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On the Way Up

Upstate rises to highest Conference Cup finish in Division I era.


Despite the challenges of competing during a pandemic, USC Upstate student-athletes and coaches celebrated a record-breaking 2020-21 athletic year. The Spartans finished fourth in the Big South rankings for the George F. “Buddy” Sasser Cup Trophy, their highest ranking since moving to Division I.

The Sasser Cup Trophy is awarded to the Big South member institution with the most successful year athletically, based on an average points system.

“I’m so proud of our student-athletes, coaches and support staff for our historic finish in the Sasser Cup,” says Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Daniel Feig.  “This result is a direct result of their hard work and determination throughout the year.”

Since moving to the Big South, USC Upstate has appeared in one other Sasser Cup ranking, in 2018-19, when it ranked seventh out of 11.  The award was not given during the 2019-20 year due to the cancellation of all spring sports.

Feig recalls meeting with staff last August and noting that Upstate would be starting the season on an equal footing with every other program, since no one had been able to play during the pandemic. “Our performance would be determined by our willingness to work hard and be flexible and creative during such a challenging time, and our student-athletes and coaches rose to the occasion in a spectacular fashion!” says Feig.

Strong seasons for softball and women's golf helped give USC Upstate its strongest DI showing yet in the Sasser Cup rankings.
He's also confident Upstate can do even better. “Our fourth-place finish isn’t our final destination, but it is a good start on our way up to competing for conference championships on a regular basis,” he says.

USC Upstate’s previous best finish came as a member of the ASUN Conference in 2011-12, when it placed sixth out of the league’s then 10 institutions.

The Spartans’ rise in the 2020-21 standings was led by the women’s sports programs. Upstate softball finished second in the regular season, and runner-up at the conference championship, while women’s track and field finished fourth, the best finish at a conference meet in program history. Upstate women’s golf placed third at the conference championship, and volleyball closed the spring season on a six-match winning streak to end the season in fifth place.

On the men’s side, the best team finishes came from men’s soccer (runner-up in the conference tournament) and baseball, which was seeded No. 2 going into the conference tournament in late May.

The Sasser Cup Trophy is named for former Big South Commissioner Buddy Sasser. Schools are awarded points for both regular-season and tournament finishes in each of the league’s 19 championships, and the average of the combined total is used to determine the overall point allocation in the respective sport. One bonus point is added to the average total for each conference champion/AQ representative, and for any teams that receive at-large NCAA championships berths. Teams tied in regular-season or tournament play split the points earned. Each member’s overall point totals are then divided by the number of sports sponsored by that school to determine the average.

SASSER CUP STANDINGS

  1. Campbell ................................. 9.86-10.04
  2. High Point .................................. 9.52
  3. Radford ...................................... 7.68
  4. USC Upstate ....................... 7.02-7.21
  5. Gardner-Webb ........................... 6.68-6.82
  6. Charleston Southern .................. 6.64
  7. UNC Asheville ............................ 6.54
  8. Winthrop .................................... 6.18
  9. Longwood ................................... 6.10
  10. Presbyterian College .................5.71-5.89
  11. Hampton ..................................... 3.63