Panthers exceed expectations to highest ever finish in Directors’ Cup

Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics

It may not come as a surprise that Georiga State athletics has been at its best as of late. From the men’s basketball team being the only team from Georgia to play in the NCAA tournament to the football team winning their second consecutive bowl game, Georgia State has only seen improvements from its athletic programs.

The improvements have not gone unnoticed, as GSU finished with their highest ranking in the 2022 Learfield Division I Directors cup standings. The Panthers ranked No. 88 in the nation, the highest in school history and first among schools in the Sunbelt conference.

The Director’s Cup is an award gifted annually to the colleges and universities with the highest achievements in collegiate athletics. The standings were decided by the summation of 19 sports and the university’s placement in the NCAA championships.

Football, men’s soccer, men’s basketball, men’s tennis and women’s beach volleyball accounted for Georgia State’s 216.5 points.

Under head coach Sean Elliott the football team won six of their last seven games, highlighted by an upset win over No. 21 Coastal Carolina. On Christmas day, the Panthers flexed their muscle and dominated Ball State 51-20 in the Camellia Bowl. 

The men’s soccer team arguably had their best season in the past few years with a 13-win season featuring ranked wins against Akron and West Virginia. The postseason saw the Panthers make history. A 1-0 victory against Charlotte in the first round of the NCAA Tournament earned the Panthers their first NCAA Tournament win in program history. 

Speaking of history, men’s basketball was in a prime position to knock off arguably the best team in the entire nation in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The journey to get there was not easy, as COVID-19 caused many game cancellations and unexpected losses almost derailed what seemed to be a promising season. 

Through the leadership of former coach Rob Lanier, the Panther found a second wind that culminated in 10-straight wins all the way to a Sun Belt championship. The team was then picked to play against the team that everyone believed would win it all in Gonzaga. 

The Panthers gave it their all and trailed by only two points at halftime. In the end, injuries and an increase in pace were what the Bulldogs needed to secure the 93-72 victory.

Another program that had success this past season was the men’s tennis team. The Panthers dominated the regular season with a 17-8 record, propelling themselves to a Sun Belt championship title and their seventh NCAA tournament berth.

The team that captured a conference championship and the furthest any other program got was the women’s beach volleyball team. Ranked No.7 in the nation, the team recorded a school-record 28 wins and captured the Conference-USA beach volleyball championship. The effective unit kept the winning going as they upset seventh-ranked Grand Canyon and second-ranked TCU, advancing to the round of six. The cinderella run would end in this round, but the Panthers accomplished the most of any sports team in school history.

With the 2022 athletics season underway, Georgia State has every opportunity to eclipse last season’s epic performances.