From humble beginnings: The early years of UCCS athletics

May 11, 2015
50 Year Issue

Jonathan Toman
jtoman@uccs.edu

The first news release about athletics at UCCS concerned a powderpuff game.

On Dec. 12, 1966, a team from the Colorado Springs Center of the University of Colorado faced off against a team from Squadron 19 of the Air Force Academy. The teams tied 28-28.

Club sports got the ball rolling to bring an athletic department to UCCS.

A men’s soccer club team was formed in fall 1983, after intramural teams had ventured into Colorado Springs to look for tougher opponents than just on campus. The chancellor at the time, Jack Sherman, then appointed the Intercollegiate Athletics Advisory Committee in spring 1984.

The first athletic director of UCCS was a work-study student named Gary Fleming. During the 1984-85 academic year, when Fleming was hired, student government allocated some of its fee money in support of athletics.

The largest source of funding in 1984-85 was from campus vending machine revenues.

Club sports that year included coed golf, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s basketball and coed judo.

The regents approved the first fee specifically for athletics in the summer of 1985. Then, the first varsity intercollegiate sports at UCCS, men’s soccer and volleyball, were approved for competition in the 1986-87 school year.

The school joined the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to compete.

“With NAIA membership, we will be working with NAIA members in the Rocky Mountain Region for future scheduling in a number of sports,” Fleming said in a July 9, 1986 news release. “It will help us with our club sport scheduling and get our foot in the door for future varsity sports.”

“This means a step forward for intercollegiate athletics at UCCS.”

A separate release from 1985-86 explained the reasoning for adding an athletics program.

“Its chief purpose is to add to the quality of campus life and provide a vehicle for our students who are interested in participating in a competitive sports program.”

“Funds and facilities, although modest, are adequate and no money generally available for academic programs will be diverted to the sports program.”

Men’s basketball remained a club sport until 1987-88. An essay by former dean of students Ron Wisner in the book “UCCS – The First 25 Years” by Douglas McKay explained some of their troubles.

“They had to beg and borrow for practice and playing time at a variety of gymnasiums around the city, using seven different ‘home courts’ during the course of the season,” Wisner said.

“The team’s first uniforms were borrowed from CU-Boulder, but they had to be ‘taken in’ considerably to fit our down-sized athletes.”

The first gymnasium on campus was completed in fall 1988, with the home opener on Nov. 16. The gym, known as the “Gold Pit,” was part of the University Center expansion and is now Berger Hall.

In 1989-90, the university was part of the founding of the now-defunct Colorado Athletic Conference. The school joined the Division II level of the NCAA as part of this process.

Now, UCCS supports 12 athletic programs and is part of the RMAC, an organization the school joined in 1996 as an associate member. UCCS became a full member of the RMAC in 1997.

Current Sports at UCCS and the school
years they started varsity competition
1986-87: Men’s Soccer, Volleyball
1987-88: Men’s Basketball
1989-90: Men’s Golf, Women’s Basketball, Softball
1996-97: Men’s Cross Country, Women’s Cross Country
1998-99: Men’s Track & Field, Women’s Track & Field
2008-09: Women’s Soccer
2013-14: Women’s Golf