The glass trophy is something to behold, and it made the rounds during UND's big football win Saturday at the Alerus Center. The trophy is the Big Sky Conference Presidents' Cup, and its significance should not be lost among the university's recent string of high-level athletic successes.
In July, UND learned it had won the cup for the first time. The award has been given each of the past 15 years to the conference university that succeeds both academically and athletically; criteria include regular-season team standings in eight of the league's 14 sports, as well as academic accomplishment, including team grade-point averages and academic progress rates.
So, for a moment, consider the Presidents' Cup and its importance to UND.
The university's athletics program placed fifth overall in the conference points standings, a number boosted by conference championships in volleyball, men's basketball, football and women's basketball.
In the classroom, UND athletics programs had the best academic progress rate in the league and also finished third in overall grade-point average, at 3.31. The women's golf team led the way with a 3.57 GPA.
When the award was first announced in July, Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams praised UND, saying "it takes a combined effort to achieve such a feat, and the Fighting Hawks' success both athletically and academically positioned them to earn this prestigious award."
During Saturday's UND football game against Missouri State, more than 12,000 fans saw President Mark Kennedy officially receive the trophy. He was joined on the field by athletes from various UND programs, which was fitting.
Equally fitting was the decision to have this ceremony during the Potato Bowl - generally the best-attended game of the season for UND.
The Herald often will bristle at the use of the term "student athlete," because it's redundant at the high school and college level. After all, it's impossible for a college or high school athlete to not be a student, so it's not necessary to force that term upon readers. To an editor, it's no different than "unexpected surprise" or "mass exodus," and thus avoided.
Today, we make an exception and congratulate the student-athletes at UND who obviously take seriously their role as students as well as athletes. Coaches, educators and administrators also should be proud of the Presidents' Cup. The community should be proud, too.
UND's athletic year in 2016-17 was one for the ages, evidenced by an abundance of new hardware adorning the university's trophy cases.
But that shiny glass trophy presented Saturday to Kennedy - who proudly showed it to others later in the day - shows that UND did it right, with athletes who understand why they're here in the first place.