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Women’s basketball coach signs contract extension through 2024-25 campaign

The University of Toledo and Head Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop have agreed to a contract extension through the 2024-25 campaign, UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced May 17.

“We’re extremely happy about extending Tricia’s contract to continue the stability and success that she has brought to Toledo women’s basketball,” O’Brien said. “Tricia is an outstanding coach, and I believe our program is positioned well for the future. Along with leading the way to countless victories on the court, I have been impressed with Tricia’s community involvement and how the program has been embraced by the city of Toledo and surrounding areas.”

Cullop

In her nine years patrolling the Rockets’ sideline, the program has averaged 22.4 wins and advanced to the postseason on six occasions. This past season, Cullop led UT to the NCAA Championships after winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament for the first time since 2001 and eighth time in school history.

“It’s been an honor to serve as the head women’s basketball coach at The University of Toledo for the past nine years,” said Cullop, a three-time MAC Coach of the Year honoree. “I sincerely thank (UT President) Dr. [Sharon L.] Gaber and Mike O’Brien for this extension and the opportunity to lead the program for many years to come. It has been a distinct privilege to coach at an institution with so many outstanding professors, committed administration, dedicated alumni and loyal fans. Our student-athletes enjoy strong academics, outstanding facilities, a beautiful campus and a supportive community. This extension shows our future recruits what a strong commitment there is for Toledo women’s basketball.”

UT posted a 25-9 overall record and a 12-6 conference mark in 2016-17. The Rockets tallied at least 20 wins for the fifth time in Cullop’s tenure and their 25 victories tied for fifth most in school history. The Midnight Blue and Gold wrapped up the year ranked unofficially No. 26 in the country among mid-major programs, according to the collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Poll.

Toledo also led the MAC in attendance for an unprecedented 27th consecutive season in 2016-17 and ranked No. 27 in the NCAA, averaging a league-high 3,744 fans per home game. UT has ranked in the Top 30 nationally in home attendance each of the last six seasons.

“I will never forget this past year,” Cullop said. “I’m excited that we return a strong nucleus from our MAC Championship team next season. This group has also been successful in the classroom and active in the community.”

Under Cullop’s guidance, the Rockets have secured one MAC Championship (2017), two MAC regular-season titles (2010-11, 2012-13), four MAC West Division crowns (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13), and two tourney finalist appearances (2010, 2017). In 2011, Toledo won the WNIT Championship and finished the season 29-8 (14-2 in the MAC). Individually, 11 Rockets have earned All-MAC honors (first-team, second-team and/or third-team) on 18 occasions in her tenure.

The Rockets also have been successful in the classroom under Cullop. A total of 15 players have been selected Academic All-MAC on 24 occasions, and a total of 27 players have made the University’s dean’s list (3.5 GPA or higher) on 86 occasions over the last nine years. Spearheading the academic surge has been two-time Academic All-District 5 honoree Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott, only the second player in school history to garner this prestigious honor on more than one occasion (Kelly Walker in 2001-02 and 2003-04). UT also has posted a team grade-point average above 3.0 in 16 of 17 semesters.

Hired April 18, 2008, Cullop is fourth in MAC history in overall winning percentage (202-96, .678) and seventh in league winning percentage (108-44, .711).

Toledo to play at Michigan State in 2020

The University of Toledo football team will play at Michigan State in 2020, UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced yesterday.

The game will be played Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, at Spartan Stadium.

The contest will mark just the second meeting between the two schools on the gridiron, and the first since 1925 when the two schools were known respectively as Toledo University and the Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science.

“We are very pleased and excited to add Michigan State to our 2020 football schedule,” O’Brien said. “The Spartans have a tradition of excellence, so it definitely will be another exciting matchup for our football team and our fans. It’s also a short drive from Toledo, so I’m sure Rocket Nation will be well-represented at Spartan Stadium.”

UT Head Football Coach Jason Candle added, “Our players are always excited to play against the best competition. Playing at Michigan State will be a great experience and another exciting challenge for our football program.”

