University of Nevada Athletics Overview
The 2015-16 athletics season at Nevada saw history made on a number of fronts, featuring a two-time national champion diver and the first ever postseason basketball championship in school and Mountain West Conference history amongst a number of highlights for the Wolf Pack.
The accomplishments and accolades set the stage for a brighter 2016-17 season as the Wolf Pack is poised for new heights. Nevada is now in its fifth season as a member of the Mountain West Conference and sponsors 16 intercollegiate sports featuring more than 400 student-athletes.
Diver Sharae Zheng etched her name on to a select list of national champions at Nevada. The sophomore became just the third athlete in school history to win multiple Division I titles in the same year, capturing two as she swept the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta in March. It was Nevada’s first national championship in 14 years.
A month prior, Zheng was part of a historic swimming and diving team that captured Nevada’s first Mountain West title in that sport and the Pack’s first women’s team title since joining the league. The Wolf Pack entered the final day of competition trailing Boise State by 39.5 points but the Pack mounted a furious comeback to win the title and earn 16 all-league selections in the process.
The men’s basketball team, guided by first-year coach Eric Musselman, made some history of its own more than a month later. After securing its first Mountain West tournament win, the Pack lost in the semifinals of the tournament. But the season wasn’t over. Nevada was selected to participate in the Collegiate Basketball Invitational and the Pack went on a tear to win the tournament – the first postseason basketball title in school and conference history.
A number of Wolf Pack squads achieved highlights in 2015-16. The Wolf Pack football team went to its 10th bowl game in 11 years and beat Colorado State in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl – just the fourth Division I bowl victory in school history.
Following the 2014-15 MW title run, the Pack baseball program had new faces, on the diamond and in the dugout. But first-year coach T.J. Bruce guided an incredible run as the team – picked sixth in the preseason poll – finished second in the regular season and stormed to the MW Championships title game, only to fall short in the finale.
Nicole Wadden scored an individual Mountain West championship for the Pack, winning gold -- and setting the school record in the process -- in the pentathlon at the MW Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Women’s basketball coach Jane Albright hit a milestone in her long-tenured coaching career as she earned career win No. 500 during the course of the 2015-16 season.
Overall, Nevada has also enjoyed postseason success, including bowl appearances in 10 of the past 11 years by the Wolf Pack football team, 10 postseason invitations for the men’s basketball squad in the last 16 years, including NCAA Tournament appearances from 2004-07, a run to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament in 2012, and the CBI championship in 2016. Nevada’s women’s basketball team has made three Women’s National Invitation Tournament appearances, including back-to-back invitations in 2010 and 2011, while the Wolf Pack volleyball team has been to the NCAA Championships five times, baseball has made four NCAA Regional appearances, and softball has been invited to three NCAA Regionals. Nevada’s men’s golf has advanced to the NCAA Championship three times and the soccer team earned its first NCAA appearance in 2006. The Wolf Pack men’s tennis team has qualified doubles teams twice for NCAA Championships in recent years, with the men advancing in 2014 and the women following in 2015.
In the classroom and community, Nevada continues to excel.
The 2015-16 season saw three-time football team captain Jordan Dobrich complete his Wolf Pack career with perhaps the highest academic honors a student-athlete has achieved at Nevada. Dobrich was one of just 12 honored with the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete award and was a finalist for the 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy, the so-called “Academic Heisman.” He was the first Nevada player to ever earn the NFF Scholar-Athlete Award. He later became the first Nevada student-athlete, male or female, to be named the Mountain West Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The awards came with more than $20,000 of post-graduate scholarships for Dobrich, who is now pursuing his MBA at Nevada after graduating with a 3.83 GPA in Mechanical Engineering.
Dobrich was one of a record 99 student-athletes who graduated from the University in 2015-16 as members of the Wolf Pack continue to achieve in the classroom. Nevada student-athletes posted the third-highest Graduation Success Rate in the history of the NCAA’s program with a 79 percent. This is the 11th year that the NCAA has calculated data for the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and the Wolf Pack’s rate has risen eight times in that span. The Wolf Pack’s first score was 62 percent in 2005 and the GSR has hit a high-water mark of 80 percent twice in the history of the program. Overall, Nevada has seen nearly 700 of its student-athletes graduate in the past 10 years.
A record 137 student-athletes earned academic all-conference distinction from the Mountain West during the 2015-16 season. To qualify, a student-athlete must have a cumulative grade-point average, at the member institution, of 3.0 or higher, completed at least one academic semester at the member institution and competed in 50 percent of the team's varsity contests. And a record 66 student-athletes (up from 57 a year ago) were named as Mountain West Scholar-Athletes, having completed at least two semesters or three quarters at the member institution, compiled a cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 or higher, and competed in at least one varsity contest in a Mountain West-sponsored sport during the 2015-16 academic year.
