(LATROBE, Pa.) – The Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) held its annual football media day on Tuesday, where the Carnegie Mellon University football team was selected to finish fifth in the 2021 PAC preseason poll. Media day was held at the Fred Rogers Center on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Defending PAC Champions, Westminster College, garnered 21 first-place votes and a total of 316 points to headline this year's preseason poll. Washington and Jefferson College was second with six first-place votes and 299 points, followed by Case Western Reserve University in third place with 281 points and seven first-place votes. In fourth, receiving one first-place vote and 229 points, was Grove City College and the Cardinal and Gray came in at fifth with 213 points.
Joining Tartan head coach Rich Lackner, who is in his 36th year at the helm of the program, was senior wide receiver Kris Hughes (Springboro, Ohio/Springboro), as the two participated in a question and answer session with the other nine PAC schools.
Lackner started with showing his appreciation to Carnegie Mellon's administration and the administration from each institution along with PAC Commissioner Joe Onderko for how grateful everyone was that a season was able to happen last spring. He then went on to speak about the strength of this year's team as well as the Tartans' schedule which begins with three straight road contests, including a trip out west to Spokane, Washington, to play Whitworth University to open the season.
"I feel the competitive nature of the team itself, as Carnegie Mellon football players tend to be competitive in every aspect of their life is our strength," said Lackner. "Playing three away games to start the season doesn't bother me at all. You play the game. It's a 100-yard field and that's all there is to it. I don't put a lot of stock in home or away. Get out there and compete and play."
Hughes is a two-time All-PAC honorable mention honoree at wide receiver. The senior led the Tartans with 13 receptions for 257 yards and four touchdowns during the abbreviated four-game spring schedule. Hughes will enter his fourth season with the Tartans with 14 career touchdown receptions, which ranks tied for fifth all-time in program history. He needs three more to move into third.
The senior spoke about being chosen by his peers as a captain and the feeling of the team following the shortened spring season last year and what the team's level of focus and attitude is heading into the 2021 campaign with a full slate of contests.
"It truly is a great honor to be selected as a captain by my teammates. We have a ton of guys that are capable of being great leaders. It makes it that much more of a responsibility for me to lead the team to the best of my abilities and I am looking forward to camp to start so I can do just that," said Hughes. "We were all hurt when we found out that our season was canceled last fall. We then were very blessed to have the opportunity to step on the field in the spring. Although, it might not have been the way we wanted to go, we were still blessed to be able to play some football. I think that this can be a very good team building opportunity to come together and use all that anger and emotion that has been built up over the last year to help us win some football games."
Carnegie Mellon will open its 2021 season on Friday, September 3, with the aforementioned road contest against Whitworth. The Tartans first PAC contest will take place at Geneva College on Saturday, September 11 at 7:30 p.m.
2021 PAC Preseason Poll:
1. Westminster (21 first-place votes): 316 points
2. Washington & Jefferson (6): 299 points
3. Case Western Reserve (7): 281 points
4. Grove City (1):229 points
5. Carnegie Mellon: 213 points
6. Geneva: 156 points
7. Saint Vincent: 144 points
8. Bethany: 113 points
9. Waynesburg: 63 points
10. Thiel: 54 points