Toledo was just in its ninth year of fielding a varsity football team when Coach James Dwyer’s Rockets lost to Michigan State by the score of 58-0 in 1925. The Rockets did not face another Big Ten opponent until 1978 when they lost at Minnesota. Toledo is 6-15 all-time vs. the Big Ten, but a respectable 6-10 since its first win at Purdue in 1992. 

Information on how Rocket fans can order tickets will be provided at a later date. Tickets orders will be prioritized based on Rocket Fund/athletic donation and season ticket history.

Toledo named to 16-team Preseason WNIT field

Toledo has been selected as one of 16 teams to participate in the 2017 Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament this upcoming season.

The 24th annual Preseason WNIT will feature a three-game guarantee for all squads. Matchups are hosted by participating schools, and sites are announced by the end of the preceding round. The complete bracket with first-round sites will be announced later this spring.

Junior Sarah St-Fort and the Rockets have been selected as one of 16 teams to participate in the 2017 Preseason WNIT.

The Rockets, who will take part in the Preseason WNIT for the fourth time in program history, are one of eight teams in the field that qualified for post-season play in 2016-17. UT captured its eighth Mid-American Conference title in program history and advanced to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001.

Toledo is slated to return nine letterwinners in 2017-18, including four starters, from last year’s post-season squad that finished with a 25-9 overall record and a 12-6 league ledger. Guided by 10th-year Head Coach Tricia Cullop, the Rockets welcome back 77.4 percent of their scoring, 76.9 percent of their rebounding, 86.9 percent of their assists, 90.1 percent of their blocks, and 77.5 percent of their steals for this season. 

The Midnight Blue and Gold also took part in the Preseason WNIT during the 1994-95, 1998-99 and most recently 2010-11 season, respectively. UT has tallied a 2-4 all-time record in the event.

UT to host Women’s Basketball Coaches Association regional session

Toledo will host a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches’ Classroom Saturday, May 20.

The whiteboard session will run from 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Savage Arena.

There is no cost to attend for coaches who are a member of the WBCA, but the session is limited to the first 100 registrations.

Speakers at UT’s Regional Whiteboard Series will include Michigan Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico (“High-Energy Drills”), Ashland Head Coach Robyn Fralick (“Building a Team”), Wright State Head Coach Katrina Merriweather (“Defensive Drills”), Ohio State Associate Head Coach Patrick Klein (“Dribble Drive”) and Toledo Head Coach Tricia Cullop (“Offensive Quick Hits”).

The association is putting on regional clinics called the WBCA Coaches’ Classroom at four locations in 2017. These half-day programs are open to coaches at every level of women’s and girls’ basketball.

The other three locations for the WBCA Coaches’ Classroom are North Andover, Mass. (May 24), San Francisco (Aug. 5) and Auburn, Ala. (rescheduled for August).

Basketball coach to serve as panelist for Women in Leadership event May 18

Toledo Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop will serve as a panelist for a Women in Leadership event Thursday, May 18.

The event will take place from 7:30 to 9:15 a.m. at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, 325 N. Michigan St.

Cullop

The Women in Leadership event is sponsored by the Women’s Initiative of United Way, which networks and mobilizes women to be leaders, advocates and philanthropists on issues relating to women and children.

Sashem Brey, anchor at 13 ABC, will be the moderator.

Cullop will be joined on the panel by Jan Bertsch, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Owens-Illinois Inc.; Diana Patton, author, speaker and health coach; and Mo Sheahan, owner of Pure Barre Toledo and Pure Barre Perrysburg.

An affinity group of United Way since 2001, Women’s Initiative has inspired hundreds of women to attend leadership development events, contribute their time and talent to numerous volunteer opportunities, and invest more than $1.5 million toward programs that impact women and children.

In addition to providing personal and professional development opportunities for women, Women’s Initiative of United Way supports two children’s programs: WordShop and Imagination Library. In 2015, more than 600 children participated in their collaborative story-writing workshops and the group mailed 19,194 books to Toledo homes.

