PUCK SWAMI: This is the Golden Age of Denver Pioneer Sports — Right Now!

1911-murad-cardUniversity of Denver Murad College Series trading card, circa 1909 – from the personal collection of Puck Swami

Ponder this:

DU Hockey is unbeaten in its last eight games and just ascended to #1 in the country for the first time since 2010, coming off an NCAA Frozen Four berth in 2016.

DU Men’s Soccer is regular-season unbeaten for two years, something that hasn’t been done in D-I soccer in nearly 40 years by any team.  The Pios are now ranked in the top 5 in the country and start NCAA tournament play at home this weekend as the sixth overall seed out of the 48 teams in the tourney (and over 200 D-I teams overall playing the sport).

DU Men’s Lacrosse, coached by the greatest lacrosse coach of all time, starts up in a couple of months and will ranked as a top 5 team in the country.  Duke, North Carolina and Notre Dame are all coming to Denver this year for the greatest home schedule in DU History, all bathing in the afterglow of the 2015 NCAA Championship season.

DU Skiing starts up soon  — as the defending NCAA Champion for the 23rd time in history and THE dominant program in the history of the sport at the college level.

I could go on and on with even more excellent current DU sports, more hardware accomplishments and more national rankings, but for a little school in the Rockies with 5,500 undergrads that only restored all sports to Division I less than 20 years ago, we’re doing pretty damn well, thank you very much. In fact, in the 150 plus years that DU’s been around, our sports program, taken as a whole, HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER.

For those of us old farts who have been following Pioneer sports for 30 years or more, this is a very unique moment in time that is nothing short of an incredible, astonishing achievement.  We can remember well the dingy days of the 1980s — when our school was $12 million in debt, deferred maintenance topped $40 million, and DU was in danger of going under. Our campus was a muddy mess with no names on the buildings. Many of our DU teams of that era competed in obscurity against NAIA schools you’ve never heard of, playing on patchy fields and in 40 year old WWII surplus buildings that were once condemned. The very suggestion of being NCAA Division I in all sports would get you laughed at back then, rather than admired, as it is today.

Today, our campus sparkles amid gorgeous facilities, and we’re not only D-I in all sports, but DU is the best D-I school without football in the country for years now, and we’re punching so far above our weight as an athletic power that it boggles the mind. Our athletes also graduate at a higher rate than the entire student body (90%), have a higher GPA (3.3) than the all-student average, and (knock on wood) avoid the police blotter, too.

The point here is that we can’t take all this for granted, folks…

There may come a time (perhaps too soon) when the big football schools with the big budgets move on from playing ‘mid-majors’ like us.  Or when financial pressures may someday limit DU’s athletic ambitions. Or when people stop coming to college sports events because there are just too many other things competing for people’s time and attention, which I already covered in another column here.

It’s time we get out to watch these great DU teams now, while we can ALL enjoy this Golden Age of DU Sports…and bring everyone you know!

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus. He shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.com 

11 thoughts on “PUCK SWAMI: This is the Golden Age of Denver Pioneer Sports — Right Now!”

  1. So true. It’s pretty awesome. Hope to see great crowds at the hockey games Fri and Sat, and at the soccer game on Sunday. Glad to see DU hockey ranked #1, hopefully that gives us fans a bit of a jolt, and gets some well-deserved attention to our hockey team.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know final exams are almost here, and I hope the students will budget some stress-relief time in their study schedules to step away from the books for a bit to cheer their classmates as they compete at home this weekend. I also hope the non-student Denver community gives these DU athletes the home support they so richly deserve. The athletes have done their part – hockey #1 in the county and soccer is undefeated for two years. You can’t ask for more than that…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep. The athletes have unequivocally done their part. That is without question or debate.

    But the advertising and promotions folks have continually and spectacularly shat the proverbial bed when it comes to engaging with the community and forging bonds that turn the thousands of casual, back-of-the-sports-section DU fans in Denver into REAL fans that REALLY show up at the games.

    For years, I have maintained that DU could (at least partially…) solve its continued hockey attendance woes by actively engaging the various youth hockey organizations around town. Families chock-full of ready-made college hockey fans comprise the entire makeup of these organizations…and DU flat-out ignores them. It’s a travesty. And, what’s more, it’s…Just. Plain. Stupid.

