By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
Denver and UNO are already conference foes in the WCHA and will be two of eight teams that form the National Collegiate Hockey Conference next fall. But the Mavericks and the Pioneers will be facing off on more than just the ice.
In a press conference Tuesday, DU announced it was leaving the Western Athletic Conference to join UNO and the eight other members of The Summit League. Vice Chancellor for Athletics Peg Bradley-Doppes said the decision was about finding stability.
“This isn’t a guess,” Bradley-Doppes said. “We’re at peace with the decision because we worked the numbers. It was an emotional decision. But at this time we’re in the right place. We couldn’t depend on the stability of the conference we left.”
It would be hard to argue that any conference is more in flux or more unstable than the conference Denver is leaving. While the WAC currently has 10 members, six are leaving on July 1, 2013 and another, Idaho, will be out on July 1, 2014.
California State-Bakersfield, Utah Valley, and Grand Canyon will become WAC members in July, but that leaves the conference with just seven members next year and six the year after. And the schools that will be left aren’t exactly household names.
That wasn’t always the case. When Boise State was chasing football perfection and trying to crash the BCS party the Broncos were members of the WAC.
Hawai’i grabbed the attention of the college football world by putting up 50 plus points a week. Before Colin Kaepernick was in the middle of a quarterback controversy in San Francisco he and Nevada introduced the world to the pistol formation. But Boise State, Hawai’i, Nevada and Fresno State all left in past two years.
“The current climate within collegiate athletics has made it imperative that the University find a stable home for the majority of our sport programs,” Bradley-Doppes said on the Denver athletics website. “The Summit League is an excellent alliance for our teams, with many institutions within the conference already familiar to residents of the Rocky Mountain region. Our student-athletes will be able to jump in and compete for NCAA post season play right away, which is the goal for all of our athletic programs.”
The Pioneers will participate in 11-of-19 championships sports that The Summit League offers. Denver will compete for conference crowns in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball.
“I am pleased to announce the University of Denver as our league’s newest member,” said Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple in a press release by The Summit League. “The university is a tremendous addition with an excellent academic reputation and a history of very successful athletics. Denver is a renowned metropolitan area and easily accessed through one of the world’s leading airports. All of those qualities make the University of Denver an excellent fit for The Summit League.”
The Pioneers will become an official member on July 1, 2013 and be able to participate for Summit League championships starting right away in Fall 2013. The University of Denver was founded in 1864 and has a current enrollment of 11,797.
In 2007 the Wall Street Journal ranked Denver’s Daniels College of Business seventh in the nation for producing graduates with high ethical standards. U.S. News and World Report rated Denver 82nd among national doctoral universities in its annual 2012 college rankings for undergraduate education.
Athletically, the Pioneers have won five national championships and 18 individual national championships in the last decade. Denver has achieved 32 conference tournament championships, 20 regular season championships and 153 individual championships in the past 10 years as well.
The Pioneers count Condoleezza Rice, Pete Coors, CEO of Coors Brewing Co.; and Olympic Silver and Bronze Figure Skating Medalist Michelle Kwan among its alumni. Denver’s metro area is the 21st largest in the U.S. with a population of 2.87 million.
“Just as a university is responsible for providing its student-athletes with solid instruction and guidance both in the classroom and on the field of play, a robust conference values educational excellence as well as athletic achievement,” University of Denver Chancellor Robert Coombe said in the press release. “Considering its strong academic focus along with the competitive success of its member institutions’ sports programs, we could not be more pleased than to find a permanent home in The Summit League.”