Oct. 30, 2017
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Greetings to the Pioneer Community - my name is Ron Grahame.
Prior to the kickoff of our fall championship season, I wanted to take a moment to write a few thoughts in my first Pioneer Perspectives as the Athletic Director at the University of Denver.
This past August, the athletic department gathered for our annual divisional meeting. At that time, Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation, Peg Bradley-Doppes, announced her decision to retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Peg added she would retain her duties as Vice Chancellor and named me Director of Athletics.
Allow me a moment to put this into perspective. I came to the University of Denver as a student-athlete in the fall of 1969 from Victoria, B.C., anxious for what was ahead for me. Little did I know, I would have the privilege of spending most of my adult life as a student-athlete, assistant coach and administrator — all as a proud Denver Pioneer. Now to be responsible for the day-to-day athletic activities is a rewarding accomplishment.
I am extremely grateful to the University of Denver’s Board of Trustees, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp and especially Peg for having the confidence and trust to appoint me to the athletic director’s position. The support I have received is humbling. You have my word, together we will continue to build on our success in the classroom, community and athletically.
Since the transition, we have not had the opportunity to share the accomplishments of our student-athletes via Pioneer Perspectives. I do hope, though, many of you have continued to follow the success of our programs through the new-look DenverPioneers.com. Let’s reflect on last year one more time, as well as look at a few highlights from the start of the 2017-18 season.
Without a doubt, the 2016-17 year was filled with extraordinary results measured by championships, playoffs and academic excellence.
Hockey brought home its eighth National Championship in program history last April. Head Coach Jim Montgomery was named the National Coach of the Year, joining the men’s soccer staff, led by Jamie Franks, as the two programs to earn that honor in 2016-17. In addition, Will Butcher, currently a rookie for the New Jersey Devils in the NHL, became the second Pioneer to win the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.
Gymnastics had a remarkable year, securing the program’s fourth-ever team berth to the NCAA Championships and finishing ninth overall — the highest in its history. Four of the top 10 team scores were set last year, along with the two most attended home meets in program history. The team also had two postseason All-Americans in the same season for the first time.
Speaking of All-Americans, skiing had seven student-athletes earn that honor in 2017, leading the program to a third place finish at the NCAA Championships. In addition, women’s tennis doubles tandem of Maureen Slattery and Julia O’Loughlin earned All-American honors and made a historic run to the NCAA Quarterfinals finishing their season with a 19-3 record.
Our swimming and diving program won its fourth-straight Summit League Championship, and our swimmers swept all 34 events for the first time. Both programs finished 30th at the NCAA Championships to earn valuable Directors’ Cup points.
Women’s lacrosse experienced its best start in program history by winning its first five games. The team had their highest ranking in nearly four years at No. 13. Liza Kelly’s team also had a successful first season in the BIG EAST, finishing 7-2 and reaching the conference title game.
Finally, men’s lacrosse made a run to Championship Weekend for the fifth time in the last seven seasons to cap off our ninth D1-AAA Director’s Cup in the last 10 years.
As a Division, we finished 35th overall, first among non-FBS programs and second among schools from outside the power five conferences. We also became one of just eight athletic departments in the country to win at least one national championship in each of the last four years. That’s a remarkable accomplishment and speaks volumes to the integrity of our programs.
This past summer, the department published “A Legacy in the Making - A Decade in Review”. I encourage everyone to take a comprehensive look at what this Division has achieved over the past 10 years under the leadership and guidance of Peg. It’s a tribute to the overall success of DU Athletics and her vision.
Now let’s get to this year.
As I mentioned previously, our fall championship season gets underway this weekend with women’s soccer going to Fargo, N.D., while our men’s program travels to Omaha to compete for its championship November 9-11. Rounding out three straight weeks of Summit League playoffs, volleyball begins play in Hamilton Gymnasium from November 17-19.
Women’s golf just closed out a fantastic fall season, moving the program to No. 18 in the national rankings, its highest since the spring of 2010. Four top-six finishes and tournament victories at both the Golfweek Conference Challenge and the Ron Moore Women’s Intercollegiate have definitely elevated this program.
The passion for Homecoming week at DU was highlighted by a fun weekend in and around the Daniel L. Ritchie Center. From the pre-game parties in the parking lot to the banner raising ceremony for hockey, it was great to have so many alums and parents back on campus.
Hockey remains No. 1 in the nation, and I’m confident Coach Montgomery and his team are going to continue to bring a very competitive style of hockey to Magness Arena with the goal to win back-to-back national championships.
Men’s swimming and diving started the season nationally ranked and are off to a 2-0 start in addition to a win last weekend at the Pacific Invitational. I believe both the men’s and women’s programs will continue to shine on the national stage.
Under the guidance of now second-year basketball coach and former Pioneer Rodney Billups, men’s basketball has played some of its best basketball in many years. In August, the team had the privilege of playing internationally in Spain for four games. It was a trip of a lifetime. We also welcome Jim Turgeon to the Pioneer family as the women’s head basketball coach. Fan Jam was a great way to begin Homecoming Week, and we are all looking forward to both teams first home games on November 12 in Magness Arena. I believe both coaches and programs will continue to lay the foundation for an exciting and successful brand of basketball for years to come.
Thank you for joining me for my first Pioneer Perspectives. I look forward to the winter edition as we move through the school year.
Proud to be a Denver Pioneer since 1969,