Athletics & Recreation

Pioneer athletics programs shuffle conferences in 2013–14

For the majority of the University of Denver varsity athletics programs, the 2013–14 academic year will find the teams traveling to new places and welcoming new foes. The nationally ranked DU hockey team will begin play in the inaugural season of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), while 11 other sports squads will depart the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for the Summit League.

“It will be an exciting year for Pioneer sport teams,” says Peg Bradley-Doppes, vice chancellor for athletics, recreation and Ritchie Center operations. “Our goal every year is to compete for the Directors Cup title, consistently showing we have one of the best athletics programs in the nation. These new affiliations will hopefully bolster our ability to achieve the very lofty goals we have each season.”

The conference moves were made necessary due to several factors occurring within collegiate athletics. In the case of the hockey program, two universities withdrew their membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), which forced the remaining members to look at the viability of keeping the WCHA. With the departure of Minnesota and Wisconsin for the new Big Ten Conference hockey platform, what ultimately became the best solution was a fresh start with an entirely new conference. In addition to the University of Denver, the NCHC includes Western Michigan, St. Cloud State, Colorado College, Miami University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Nebraska Omaha and University of North Dakota.

“We will forever remember the many years of competitive success in the WCHA,” Bradley-Doppes says. “Moving forward in the NCHC, we must again establish ourselves as elite among universities that value their collegiate hockey programs as much as we do.”

While membership in the WAC was short-lived for the Pioneers, the Summit League is a conference on the rise, and the addition of the University of Denver only makes the alliance stronger. Teams slated to compete for titles include 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. DU becomes the ninth member of the Summit League, joining Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, North Dakota State University, Oakland University, University of Nebraska-Omaha, University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University.

“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,” Chancellor Robert Coombe said during the announcement of the Summit League transition. “Considering its strong academic focus, along with the competitive success of its member institutions’ sports programs, we could not be more pleased to find a permanent home in the Summit League.”

DU has 17 varsity sports overall. The additional five include the men’s and women’s skiing program, which is aligned with the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association; the nationally ranked men’s lacrosse program, a member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference; the women’s lacrosse program, a member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation; and the nationally ranked gymnastics team, which will operate as an independent in the 2013–14 season.

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