May 5, 2005
By Dwight Chapin
San Francisco Chronicle
There are smiles all over the place at Santa Clara University these days.
The school has clinched its first West Coast Conference Commissioner's Cup, emblematic of the league's top overall athletic program, dethroning three- time winner Pepperdine University.
The Broncos recorded just one first-place finish in 2004-05, a tie at the top in women's soccer, but showed strength across the board, winding up third in eight of their other 12 sports, with one fourth and two fifths (baseball is still to be determined), to finish ahead of runner-up San Diego.
Santa Clara also was first in the eight-team WCC in competition for both the women's and men's all-sports awards.
"It's great to have this sort of recognition for our student-athletes and coaches," said Dan Coonan, who took over as the school's athletic director in August. "It's really a long-term thing. When I got here, I saw the great coaches, facilities and student-athletes we have, and I thought the best thing I could do was just get out of the way and let them do their thing."
Four Bronco teams, women's volleyball, men's and women's soccer and women's basketball, made NCAA tournaments this season.
"We were very good across the board," Coonan said. "Our men's golf team went from last to third, which helped a lot."
Coonan credited Carroll Williams and Cheryl Levick, his predecessors as athletic director, for setting the basis for the Broncos' success, in large part by hiring a coterie of top coaches that include Jerry Smith, Dick Davey, Jon Wallace, Cam Rast and Michelle Bento-Jackson.
Women's volleyball coach Wallace spoke of a unity that has developed among the Broncos' teams.
"The coaches care about each other and help each other out," he said. "We're more concerned now about how the other sports are doing. That's added to the camaraderie here."
Wallace added that winning this year's Commissioner's Cup, after three straight second-place finishes, means more because Pepperdine had scored a trio of victories.
"Dethroning a multiple champion says a lot about what we're doing," Wallace said.
Santa Clara will celebrate its cup by giving commemorative T-shirts to all its student-athletes at a senior awards night dinner on May 25.
Coonan will be sure to mention it in the next alumni e-mailing.
"A lot of them already know about it," he said, "but since this is our first time, we want to make the most of it."