive America East Championship. The men's soccer team won its second America East crown in three seasons and advanced to the NCAA College Cup. The men's basketball team ran through the America East en route to a regular season championship and its second NIT appearance in three seasons. The women's tennis team secured its first-ever America East Championship and NCAA Tournament berth. T he men's lacrosse team captured its third straight America East regular season crown and then won the tournament title for second time in three seasons to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Women's track & field star Lucy Van Dalen wrapped up her Seawolves career by winning the program's first-ever individual national championship, taking the mile at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship.
The crowning athletic achievement under Fiore in 2011-12 was the baseball's team's run to the College World Series. After winning the America East Championship for the second time in three seasons, the Seawolves won the NCAA Coral Gables Regional by knocking off perennial powers Miami and Central Florida and then defeated six-time national champion LSU in a best two-out-of-three on its home field in the NCAA Super Regional to advance to its first-ever College World Series. Buoyed by five national television appearances on the ESPN Family of Networks, headlines and stories in numerous national media outlets and a stirring buzz across social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the baseball team shocked the world and captured the hearts of people all across the country with their run to Omaha. The Seawolves garnered numerous postseason honors, including first-team All-American Travis Jankowski, who became Stony Brook's first-ever first-round Major League draft pick to headline a school-record seven Seawolves draftees.
Fiore has also laid the groundwork for future success at Stony Brook through major facility improvements. He helped secure the $21.1 million Stony Brook Arena renovation project that will commence this summer and be completed by Fall 2014. The arena, which will seat just over 4,000 fans, will become Long Island's new premier athletic and entertainment destination and serve as the home to Stony Brook men's & women's basketball. Earlier this month, he opened the new 8,000 square foot Dubin Family Athletic Performance Center, which will be the new home to Seawolves strength & conditioning and was privately funded by alumnus Glenn Dubin '78 '12, whose $4.3 million gift was the largest ever given to a SUNY athletics program. Later this summer, University Pool will undergo a $10 million renovation as well. In recent years, Fiore also opened Joe Nathan Field (baseball), University Track, the Goldstein Family Student-Athlete Development Center and Pritchard Gymnasium (men's & women's basketball and volleyball).
All NACDA-member directors of athletics in the United States, Canada and Mexico who met the criteria were eligible for the award. Among the criteria were service as an AD for a minimum of five academic years; demonstration of commitment to higher education and student-athletes; continuous teamwork, loyalty and excellence; and the ability to inspire individuals or groups to high levels of accomplishments. Additionally, each AD's institution must have passed a compliance check through its appropriate governing body (i.e., NCAA, NAIA, etc.), in which the institution could not have been on probation or cited for a lack of institutional control within the last five years during the tenure of the current athletics director.
Nominators were NACDA-member directors of athletics, institutional presidents and conference commissioners. Special Selection Committees composed of current and former directors of athletics, present and past NCAA and NAIA presidents, current and former commissioners and other key athletics administrators voted on nominees for the award.