    Send a marketing intern (or Daniels COB student…) out to every youth rink in Denver on fall Saturday mornings, set up a table, smile and engage with parents, and offer a voucher for $5.00 hockey tickets to any youth hockey player or coach.
    – Can’t make it to that night’s game? Fine. The voucher is good all season – just turn it in at the DU ticket window.
    – Already used your first voucher? No problem. Get another one at DU during the game you attended…or the rink the next time the DU people are there.
    – Parents want to sit in the Crimson Club instead of the end zone seating? Great. The voucher also allows them to buy one kids ticket at 1/2 price with the purchase of a full-price adult ticket.

    It’s really that simple.

    And then, you have to deliver. You have to make it fun. You have to make the kids want to come back. You have to make mom and dad college hockey fans. You have to present DU hockey as a less expensive, more fun, and more accessible form of family entertainment than an Avs game. DU is not the NHL and, though some players at DU might one day play in the NHL, they currently don’t….so stop pretending that a DU game is NHL-lite.

    – Have a youth breakaway competition between periods
    – Have the DU players wear Littleton (or Highland Hills, or Foothills, or WHOEVER) jerseys during warmups
    – Have giveaways only open to kids in a youth jersey
    – Have a “Pioneer Kids Club” full of giveaways and activities and random fun things for kids to do.

    I could go on and on…but this stuff ISN’T DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS, for heaven’s sake!!!

    Anyway. So. A little personal perspective on community engagement thrown in for good measure….

    After spending my entire post-undergraduate life in Denver (which included 2 graduate degrees from DU), I gave up my DU season tickets and moved to Orange County, CA two years ago for work. We don’t have college hockey out here, but we DO have the Ducks and I’m literally AMAZED at how well they integrate themselves into the youth hockey community. I mean, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kessler were at my 7 year old’s hockey practice last night. That’s right. FREAKING GETZLAF AND KESSLER! These guys are Olympians, for chrissakes!!! And now my kid absolutely loves them because THEY came to HIS practice. And guess what my kid wants to do this weekend? Yep. That’s right…go to the Ducks/Kings game.

    The Avs and their ownership won’t stop pissing down their own legs long enough do stuff like this in Denver….so, goddamnit, DU SHOULD!!!

    The same goes for soccer. Or volleyball. Or basketball. Or…WHATEVER. Get out there. Get engaged. You don’t have fans? Fine. Go MAKE fans. Entertainment dollars are fungible and people WANT to spend money on activities where they feel valued and, ultimately, become “a part of something”.

    DU has the tools to do this.

    They just need to make the commitment.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The fall used to be the time you looked past for hockey season to hit full stride. Now, DU has turned this into one of the most exciting times of the year. DU women’s soccer were co-champs in the Summit League during a rebuilding year. DU women’s volleyball won the Summit League, another 20+ wins and go into the league tournament in Denver this week. Even swimming and diving are making waves nationally. Really, ridiculous level of success with an athletics department and coaches making the most of what they have. You are right – the best time EVER to be a Pioneer sports fan!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. DU is obviously trying to get more fans in the barn for hockey. They’ve made parking free in lot 108 only (first-come, first served) for the rest of the season, and this week, I got an email offer from DU for $10 tickets to the Miami series. Steps in the right direction…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be completely fair, this refrain can be sung by fans of pretty much any major sport that people pay to see in this country at any level above high school.

      Think the Kronkes care about John and Judy Smith that take their two kids to one Avs game a year and blow maybe $400? Hell no. They care about Wells-Fargo and KPMG – companies that that rent entire BOXES and spend well over $20,000 per season entertaining their customers and executives.

      I do not begrudge DU chasing corporate dollars and donations. Hell, I think they should bring in someone to replace Ryan Peck that is even MORE skilled at getting alumni to contribute to the athletic department. However, the fact that they willfully ignore the low-hanging fruit out there in potential fan land is, frankly, inexcusable.

      Like

  5. If anyone doubts the sagacity of Swami’s article, look at the Capital One Cup standings. (a system that annually ranks the most successful overall collegiate sports programs in the country and awards scholarships thereon). DU finished 25th last year, amazing for a non-football school, ahead of such athletic luminaries as Penn St, Mich St, USC, Notre Dame and LSU.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Try to see it as more than bashing – try to see it as caring. For the die hard college sports fan, our relationship with our school is kind of like a marriage – some call iT Love/Hate, but I see it as more like the highs are so much higher and the lows are lower than it is with most other people, who just don’t care that much.

    We love our school very much and want to see it succeed very much, or we wouldn’t care enough to post things here. There is always room to improve, and since DU is a D-I program that charges people to watch most of its athletes perform, the administration, coaches and athletes should be open to fan criticism where appropriate as part of the territory.

    Most of the people I know at DU actually like to know when they are meeting fan’s expectations or not…

    Like

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