April 6, 2015
Athletics at UCCS have been rough. Think “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” except that day lasting for years. But that may be a thing of the past.
UCCS, in tandem with the RMAC, is a force whose impact is increasing. Through specific samples, a broader trend is emerging.
The sport that has the biggest draw at UCCS is basketball. Basketball, especially men’s, is the rock that the rest of athletics has to be built on to breed success. It’s the moneymaker, the sport that all kinds of folks will come to see, as we saw this season.
UCCS men’s and women’s basketball have been “No Good, Very Bad,” for a long time.
The first year for men’s basketball was 1987-88. In the 28 seasons of the program, the combined record is 232-530, including a dismal 2004-05 season when UCCS went 1-26. That’s an overall winning percentage of 30 percent.
The first season for women’s basketball was 1989-90. In the 26 seasons of that program, the combined record is 298-404, an overall winning percentage of 42 percent.
But here is the great, wonderful, sunlight-through-the-clouds rub. We are so much better now, and it’s a great time to watch our athletic programs here.
In the last two seasons, UCCS men’s basketball is 48-15, a winning percentage of 76 percent.
In the last four seasons, UCCS women’s basketball is 75-42, a winning percentage of 64 percent.
Both of these time frames include the best seasons in school history. In basketball, and athletics at UCCS more broadly, it’s not a matter of if records will fall, but when.
The Mountain Lions are ranked 43rd in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup Standings released on April 2, a ranking that recognizes the top schools in the country with broad-based athletic programs in both women’s and men’s sports.
It’s the highest UCCS has ever been after the winter season; the closest was 2012-13 when we were 80th.
UCCS has had 58 All-Americans, all since 1997. That’s an average of 3.05 per year. Since 2012, we have had 14, an increase to 3.5 per year.
Obviously, there are influences that may explain the numbers. School size, talent, coaches and competition level all play a role. But the numbers remain.
This impressive turnaround, this awakening, has also been accomplished in the toughest division two conference in the country, the RMAC.
Along with UCCS, there are five other RMAC schools in the Learfield ranking: Colorado Mesa (second), Adams State (fifth), Colorado School of Mines (seventh), Western State (20th) and CSU-Pueblo (39th).
Only one other conference in the country had that many schools in the top 50 of the ranking.
The conference had made its presence felt in championships as well, especially in cross country.
The last seven men’s national champions have either been named Western State or Adams State. In 2014, RMAC schools finished first, fourth, fifth, 18th and 23rd (UCCS) out of 32 teams.
On the women’s side, every national championship between 1992 and 2009 was won by either Western or Adams. This fall, RMAC schools finished fourth, 10th, 16th, 20th (UCCS), 22nd and 23rd out of 32 teams.
Playing a game inside the conference is a nightmare. Any team can beat any other team, and home field advantage is an incalculable benefit.
The stature of the conference, and of UCCS, will continue to grow. Remember this when you watch UCCS athletics, and consider yourself lucky.