All five of BYU's fall sports programs have been nationally ranked the past two weeks; Athletic department officials say they are the only major college in the nation able to make that claim.
"Not only are they all ranked in the top 25, but most of them are ranked pretty high," said Duff Tittle, a BYU associate athletic director. "We are having great seasons in all of the sports so far. It is early, but it has the appearance of being a really great year for us across the board."
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, who declined to be interviewed for this story, promised Cougar fans as much at an Education Week presentation in August, saying big things were in store for not just the marquee programs football and men's basketball - but volleyball, soccer and others as well.
So far, so good.
Leading the way is the women's soccer team, which is currently ranked No. 5 by topdrawersoccer.com and No. 6 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. With National Player of the Year candidate Ashley Hatch, the Cougars have defeated Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska and Utah. Its only loss was a 1-0 defeat at then-No. 3 Stanford.
"It's absolutely amazing [that all five teams are ranked]," said women's soccer coach Jennifer Rockwood. "We have tremendous support from our administration. We are all supportive of each other. Everyone in the department right now is doing well, and that is great to see. Everybody is trying to keep up with everybody else."
Tittle said BYU has twice before had all five fall sports teams ranked since it added women's soccer in 1996 December of 2007 and September of 2001.
"It speaks to great coaching, not only in recruiting, but also once they get the student-athletes here how they are able to help them be successful on the field as well," Tittle said.
Of course, football not only pays the bills, it is the most visible sport on campus. After last-second wins over Nebraska and Boise State that caught not only the attention of the campus and the state, but the nation as a whole, BYU rose to No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25. It slid to No. 22 this week after last Saturday's loss to UCLA.
"Everyone is always happy when football does well," Rockwood said.
Women's volleyball had more success last year than any team on campus, making it to the NCAA championship match, where it lost to seven-time national champion Penn State. With new coach Heather Olmstead, the No. 10-ranked Cougars are off to a good start, having defeated No. 7 North Carolina, No. 24 Purdue and rival Utah, among other strong programs. They begin West Coast Conference play Thursday night at San Francisco.
BYU is always going to be good in cross country, and this year is no exception. The men's cross country team is ranked No. 14 under the direction of Hall of Famer Ed Eyestone, while the women's cross country team is No. 23 and is coached by Patrick Shane. Both distance-running programs won their first two meets, the Autumn Classic in Provo and the WCC Preview in Spokane, Wash.
Tittle said BYU student-athletes share a close bond and generally do a great job supporting each other.
"That is something Tom really emphasizes with the coaches to support the other programs," Tittle said. "The athletes here, typically, because of the different things they are doing at the academic center or in the training rooms, there is a closeness that happens because they get to meet each other. They get to interact, and then they start caring about each other."
Tittle said the ultimate goal is to get back among the nation's elite athletic programs.
Despite volleyball's success last year, the Cougars placed 48th in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings, BYU's worst finish since the standings that measure overall success of the nation's athletic departments were instigated in 1993. Their highest-ever finish was 12th in 1999.
"We have been in the top-25 seven times [in 22 years]," Tittle said. "Our average ranking over those 22 years is No. 31."
The trend line appears to be moving up again.
BYU's current national rankings
Sport Rank Record Key win
Women's Soccer No. 5 7-1-0 No. 18 Cal
Women's Volleyball No. 10 10-1 No. 7 North Carolina
Men's Cross Country No. 14 2-0 WCC Preview
Football No. 22 2-1 No. 22 Boise State
Women's Cross Country No. 23 2-0 WCC Preview