Women’s basketball point guard Kyiarah English ’ 19 learned about faculty
support right from the start. Pressed into surprise starting duty during her first
season because of an injury to veteran Megan McGurk ’ 17, English says, “It was
a little rough at first” keeping up with the academic workload. “It’s a little harder
than I expected, but the professors are great. They’re always there to help.”
Field hockey’s Abby Watson echoes that view, saying, “Bucknell really does
allow you to balance the two [academics and athletics]. Both parties [coaches
and faculty] are pretty understanding.”
One thing that helps bring faculty along, says athletics director Hardt, is
Bucknell’s innovative Sideline Coaches Program. Professors and administrators
are invited to shadow a coach as he or she works with players in practice and
in a game.
It’s “a great communication vehicle for building bridges between the academic
side of the University and the athletic enterprise,” Hardt says.
Professor Erin Jablonski, chemical engineering, gained valuable perspective
from her sideline coaching experience. On the athletics website, she notes it
was clear “the coaches are as committed to our students’ academic success as
the athletes themselves.”
One reason Bucknell has won the Patriot League Presidents’ Cup so many
times: All 27 varsity teams enjoy the school’s full commitment to athletics
success. None is treated as an afterthought.
When totaling up the points in the Presidents’ Cup competition, every
sport counts. Having strong programs —
from football and basketball to golf, track
and tennis — means Bucknell often gains
points in sports that don’t get as much
support at other schools.
“It’s hugely important to us that we
provide equitable opportunities across
the board in all 27 of our varsity sports,”
says Hardt. “They’re all important to us.”
When recruits see the Kenneth
Langone Athletics & Recreation Center,
Sojka Pavilion, Kinney Natatorium, the
historic Davis Gym and the multisport
indoor spaces at Gerhard Fieldhouse,
along with Emmitt Field at Holmes
Stadium, Depew Field and Becker Field
— the list goes on and on — they know
athletes are valued and supported here.
DON’T PUSH THE PANIC BUTTON
Bucknell football had a down year in 2015,
winning four and losing seven, as a spate
of injuries dashed the team’s high hopes
for the season.
At some schools, that might have set
off a clamor for change. Not at Bucknell.
“Alumni pounding down the doors,
[saying] fire the coach — it’s just not
there,” Bravman says.
Nor was he worried that Bucknell had
gone two years in a row without winning
the Presidents’ Cup. “It’s not a problem
that keeps me up at night,” Bravman says
with a smile. “I love athletics, love to
win. But it’s about the education of our
student-athletes. … That’s what I want
us to focus on.”
Athletics director Hardt says that
when a team’s performance isn’t what
you want it to be, “the key is you don’t
get overly anxious or panic. You sit down
when the time is appropriate with the
coach and do a thorough analysis [to
determine] what is impeding our success
and devise a plan to address impediments
and obstacles to success.”
On the flip side, he says the goal is
that every one of Bucknell’s programs
will compete for a Patriot League
championship at least once during an
athlete’s four years here.
“Our primary focus isn’t to fill our
And if Patriot League champions
were going to get automatic berths in
NCAA tournaments, the league needed
to add more schools in some sports
— another challenge made more
difficult by the restrictive, need-only
By 2012, the league had decided to
allow athletic scholarships in all sports,
including the last holdout, football.
Bucknell had gradually embraced
the option in other sports, but the
decision on football prompted serious
President John Bravman ultimately
decided Bucknell could offer merit aid
in football “in a way that upholds our
core values,” just as it had done in
The four-year phase-in of merit aid
in Bison football will be complete as
the team takes the field this fall.
“It was just competitively too
difficult” to stick with need-only aid,
Hardt says. When the vast majority
of the other Division I schools could
offer athletic scholarships, “the
playing field was slanted,” he says.
Today, not every Bison sport offers
the full amount of scholarship aid
allowed by NCAA Division I rules.
Bucknell and other Patriot League
schools remain staunchly committed
to the scholar-athlete model, and
they enforce that commitment by
using a rigorous academic index to
ensure their athletes are academically
representative of the student body as
When the Patriot League named
its 25th anniversary teams in 2015,
the roster of all-stars included 64
Bison athletes. Another three Bucknell
football players had been honored
five years earlier, when the league
announced that sport’s 25th
anniversary all-star team.
“The Patriot League is such an
outstanding conference for Bucknell
to be affiliated with,” says Hardt. “It’s
not an accident that we were a charter
member.” — Matt Zencey
Download the Bucknell
Magazine app or visit bucknell.
edu/PL-AllStars for the full list of
Bucknell’s Patriot League all-stars.
Read President Bravman’s 2012
remarks on merit aid at bucknell.
edu/PLMeritAid or via the app.