People can join Women’s Initiative by making a gift of $250 or more to the United Way. The gift will go to help those in need in the community, and the donor will gain special access to networking, development and volunteer opportunities.

The cost to attend the event is $10 for non-members, and free for members.

This past year, Cullop guided the Rockets to their eighth Mid-American Conference title in program history, as well as advancing to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001. UT finished with a 25-9 overall ledger and a 12-6 mark in the league, equaling the fifth-most wins in single history.

The three-time MAC Coach of the Year is fourth in league history in overall winning percentage (202-96, .678) and seventh in conference (108-44, .711) winning percentage.

Rockets battle inclement weather, put up good results at Toledo Invitational

Despite an unrelenting rainstorm, University of Toledo women’s track athletes still managed to come up with some good performances at the second and final day of the 2017 Toledo Invitational at the UT Track Friday.

The Rockets took three first-place finishes and three runner-up spots.

Stephanie Sherman (1) and Marissa Rossetti (3) battled the rain in the 1500 meters at the 2017 Toledo Invitational Friday.

Finishing at the top of the pack were sophomore Christina Johnson in the 200 meters with a time of 24.66; sophomore Deja Martin in the triple jump (11.60 meters); and sophomore Anna Bellman in the javelin (37.0 meters).

Sophomore Nautica Hill was just an eyelash behind Johnson to take second in the 200 with a time of 24.67. Junior Julia Mendiola took second in the 800 meters clocking in at 2:17.16, and freshman Tori Thompson was just a stride off the pace in the 100 meters, finishing in second with a time of 12.24.

“This was more of a competition meet than a performance meet,” said UT Head Coach Linh Nguyen. “We had the trifecta of cold, wind and rain, so it was just a matter of going out and competing and not worrying about the times. Christina Johnson and Nautica Hill ran a great race in the 200. Both of their times are in the top 15 in the [Mid-American Conference] this year. Anna Bellman had close to her [personal record] in the javelin (37.0 meters), which is impressive considering the weather.”

Next up for the Rockets is the 2017 Mid-American Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships Thursday through Saturday, May 11-13, in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Men’s basketball, women’s golf recognized by NCAA for top 10 percent Academic Progress Rate

The UT men’s basketball and women’s golf programs received NCAA public recognition for their classroom commitment as part of the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program.

Teams scoring in the top 10 percent in each sport during their most recent multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) evaluation earned recognition.

Jordan Lauf, left, and Pimchanok Kawil helped the Rockets earn NCAA Academic Progress Rate recognition.

A total of 44 Division I programs received public recognition in men’s basketball, with the Rockets being the lone representative from the Mid-American Conference. UT has made dramatic improvement in its APR under Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk, who has raised the Rockets’ figure from a low of 858 in 2009-10 (one year prior to Kowalczyk’s arrival) to 990 at the conclusion of the 2015-16 academic year.

“During my first three years at Toledo, we were penalized several scholarships, saw our practice time and number of games we could play reduced, and couldn’t participate in postseason play due to our low APR scores,” Kowalczyk said. “Since that time, we’ve put in a lot of hard work and many long hours to get our program to a point where we are being recognized among the best in the country for our commitment to academics. I’m extremely proud of this accomplishment and want to thank everyone at our university who has played a role in helping us achieve this honor.”

In women’s golf, the Rockets registered a perfect 1,000 APR score and were among six MAC schools honored.

“I’m very proud of being recognized for our team’s performance in the classroom over the last four years,” Women’s Golf Coach Nicole Hollingsworth said. “Everyone involved in our program knows how important a college degree is, and we are going to continue to strive to be the best we can be.”

Each year, the NCAA tracks the classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team through the annual scorecard of academic achievement, known as APR. The rate measures eligibility, graduation and retention each semester or quarter and provides a clear picture of the academic performance in each sport. The most recent APRs are multiyear rates based on scores from the 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years.

