All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

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 

PUCK SWAMI: Team Billups can help heal racial divides and unify our DU Community

PHOTO: DU Coach Rodney Billups (At Right) with his NBA star brother Chauncey (Center) and their father, Ray (at left). Photo: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

LetsGoDU Publisher Tim Thompson wrote a very good article on this blog, entitled “5 Reasons to Care About 2016-2017 DU Hoops.” Every one of Tim’s reasons were very good reasons to support our basketball team, but I’d like to offer one more reason you should care, and as you’ll read, I think it takes on a bigger, deeper and even more important social dimension than the sport itself… Continue reading PUCK SWAMI: Team Billups can help heal racial divides and unify our DU Community

Pioneer Family Loses DU Hall of Fame Hockey Alumnus George Konik at age 79

The Denver Pioneers lost one of its hockey greats this weekend, as former DU all-American and DU Hall of Famer George Konik passed away in his sleep at his home in Eagan, Minn. on Oct. 21.  He had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and dementia for the last 17 years, and was 79 years old. Continue reading Pioneer Family Loses DU Hall of Fame Hockey Alumnus George Konik at age 79

Puck Swami: DU Hockey Attendance Needs Help

Empty seats at DU’s Magness Arena/Photo: University of Denver

In October of 2010, Defending NCAA Champion Boston College came out to Denver to kick-off the DU hockey season with a weekend series. Capacity crowds of over 6,000 people jammed Denver’s Magness Arena on both Friday and Saturday nights. DU was swept in that series, but the DU crowds were rabid and engaged. It felt like playoff hockey.

Fast forward six years to October, 2016 – another opening DU weekend. Fifth-ranked Boston College, coming off a 2016 Frozen Four appearance, and Ohio State, a big sports name brand, were in town to face the Pios for the Icebreaker Tournament, with Denver also coming off its best season in 10 years with its own Frozen Four appearance and sporting a top three national ranking. Continue reading Puck Swami: DU Hockey Attendance Needs Help

DU Sports Twitter Follower Analysis

The number of Twitter followers of a sports team can tell us a lot directionally about its popularity among the ‘Under Age 35’ demographic, as Twitter is rarely used by people over 50. It can also tell us the approximate relative popularity among sports at a given school and relative popularity among peer sports programs at other schools around the country, again among younger people – the future of college sports. Continue reading DU Sports Twitter Follower Analysis

Puck Swami: Goodbye, Campus Lounge

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-6-30-38-pmCampus Lounge Interior, Denver, Colorado – August 2016  – Photo by Jake Norris

The announcement that the Campus Lounge in Denver would be closing its doors this week hit us old-time Pio fans hard.

One fan said, “It’s the end of an era.”

Another told me that the loss “feels like losing your favorite Uncle.”

A third chum said, “It’s like getting your finger chopped off. You know you’re still going to live, but life will never be the same.”

And while the University Boulevard bar will soon reopen under a different name and owner, it truly will never be the same. Continue reading Puck Swami: Goodbye, Campus Lounge

Puck Swami: Building a DU Hoops Fan Culture starts with the “Pio Posse”

POSSE_FINAL (4)

We’ve all watched DU grow from what was mostly a hockey school to a nationally-ranked sports powerhouse in several sports over the last 10 years. That sports growth is helping to fuel DU’s national brand visibility around the country, creating a greater sense of engagement with the students, alumni and fans, and also fueling a higher sense of pride and purpose. DU has proven that resourcing and developing niche sports to win at the NCAA  Division I national level has important value in not only building the best non-football athletic program in the United States, but helping to build a high end front-porch for our university. Continue reading Puck Swami: Building a DU Hoops Fan Culture starts with the “Pio Posse”

Three Pioneer Alums Headed to 2016 Rio Olympics

Three DU 2016 Olympians: Left: Jessica Lopez ’09 Gymnastics, Venezuela, Top Right Espen Kofstad ’11 Golf, Norway; Lower Right: Simona Castro ’13 Gymnastics, Chile.  Photos Courtesy University of Denver

Three University of Denver athlete graduates  will represent their respective countries at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil — one men’s golfer and two women’s gymnasts, representing the countries of Norway, Venezuela, and Chile, respectively. Continue reading Three Pioneer Alums Headed to 2016 Rio Olympics

Monty Signs New Five-Year DU Contract

 

Jim Montgomery
Jim Montgomery has signed a new five year contract as head hockey coach at the University of Denver.  Photo by Melissa Wade, USCHO

The University of Denver has signed head hockey coach Jim Montgomery to a new five-year contract extension, according to a story broken by Mike Chambers of the Denver Post on June 28, and made official by the University of Denver in a press release on June 29. The contract will extend Montgomery through the 2020-2021 season, and financial terms were not disclosed, per DU policy.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to be signing Jim to this well-earned extension and we’re incredibly excited about the state of our hockey program,” said DU Director of Athletics and Recreation Peg Bradley-Doppes in the press release. “Jim’s dynamic leadership, technical proficiency and passion for his sport are all unparalleled, as is his dedication to his craft. The style of play he has brought to Denver has definitely reinvigorated the program and we look forward to the Pioneers’ legacy continuing to grow and thrive in the coming years under his leadership.”

Montgomery, who turns 47 on June 30, has led the Pioneers to progressively better finishes in each of his three seasons since taking over the Pioneer program in 2013 after legendary head coach George Gwozdecky was fired. Last season, the Pioneers made it to the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time since 2005.

According to the Calgary Sun, Montgomery was a finalist for the NHL’s Calgary Flames vacant head coach position earlier this month, but the Flames selected Glen Gulutzan for the job. The flirtation with Calgary may have helped expedite the the DU deal, as some NHL teams are becoming increasingly interested in promising NCAA coaches. This new interest is based on the solid performances turned in by former University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol with the Philadelphia Flyers and former Western Michigan coach Jeff Blashill with the Detroit Red Wings, who both guided their NHL teams to the playoffs in their rookie seasons as NHL head coaches. Prior to last season, former college head coaches in the NHL were very rare.

The Denver Post reported that the new contract represents a substantial raise from his previous deal, and will place him in the upper echelon of coaching pay packages in the NCHC.

“I’m very pleased with the offer they put in front of me, that’s for sure,” Montgomery told the Denver Post.

Puck Swami is the internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus.

Puck Swami: A Magic Night at Barton Stadium

Photos by John Baker for Inside Lacrosse Magazine

Last night was one of those magic nights as a DU fan, when everything came together create a perfect scene at Peter Barton Stadium on the DU campus.  The #1 ranked Pioneers, of course,  did their part with a 17-8 dismemberment of Providence College in the Big East semi-final. Continue reading Puck Swami: A Magic Night at Barton Stadium