Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

DU to join Western Athletic Conference in 2012

After years of growth, the University of Denver marked one of the biggest moments in its athletic history Nov. 11 as school officials announced that DU will move into the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) beginning in the 2012–13 season.

“This is a day we all envisioned, we just didn’t know when it would happen,” said Peg Bradley-Doppes, vice chancellor for athletics and recreation. “Congratulations to all of us for making this happen.”

Men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, gymnastics, women’s soccer, women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, and volleyball will move from the Sun Belt Conference to the WAC.

Bradley-Doppes described how the University had courted the conference for at least five years. Chancellor Robert Coombe talked about DU’s 10-year-climb to new athletic heights — rising to NCAA Division I status in all sports and winning three Director’s Cups, the trophy given to the best overall athletics program without a football team.

The announcement at the Ritchie Center was marked by pomp and festivity, with cheerleaders, the school pep band and DU’s fight song echoing through the arena. Student-athletes from all sports joined alumni, supporters, faculty and staff for the event.

Coombe said he was especially proud at the high level of academic achievement of DU’s student-athletes, who hold a higher combined grade point average than the student body as a whole. DU’s athletic success has always been just a part of the University’s overall commitment to excellence, he said.

While thanking the Sun Belt Conference for allowing DU to be a part of it since 1999–2000, Coombe said DU and the WAC will be an excellent fit moving forward.

“Our character is deeply rooted in the West, it’s a part of who we are, rooted deeply in Denver and the West, just as the WAC is,” he said. “The WAC has been an iconic conference in the West.”

Also joining the conference in the 2012–13 season are the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas State University. Others in the WAC when DU begins conference play will be the University of Hawaii, the University of Idaho, Louisiana Tech University, New Mexico State University, San Jose State University and Utah State University.

DU Board of Trustees Chair Trygve Myhren said the closer proximity to most of these schools will mean less travel expenses for DU and less classroom time missed by student athletes. The WAC also affords DU higher visibility nationally, with a television contract already in place between the WAC and ESPN television.

“We will be very competitive in a very competitive league,” Myhren said. “And we will do it without ever compromising out integrity.”

With the WAC headquartered in the Denver area for virtually all of its 50 years, conference Commissioner Karl Benson was on hand for the announcement at DU. He said DU’s addition to the league puts an end to the longtime trivia question of which athletic conference is headquartered in a state where the conference had no teams as members.

“It will be fun to get in the car and come over and see a game,” he said. “DU will fast become one of the WAC’s premier members, both academically and athletically.”

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