|Former WKU swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue|
Competing at the Highest Level
WKU Athletics has a rich history of tradition and excellence that spans decades, but the last 15 years have been a time of dramatic transformation. As a whole all WKU sports have won 82 Conference Championships (34 more than the next closest Sun Belt Conference school).
Athletes’ academic success is the top priority for WKU Athletics. In the spring 2012 semester, the cumulative grade point average for all 385 student-athletes was 3.05. Since 1999-2000, 85 percent of student-athletes who have completed their eligibility have graduated.
Men’s Basketball has made six appearances in the NCAA tournament in the past 15 years. In 2008, Ty Rogers’ game-winning three-pointer in the first round of the NCAA tournament earned him an ESPY award for “best finish” and catapulted Hilltopper basketball into the national spotlight.
In 2002, WKU Football won the I-AA National Championship, and in 2009, the football program officially moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A).The ultimate fan and supporter of all WKU’s intercollegiate sports, Big Red is one of the most beloved and well-known college mascots in the country. Big Red has enjoyed much success over the past 15 years, including participating in the Capital One All-American Mascot Challenge eight times and being named the inaugural member of the Capital One Mascot Challenge Hall of Fame in 2012. Big Red turned 30 years old on December 1, 2009.
Claire Donahue became the first WKU student-athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She competed in the Butterfly leg on the 4x100 Medley Women's swimming relay team.
Athletic facilities improvements
■ Since 2000, $100 million in construction and renovation has been completed for WKU Athletics facilities supporting all 19 sports.
■ To support the two new women’s programs, the WKU softball field, built in conjunction with the WKU soccer complex in 1999 and early 2000, was part of a $1.2 million development to create two of the finest facilities in the conference and region.
■ E.A. Diddle Arena, named for the legendary Hilltopper coach, was originally dedicated in December 1963 and underwent a $32 million renovation in 2003.
■ Since 2002, WKU invested nearly $3 million into enhancements at Nick Denes Field. Among the most noticeable changes include a press box and indoor hitting facility, which opened in 2002, and a new clubhouse facility that opened prior to the 2010 season. Eight hundred chairback seats have been added as well, bringing the capacity of the baseball complex to nearly 1,500.
■ The Bill Powell Natatorium includes a 25-meter x 25- yard swimming pool with an ADA compliant pool lift and is accessible for everyone. Also included in the Natatorium is balcony seating for 300 spectators and an outdoor sun deck. Named for legendary WKU Coach Bill Powell, the Natatorium has been the permanent home of WKU swimming and diving since 2002.
■ The renovation of Houchens Industries-LT Smith Stadium began in April 2006 and featured the construction of a new west side of the stadium and a significant renovation of the stadium’s existing east side. Capacity now stands at 22,113. In 2012 the Club Level was named for national championship Coach Jack Harbaugh and his wife Jackie. The building addition also houses the football offices, a weight room, training room, locker room, and equipment area.
■ The Charles M. Ruter Track and Field Complex was completed in May 2008. Highlighted by an eight-lane Defargo track surface, the facility houses a number of amenities to give Hilltopper and Lady Topper athletes, as well as the WKU and Bowling Green communities, a top-rated track and field facility for practice and competition.