Each student-athlete took home their sports respective Player of the Year honor in Conference USA.
Operating with a fast break mentality from the day he was hired, Todd Stewart's tenure as WKU's Director of Athletics has been marked by consistent success for the Hilltoppers on the field of play, in the classroom, and in the community. In his five-plus years at the helm, 518 student-athletes have obtained their degrees, WKU has captured 33 total conference championships, and the athletic department staff, coaches and players have devoted close to 10,000 hours of community service. Stewart also played an instrumental role in elevating WKU's athletic programs to Conference USA on July 1, 2014.
The depth of WKU's success makes the Hilltoppers one of the nation's most successful all-around athletics programs, as the 33 conference championships during his tenure have been won by 12 different sport programs. Additionally, WKU has led Conference USA in total championships each of the program’s three years in the league, and WKU’s 21 league titles since 2014-15 is more than twice as many as every other league member.
This includes consecutive Conference USA championships for football in 2015 and 2016, and the program has posted back to back seasons of more than 10 wins for the first time in the program's 98 year history. In 2016, WKU posted an 11-3 record which included the school's third consecutive bowl win, a 51-31 win over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl. WKU is one of only nine programs in the nation with a bowl win in each of the last three seasons. WKU also had 20 former players in NFL camps in the spring of 2017.
Volleyball finished its season with a 30-3 overall record, captured Conference USA regular season and tournament titles for the third consecutive season, and reached the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Women's basketball finished its season with a 27-7 overall record, captured the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles, and has now won 27 or more games in three consecutive seasons for the first time in the storied history of the Lady Topper program. Men’s outdoor track also captured a Conference USA title.
These accomplishments are even more notable when coupled with WKU’s outstanding academic achievements. The grade point average of all student-athletes in the spring 2017 semester was a 3.10, 65 percent had a semester GPA greater than 3.0, AND the current cumulative GPA of all WKU student-athletes is a 3.06. All of these marks represent the highest totals in the history of WKU Athletics.
The 2015 football program had perhaps the best season in school history. WKU tied the school record for single-season wins (12), became the first school in Conference USA's 20-year history to go undefeated in regular season league play and also win the league's championship game, defeated South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl for the program's second consecutive bowl victory, and finished the season ranked No. 24 nationally by the Associated Press. WKU Volleyball also finished its season nationally ranked, finishing No. 22 in the final AVCA poll after going 32-4, winning the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles, and sweeping Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The men's indoor track team also captured the 2016 Conference USA indoor and outdoor titles, its second consecutive indoor league title.
In the Hilltoppers inaugural season in Conference USA in 2014-15, 104 student-athletes graduated and WKU became the first school in the league's 20-year history to win eight conference championships and a bowl game in the same season. A total of 56 WKU athletes received the 2015 C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal for having a grade point average of 3.75 or higher, the most of any school in the league. WKU also had a league-high 55 athletes earn Player of the Week honors.
For the first time since 2008-09, WKU had six sport programs win conference titles for two consecutive seasons (volleyball, women's basketball, softball, men's indoor track and field, women's outdoor track and field, men's swimming and diving). The football team captured the school's first ever FBS bowl win in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl and gave WKU its second-straight eight-win season behind the strength of the nation's fourth-ranked offense.
WKU was one of only 12 programs in the nation to have its volleyball, women's basketball and softball teams all earn spots in the NCAA Tournament. Women's basketball finished with a 30-5 record, becoming only the third men's or women's basketball team in school history with a 30-win season (men, 1938; women, 1986). Softball set the school record for highest single-season winning percentage (.720), which included NCAA Tournament wins over North Carolina and Georgia.
In its final year in the Sun Belt Conference in 2013-14, WKU won the league's all-sports championship for the sixth overall time but first since 2008. A total of 110 student-athletes graduated during the year, and six sport programs captured conference championships. WKU's volleyball, soccer, and women's indoor and outdoor track and field teams captured SBC regular season championships, while the men's swimming and diving team won the C-USA Invitational.
Women's basketball posted 24 wins en route to winning the SBC Tournament and earning the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008. The 2013 Hilltopper football team posted a program FBS-era-best 8-4 overall record and had four wins over bowl eligible teams, more than the previous five seasons combined. WKU's eight wins included a second consecutive win over Kentucky along with victories over Navy, Army and SBC co-champion Arkansas State, while the 18,334 per game home attendance average was the highest in the program's 95-year history.
WKU's men's outdoor track and field program set a program record with seven first-team All-Americans while finishing tied for 18th in the nation, the highest national team finish for any WKU program since men's basketball reached the Sweet 16 in 2008.
The 2012-13 year, Stewart's first full year as Director of Athletics, marked the first time since the APR variable was introduced that all 19 WKU sports exceeded the single-year 930 APR threshold, and 108 student-athletes graduated during the year. Five sport programs (volleyball, women's swimming and diving, men's track and field, men's basketball, softball) won conference championships. Despite a fifth-place conference finish in football, Stewart's navigation of the bowl landscape helped secure the program's first-ever FBS bowl bid, an at-large appearance in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Men's basketball became the first team in NCAA history to win its conference tournament two consecutive years by winning four games in four days each time. Softball posted two wins in the NCAA Tournament, the first in the program's history, while women's basketball won a game in the WNIT, the program's first post-season win since 2006-07. Volleyball also capped a 33-4 season by winning the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament match.
A member of WKU's senior athletic staff since 2008 and 28-year veteran of collegiate and professional sports, Stewart was named WKU's Director of Athletics on May 9, 2012, after serving in the role on an interim basis since March 22.
