Posted: 01/10/2012 | Last updated: January 10, 2012 at 04:46 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – For the first time in ten years, the Lehigh football program has captured the Lambert Cup, awarded by the ECAC to the top team in the Football Championship Subdivision. Following a season in which they won 11 games and advanced to the NCAA FCS quarterfinals, the Mountain Hawks were voted No. 1 in the tenth and final Lambert Meadowlands Football Poll announced Monday evening.
Lehigh ascended to the top of the Lambert Cup poll in November and after defeating Towson 40-38 in the second round of the FCS playoffs and advancing to the quarterfinals the Mountain Hawks were voted No. 1 in the final poll with 200 points. The Mountain Hawks finished the season with an 11-2 record. Lehigh reeled off ten straight wins before bowing out against eventual National Champion North Dakota State in the quarterfinal round. The Mountain Hawks reached the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2001, which was also the last time Lehigh captured the Lambert Cup.
“We are very excited to have won the Lambert Cup,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “Our program has been working very hard to be they type of program which our entire Lehigh Community can be proud of and being chosen as the Top FCS program in the northeast has certainly done that. This award is very fitting for our players and assistant coaches. This is Lehigh’s second Lambert Cup in the Patriot League era and this adds to Lehigh football’s tradition of excellence.”
This marks the eighth time that Lehigh has won the highly coveted award. Only Delaware has won more Division I FCS (Formerly I-AA) and Division II Lambert Trophies (20), than the Brown and White.
Fellow FCS quarterfinalist Maine finished second in the poll with 172 points, while Towson finished third with 164 points. New Hampshire and Old Dominion rounded out the top five schools. Lehigh was the only Patriot League school to finish in the top ten, while Georgetown was listed among others receiving votes.
Established in 1936 as the Lambert Trophy to recognize supremacy in Eastern college football, the award has since grown to recognize the best team in the East in the Bowl Subdivision. In 1957, the Lambert Cup was created to recognize non-Division I-A teams. In 1983, the Meadowlands Sports Complex was selected to sponsor the award, and since that time, the awards have been known as the Lambert Meadowlands Awards.
To be eligible for the Lambert Meadowlands Award, a school must be located in the East or play at least half of its schedule against eligible Lambert teams. The award territory includes eastern teams from Maine to Virginia.
In addition, the final editions of both major polls were also unveiled Monday with Lehigh finishing fifth in the Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 and sixth in the FCS Coaches Poll. The top five ranking in the Sports Network poll marks the highest post season finish for Lehigh since the Mountain Hawks finished fifth in both polls following the 2001 season.
North Dakota State, which defeated Lehigh 24-0 in the quarterfinals, was ranked No. 1 in both polls after downing Sam Houston State 17-6 Saturday in the FCS National Championship Game. Spots three and four in the polls went to semifinalists Georgia Southern, who ranked third in the coaches poll and fourth in the media poll, and Montana, who was picked third by the media and fourth by the coaches. Lehigh was picked fifth, one spot ahead of Northern Iowa in the Sports Network poll, but was picked one spot behind the Panthers in the Coaches poll.
The 2011 season saw Lehigh post its second straight Patriot League championship and league best tenth overall title. Lehigh’s 11 wins were one shy of the school single season record and its ten game winning streak was the fourth longest single-season streak in school history. The Mountain Hawks had 16 All-Patriot League selections, and five players earned All-America distinction, including senior quarterback Chris Lum, who finished second in the voting for the Walter Payton Award, given to the outstanding player in the FCS.