All 15 University of Nevada sports clearly exceeded the benchmark set by the NCAA in the latest annual Academic Progress Report. In the single-year data, Nevada averaged a 978 for its 15 sports, with four sports scoring a perfect 1,000: men’s golf, women’s golf, volleyball and rifle. In the multiyear rate, Nevada saw more than half of its sports – eight of 15 – maintain or raise their score: baseball, football, men’s tennis, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s soccer, volleyball and rifle. The average scored for Nevada’s 15 sports on the multiyear rate was nearly 980 (979.6). And the Wolf Pack’s volleyball team earned a public recognition award for the second straight year for ranking in the top 10 percent in the nation for its sport. That is the ninth time in the last seven years that a Wolf Pack sport has earned public recognition. Nevada has met or exceeded the standards set by the NCAA and has been penalty-free in the history of the APR program.
Diving star Krysta Palmer and men’s basketball standout Tyron Criswell won the 2015-16 Ruth I. Russell and Doc Martie Awards, respectively, as the University of Nevada’s most outstanding senior athletes. Palmer is the sixth member of the Pack’s swimming and diving team to win the Russell Award, and the third in the last four years. Criswell is the 19th basketball player honored with the Martie Award.
Palmer leaves Nevada as one of the top divers in Wolf Pack and Mountain West history. She was a two-time Mountain West Diver of the Year and earned NCAA All-American honorable mention honors as a junior and senior. She holds three all-time program records and three Mountain West records. She won a staggering 18 regular season diving events, four Mountain West event titles, two NCAA Zone Regional titles and tallied three top 10 NCAA finishes in her collegiate career. A three-time All-Mountain West honoree, she also is a two-time Academic All-Mountain West selection.
Criswell capped his Wolf Pack career by being named the Most Valuable Player of the College Basketball Invitational. He led the Wolf Pack to the school’s, and Mountain West Conference’s, first-ever postseason basketball championship as Nevada took the CBI title, beating Morehead State in a three-game series. With Nevada trailing Morehead State 82-81 in overtime of the deciding game, Criswell made the go ahead shot in CBI Championship game with 13 seconds to play that put the Pack up to stay 83-82 and they went on to win 85-82. He was named the Mountain West’s Sixth Man of the Year by the conference’s media and he also earned the team’s Rock Award.
Now in its second year, the Jayme King Inspiration Award is presented annually to a Nevada student-athlete or athletes who exhibits courage in overcoming adversity, whether it be in athletics, academics or life. Members of King’s family were on hand at the second annual Wolfies in May to present this year’s award to Stephanie Kappus of the cheer team and Kashae Knox of the track & field team.
For Kappus a tumor was found inside her sinuses last June. Initially the tumor was diagnosed as benign but shortly thereafter the diagnosis changed to malignant. Kappus was then forced to withdraw from school for two semesters, having recently returned to school. Knox has gone through not one, but two bouts with papillary carcinoma, having her thyroid removed in 2014 at age 22. After having beaten the disease once, the cancer returned last summer and Knox had 30 cancerous lymph nodes removed. With just mere months having passed, Knox returned to competition on the track in February.
Wolf Pack soccer player Erin Saxton and baseball coach T.J. Bruce were named as the 2015-16 recipients of the Give Back Like Jack Community Service Awards. The department presents the awards annually to those who best exemplify the dedication to community service that was the hallmark of longtime Reno and Sparks philanthropist Jack Reviglio's life.
A record-breaking total of 9,432 hours of community service were completed by Wolf Pack student-athletes in 2015-16, securing the second consecutive Mountain West Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Community Service Challenge for Nevada. The conference-issued challenge ran from April 2015 through February 2016. Wolf Pack student-athletes shattered its own record of 5,837 hours from last year with more than 9,000 hours this year.
The University of Nevada presented its highest honor, the Jake Lawlor Award, to the Dolan Family at the 2016 Governor’s Dinner in Carson City. The award is named after the legendary Wolf Pack coach and Athletics Director Jake Lawlor, and is given annually to individuals who have consistently demonstrated over the years, unwavering support of Wolf Pack Athletics.
Prior to entering the Mountain West in 2012, the Wolf Pack captured 22 WAC championships in its 12 years as a member of the Western Athletic Conference from 2000-12, including eight men's basketball crowns (seven from 2004-08 and most recently the 2012 regular-season title), three women's swimming and diving titles from 2007-09, three softball championships (2006, 2008-09), a pair of football titles (2005 and 2010), two indoor track and field titles (2003-04) and championships by cross country in 2004, women's soccer in 2006 and men's golf in 2007. In 2006-07, the Wolf Pack won the WAC’s Commissioner’s Cup as the best overall athletics department in the conference, while the program has finished second two other times.
(Updated Aug. 9, 2015)
STAR OF THE WEEK
2016-17 Student Athlete of the Week
James Butler rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns to help lead the Wolf Pack to a 38-14 win over Buffalo. Butler’s three rushing touchdowns sets a single-game career-high. During the game he passed Otto Kelly to move up to 14th in career rushing yards at Nevada.
View all 2016-17 Stars of the Week.