Stewart has a wide range of experience on many different levels, including nearly two years as WKU's Senior Associate Athletic Director, over two years as WKU's Associate Athletic Director for Communications and Media Relations, more than three years as Associate Commissioner for Communications at the Sun Belt Conference and 15 years of communications and media relations experience with two different franchises in the National Football League.
After nearly two years as WKU's Senior Associate Athletic Director, Stewart was named Interim Director of Athletics on March 22 after the departure of Ross Bjork to Ole Miss. He was immediately responsible for the day-to-day operation of WKU's athletic department and its 19 varsity sports and over 400 student-athletes and employees. In that role, Stewart completed the hiring of Michelle Clark-Heard as head women's basketball coach and oversaw the assistant coach hiring for both Heard and head men's basketball coach Ray Harper.
Stewart was elevated to Senior Associate Athletic Director in August of 2010 after serving as WKU's Associate Athletic Director for Communications and Media Relations since June of 2008. As Senior Associate Athletic Director, Stewart served as second-in-command in the department and assisted in strategic initiatives that advanced the mission of athletics, served as a critical advisor for all important decisions for the department and helped formulate and implement the department's communication strategy, vision and philosophy.
He also assisted in the day-to-day management of football, men's basketball, women's basketball and baseball and oversaw all aspects of scheduling for football, basketball and other sports as needed. He worked in a strategic fashion with all external relations including ticket sales, development, IMG and marketing to create specific plans for revenue growth and new forms of communication and outreach.
Stewart continued to oversee all components of communications and was responsible for helping publicize and brand WKU Athletics on the national, regional and local level. He managed the department responsible for generating media exposure for the university's 19 sports through television, radio, press releases, press conferences, publications, event coverage and the athletic department's website, WKUSports.com.
Stewart joined WKU in June of 2008 after a 40-month stint as Associate Commissioner for Communications for the Sun Belt Conference, where he and his staff were responsible for internal and external communications for all Sun Belt Conference publicity. Stewart created and helped institute media relations standards for every league school, served as the conference's primary contact for men's basketball and was the conference liaison with ESPN/ERT and the school's athletic directors in developing the SBC's annual football and basketball television schedule. He also served on the BCS Media Relations Committee for college football's 2008 National Championship Game.
Prior to joining the SBC, Stewart worked in the National Football League for 15 years. He was hired by the Cleveland Browns as Executive Director of Communications and Media Relations in 1999, helping to create the franchise's communications/media relations department as it reentered the league as an expansion team. Stewart developed the Browns' strategy for releasing organizational messages via press conferences, press releases, interviews, the team's official web site and publications. The club's website, ClevelandBrowns.com, earned the number-two ranking out of 131 professional team web sites in 2004 in an annual survey conducted by Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal.
Stewart assisted the NFL's public relations staff at Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans and was the AFC public relations representative at the 2000 Pro Bowl in Hawaii while with the Browns. He also served on the NFL's Media Policies Committee.
Prior to joining the Browns, Stewart was the Assistant Director of Public Relations for the Indianapolis Colts from 1991-99, where he helped direct activities between the organization, community and media with major responsibilities focused on writing press releases and producing team publications as well as arranging and coordinating interviews and press conferences. While with Indianapolis, he worked on the NFL's public relations staff at Super Bowl XXVII in Los Angeles and at three consecutive AFC Championship Games (1997-99). The Colts' public relations staff was presented the 1996 Pete Rozelle Award, an annual honor bestowed to the NFL's top PR staff as voted by the Pro Football Writers of America.
Stewart, 50, received his bachelor's degree in communications from Miami (Ohio) in 1988, where he twice received the Miami University Parents' Council Student Achievement Award for outstanding service to the university. He worked as a graduate assistant in the sports information department at the University of Tennessee from 1988-90 while also pursuing a master's degree in communications. Stewart currently serves on the Board of Directors for the United Way of Southern Kentucky and is also a member of the Bowling Green Rotary.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Stewart and his wife, Rebecca, have one son, Blake (16).
RELEVANT MEDIA LINKS
- BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS: WKU names Todd Stewart AD - May 9, 2012
- BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS: Stewart passes early tryout - May 10, 2012
- LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL: WKU's new athletic director, Todd Stewart, took the road less traveled - May 20, 2012
- BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS: AD wants 'fast-break' mentality - June 3, 2012
- COLLEGE HEIGHTS HERALD: AD Stewart comes from NFL past to lead WKU sports - August 28, 2012
- COLLEGE HEIGHTS HERALD: Stephens: Stewart deserves bowl berth credit - December 4, 2012
- OUTKICK THE COVERAGE: Travis: Western Kentucky hits home run, hires Bobby Petrino - December 11, 2012
- BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS: Stewart staying busy - December 12, 2012
- BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS: Stewart oversees big changes in first year - May 9, 2013
- NCAA.COM/ASSOCIATED PRESS: WKU leaves Sun Belt for Conference USA with momentum - July 15, 2014
- BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS: Talk of the Town with Todd Stewart - July 28, 2014
- WKU SPORTS: WKU Hires John Pawlowski As Head Baseball Coach - June 4, 2015
- BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS: WKU athletic director Stewart has made several heavy decisions during tenure - June 9, 2015
- WKU SPORTS: Rick Stansbury Named 15th Hilltopper Head Men's Basketball Coach - March 28, 2016
VIDEO: 2015-16 WKU Athletics Annual Report
VIDEO: WKU Introduces Todd Stewart as Director of Athletics
VIDEO: WKU Introduces Mike Sanford as Head Football Coach
VIDEO: WKU Introduces Rick Stansbury as Head Men's Basketball Coach VIDEO: WKU Introduces John Pawlowski as Head Baseball Coach VIDEO: WKU Introduces Jeff Brohm as Head Football Coach VIDEO: WKU Introduces Bobby Petrino as Head Football Coach