Sports & Recreation / Spring 2018

Peg Bradley-Doppes: Leaving an enduring legacy

Since Peg Bradley-Doppes took the reins in 2005, the Pioneers have won an astounding seven national championships, 97 conference titles and 69 coach-of-the-year honors. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Peg Bradley-Doppes, DU’s longtime vice chancellor of athletics and recreation, has spent the last half hour talking about her life. About her humble upbringing with eight siblings in Cincinnati. About her success as a scholarship athlete and Division I coach. And most of all, about her remarkable 13-year run leading the University of Denver’s athletic programs to a previously unseen pinnacle.

Of her interviewer, she has just one request.

“Could you please make this more about the teams than about me?”

Bradley-Doppes will not take credit for putting Pioneer athletics at its highest of heights. At least, not on her own.

“We all win together, we all lose together, we celebrate together, we mourn together,” she says. “I love the idea that great things happen with a shared vision. This is a place where you actually can bring your whole self and your family and thrive.”

Reflecting on her career as DU’s 12th athletic director — and later vice chancellor of athletics and recreation — Bradley-Doppes resembles a proud, fiercely competitive parent raising a high achiever.

She’s nurtured DU athletics and watched it grow into a Division I force to be reckoned with — not just on the ice or the ski slopes.

Since she took the reins in 2005, the Pioneers have won an astounding seven national championships, 97 conference titles, 69 coach-of-the-year honors and nine of the last 10 NCAA I-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cups — awarded to the school with the greatest across-the-board success.

All that without a football team (DU dropped the sport in 1961). Instead, nationally known lacrosse, hockey, gymnastics, skiing and other programs have carried the Pioneers to the top.

“I think what Peg’s been really good at is finding a niche and being the best,” says Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla, who has covered Colorado sports for 25 years. “Don’t be second best [at football], but be the best at what you emphasize.”

Hockey head coach Jim Montgomery, whom Bradley-Doppes hired in 2013, agrees. “She’s elevated Denver athletics to another level,” he says. “It will be a tough position to replace a legend, but an envious position because of the [favorable] situation she’s put us in.”

Yes, Bradley-Doppes is retiring.

It’s time for her to leave behind the rigorous schedule of nights, weekends and holidays that comes with leading a premier institution. She wants her husband and 13-year-old son, Conor, to be her priorities now. And she knows she couldn’t live with herself if she gave anything less than 100 percent to the job.

“She has put all of her time and energy into developing a successful program,” says DU gymnastics coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart, who also worked with Bradley-Doppes at the University of Michigan. “She’s leaving a legacy of teamwork, expectation, motivation and humility. But most importantly, she leaves a legacy of integrity and doing things the right way. She puts the right people in the right places for them to be successful.”

Indeed, a hallmark of the Bradley-Doppes administration has been her key hires. Luring Princeton legend Bill Tierney to campus, for example, created a powerhouse lacrosse program — in 2015, DU became the first national champion west of the Mississippi River.

“Her strength and character are contagious,” Tierney says. “She has a handle on any situation with what I call ‘stern compassion.’ You know she has your back 100 percent, but you also know you never want to let her down.”

Excellence is expected on this campus, athletics staffers say. Nothing less. No compromises.

The result is a competitive culture with a familial feel. (Bradley-Doppes has an open-door policy and personally inspects each athlete’s midterm grades.) There’s an emphasis on good morals and hard work.

“Look at the accomplishments,” gymnastics coach Kutcher-Rinehart says. “Not just in athletic success, but in academics, fundraising, student-athlete support, sports medicine, ticketing, recreation and more.”

Because at the end of the day, Bradley-Doppes says, her job is about enhancing the University as a whole, not just one department. She’s proud to be a Pioneer, but she’s even prouder of the way 100 percent of her student-athletes and staff donate to and reinvest in DU every year.

It’s a lasting legacy, but don’t ask her about the success she’s had.

“It’s the success we’ve had,” she says. “I have the ability to surround myself with great talent and empower. We think it’s a privilege, not a right to be a Pioneer. Everything’s about the team.”


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