Conference Commissioner’s Cup back in Pittsburgh

Written By Josh Croup

photo courtesy of Point Park Athletics
Point Park University Director of Athletics Dan Swalga, President Dr. Paul Hennigan and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs & Dean of Students Keith Paylo stand with the KIAC Commisioner's All-Sports Cup.


For the second time in three years, Point Park earned the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Commissioner’s Cup as the top athletic department in the conference.

The Cup is awarded annually using a points system based on regular season standings.

The 2014-15 school year saw Point Park claim regular season championships in men’s soccer, men’s golf and baseball. The Pioneers also had second place finishes with men’s and women’s track and field, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, softball and volleyball.

Point Park won the cup in its first year in the KIAC in 2012-13. They finished second in the conference the following year before claiming the cup once again this past school year.

Director of Athletics Dan Swalga said earning the cup for the second time in three years shows the strength of Point Park’s athletic department.

“The test of time displays the quality and strength of a department,” Swalga said. “Earning something two out of the last three years to me is a much stronger statement than winning something once in a while.”

Point Park’s had first or second place finishes from ten of its 13 teams. Also, women’s golf finished fourth, men’s cross country fifth and men’s basketball sixth.

In their first year in the KIAC, The University of Rio Grande (Ohio) finished second behind Point Park in the cup standings. The Red Storm finished first in five sports opposed to Point Park’s three, but Point Park’s multiple second place finishes were enough to push them past Rio Grande.

After welcoming Rio Grande to the conference last year, the KIAC is expanding once again this year with the addition of Ohio Christian University and West Virginia Tech.

“The additional numbers solidifies our conference from top to bottom,” Swalga said. “Rio adds to the prestige [of the conference], West Virginia Tech adds to the depth [of the conference] and Ohio Christian is starting to put some resources into their programs.”

Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Athletic Communications Kevin Taylor said the strengthening conference is going to make holding on to the cup challenging.

“Each and every year, the KIAC keeps getting better,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be harder to keep it than it was to win it this past year. If we stay the same as we did last year, we probably won’t win it. I think we have to do better than we did last year.”

Playing in a stronger conference makes the student athletes compete at a higher level and gives the teams more chances to compete.

“The more solid the conference, the stronger it is,” Swalga said. “There are more chances for our teams to do well as they go fourth into the national tournaments. “

Point Park’s cup victory was a close one. Point Park finished the year with a final score of 9.54, only .09 points ahead of Rio Grande’s 9.45.

The format of the KIAC Cup standings is based on a 12-1 scale, according to the conference website. The regular season winner in each sport earns 12 points, the second place finisher earns 11 points, etc. The combined point total is then divided by the number of varsity sports the school sponsors in the KIAC.

The addition of men’s and women’s track and field last year pushed Point Park’s sports offered total to 13.

Point Park tallied 124 total points, the most in the conference. It was the first year the Pioneers finished first in the total points category. When Point Park last won the cup in 2012-13, they finished fourth in total points, but offered four fewer sports than the three schools above them, which helped their final average score.

Point Park’s 2012-13 Cup victory ended Indiana University (IU) Southeast’s run of four straight years as the top school in the conference. IU Southeast reclaimed their title last year, but finished fourth this year.

“It’s good to reclaim it and put our name on that trophy again,” Taylor said. “It’s a very proud conference with a proud history. It’s stronger in our third year than it was in the first year.”

The proud KIAC history book is about to add another chapter.

The conference introduced Scott McClure as its new commissioner in May. McClure takes over for Bill Melton who retired after serving as commissioner since 2007.

“During my tenure at the NAIA National Office, I served as the liaison to the KIAC and was able to develop some strong friendships and relationships within the conference,” McClure said in a press release. “I’m excited to be able to renew those friendships, build new relationships, and return to the NAIA as a conference commissioner.”

Founded in 1916, the KIAC was historically a Kentucky-only conference. With the expansion into West Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio, only four of the 13 current members are in Kentucky.

Next year, the conference will undergo a name change to be reflective of its current membership, Taylor said.

“It’s much more than just Kentucky and I think now it will make it an even better (conference) to be part of,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the new conference name has not yet been determined.

Still, Point Park enters this year as the top athletic department in the conference. After surrendering the cup last time around, this year’s goal is to hold on to it. But Swalga says he doesn’t like to predict the future.

“I never ever place expectations. I never make predictions,” Swalga said. “I’ve been not doing that since I coached. All I can say is that we will compete and we will represent this university well.”