It’s Official: Gonzaga Rises to No. 1 for First Time
Gonzaga, celebrating its 125-year anniversary this academic year, earned 51 first-votes and 1,607 points in the AP poll to eclipse No. 2-ranked and previous No. 1 Indiana University, which garnered seven first-place votes and 1,517 points. Duke University, ranked No. 3 in the AP poll with five first-place votes and 1,471 points. University of Kansas ranked No. 4 in the AP poll with no first-place votes and 1,433 points. Georgetown University, a Jesuit university like Gonzaga, ranked fifth in the AP poll, receiving the other two first-place votes from the panel of 65 sportswriters across the nation.
The 29-2 Bulldogs were ranked No. 2 last week in both polls and beat Brigham Young University 70-65 in Provo, Utah, and the University of Portland 81-52 at home to run the table with a perfect 16-0 record in the West Coast Conference.
Both the Gonzaga men’s and women’s teams earned top seeds into the WCC Tournament, which begins March 6 in Las Vegas. The men, top seed for the 14th time, will play in the WCC semifinal game Saturday at 6 p.m. at The Orleans Arena, while the GU women, who captured their ninth-straight WCC regular-season title this year, will play their semifinal Saturday at noon.
In a prepared statement, Zags head Coach Mark Few said, “It’s an honor that people would think this highly of all of us in the program. It’s certainly something that’s never accomplished here. It’s great for the program, great for the school, great for the city of Spokane and the region and the entire Northwest.”
Few said the Zags have much more to accomplish starting this weekend in Las Vegas and following in the NCAA Tournament.
“This is a competitive group and one that doesn’t get distracted. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season and making it last as long as we can,” Few said.
Click the following link to view a slideshow of the celebration March 4:
President McCulloh Thanks Zag Nation
Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh thanked the entire Gonzaga community and fans worldwide for their support and credited Coach Few, his staff and the players.
“It begins with the team,” President McCulloh said in an interview with Spokane television station KHQ. “Mark and his coaches and the guys have done a fantastic job this season. Without question, this is a tremendous honor. It’s a way of recognizing the tremendous success this team and this program have had and that’s really where the credit needs to go. We are so blessed to have the kind of support that we do from the Spokane community and the region.”
The ranking lifts the entire University, President McCulloh said.
“First of all, it becomes a great point of pride for our students, our faculty, staff and also our alumni,” he said. “Now because of the length of time the University has been around and the number of people who have graduated from it, we’ve got support all over the country, really all over the world. We’ve got alumni doing all kinds of amazing things, so it really does become an opportunity to recognize the institution and all their contributions.”
The increased recognition also translates into increased visibility for the University and results in more students considering Gonzaga and its outstanding academics, steeped in the centuries-old Jesuit education inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
“We anticipate that, as has occurred before, there will be people who will be thinking about Gonzaga who might never have thought of us before and certainly we hope it becomes an opportunity for them to look more closely at the University,” President McCulloh said.
On Jan. 24, Zags worldwide gathered in person, virtually, and in spirit to mark the first National Gonzaga Day, a celebration of Gonzaga’s mission and opportunity to collectively imagine the University’s continued transformation to meet changing educational and social demands.
Founder’s Influence Inspires
Gonzaga’s founder, Italian Jesuit Father Joseph Cataldo, was its first overachieving underdog. Chronically frail and supposedly ill-suited to missionary work, Fr. Cataldo nevertheless became a dominant force in the region and was named General Superior of the Rocky Mountain Mission in 1877 before founding Gonzaga 10 years later.
The gritty determination Fr. Cataldo exemplified has served as model for Gonzaga ever since, said Joe Poss, Gonzaga’s acting vice president for University Relations.
“Gonzaga’s DNA derives from Father Cataldo, who worked to ensure Gonzaga was truly ‘built to last,’ ” Poss said. “We recognize that the visionary leadership and community support the University has enjoyed throughout its history has transformed Gonzaga into one of the nation’s premiere institutions of higher learning and an exemplar of a Jesuit university. Our student-athletes are shining examples of this Gonzaga spirit, the DNA that makes up every Zag and what we hope for all of our graduates.”
For example, last month Gonzaga achieved another significant No. 1 ranking when it was named tops among the nation’s small colleges and universities for the number of its alumni who serve in the Peace Corps.