A perfect score (or graduation rate) is represented by 1,000, while a 930 (50 percent rate) marks the threshold for which the NCAA can impose sanctions on athletic programs. Full APRs for all teams, including access to postseason play and penalties for low-performing teams, will be released May 10.

APR scores are based on retention and eligibility of each scholarship student-athlete. Each student-athlete can earn four points per year — one point for first-semester eligibility, one point for first-semester retention, one point for second-semester eligibility, and one point for second-semester retention. The total points earned are then divided by total points possible and the decimal place is dropped for the APR score.

Offensive lineman invited to Chicago Bears’ mini-camp

UT senior offensive lineman Paul Perschon has been invited to attend the Chicago Bears’ mini-camp Friday through Sunday, May 12-14.

He is the eighth Rocket senior from the 2016 roster who was either drafted, signed as an undrafted free agent, or was invited to attend a mini-camp.

Perschon

Perschon, 6-6, 312 pounds, was a two-year starter at left guard. He was part of an offensive line that allowed just 14 sacks in 2016 and powered a Rocket offense that led the Mid-American Conference in total offense (517.8) and passing offense (322.8).

“I’m a huge Bears fan, so I’m very excited to have this opportunity,” Perschon, who grew up in suburban Chicago, said. “Just about every book report or project I did in school was on Mike Ditka or Walter Payton.”

Perschon will have an opportunity to join seven of his former Rocket teammates on NFL rosters. Running back Kareem Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs-third round), tight end Michael Roberts (Detroit Lions-fourth round) and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester (Oakland Raiders-seventh round) were selected in the NFL Draft. Offensive lineman Storm Norton signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions, while DeJuan Rogers (Chicago), Corey Jones (Cleveland) and John Stepec (New York Giants) were invited to NFL mini-camps.

Defensive end invited to NY Giants’ mini-camp

UT senior defensive end John Stepec has been invited to attend the New York Giants’ mini-camp Thursday through Saturday, May 11-13.

Stepec earned first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors as a senior, racking up 71 tackles and 14.0 tackles for loss. A team captain, Stepec also was a nominee for Academic All-America.

Stepec

“I’m just excited and very grateful for this opportunity,” Stepec said. “I had a number of teams call me, but the Giants were the first. I’m looking forward to going to camp and giving it my best shot.”

Stepec will have an opportunity to join six of his former Rocket teammates on NFL rosters. Running back Kareem Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs-third round), tight end Michael Roberts (Detroit Lions-fourth round) and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester (Oakland Raiders-seventh round) were selected in the NFL Draft. Offensive lineman Storm Norton signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions, while DeJuan Rogers (Chicago) and Corey Jones (Cleveland) were invited to NFL mini-camps

Women’s basketball coach to sign Tony Packo’s hot dog bun May 3

UT Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop will join the list of celebrities to sign a world-famous Tony Packo’s Hot Dog Bun Wednesday, May 3, at 12:30 p.m. at Tony Packo’s at the Park, 7 S. Superior St.

Actor Burt Reynolds kicked off a decades-long tradition at Tony Packo’s when in 1972 he signed a hot dog bun for the restaurant to display on its walls. Since that time, celebrities from all walks of life have been asked to sign a Packo “bun”, which is now a foam replica of the real thing. Buns signed by presidents, actors, musicians, astronauts and more can be seen in all Packo restaurant locations.

Head Coach Tricia Cullop was all smiles as she finished cutting down the net after the Rockets won the MAC Championship in March.

Within the last year, UT Football Coach Jason Candle and Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk have put ink on bread as official Tony Packo’s bun-signers.

Cullop guided the Rockets to their eighth Mid-American Conference title in program history in 2016-17, as well as advancing to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001. UT finished with a 25-9 overall ledger and a 12-6 mark in the league, equaling the fifth most wins in single-season history.

The three-time MAC Coach of the Year is fourth in league history in overall winning percentage (202-96, .678) and seventh in conference (108-44, .711) winning percentage.