|Posted November 6, 2008|
Pack can join unique class of first-year success stories.
Pack has chance to be one of just four startup programs in NCAA Division II history to finish first season .500 or better
PUEBLO, Colo. (Nov. 6, 2008) - Five wins. For some NCAA Division II football programs, five wins is a dreaded sign of mediocrity, while for others, it is a goal which struggling programs strive to achieve as they try to improve.
For the Colorado State University-Pueblo football program, playing its first season since 1984, it is something completely different - a huge first step that only a precious few in NCAA history have ever accomplished.
With a win Saturday afternoon over archrival Adams State College, CSU-Pueblo can finish their first football season with a 5-5 mark, an incredible accomplishment, especially considering that exactly one year ago, the ThunderWolf football program consisted of nothing but four coaches huddled in the attic of the university library. The program had no stadium, no players, and not even the uniform design had been decided upon.
The ThunderWolves' 2008 season has turned out to be quite memorable, resulting in shattered school and recent RMAC attendance records, and playing a large part in a Renaissance of student life at the university.
A win Saturday would make CSU-Pueblo one of just four programs in NCAA Division II history to finish its first season with a .500 record or better. CSU-Pueblo's feat is made all the more impressive, considering that two of the other three programs to reach the milestone, Shaw (NC) University in 2003 and Bryant (RI) University in 1999, did so by building off of a club football team which existed in the year prior to their first season with an NCAA schedule.
The third team to accomplish the feat, Valdosta (GA) State in 1982, accomplished the return of their program in just one year, similar to the ThunderWolves, without having a club football team prior to the program's first season as a foundation. Valdosta has gone on to become a national Division-II powerhouse, winning two national titles in the past four seasons.
"We've done something that only one school has ever had to," CSU-Pueblo head coach John Wristen said of the ThunderWolves' building of a football program from the ground up in just one year. "The fact that we had been so successful in our first season is a great accomplishment."
With a win, the ThunderWolves join a unique group of Division II's first-year success stories, each of which featured programs that turned into regional, and in some cases, national powerhouses. If the ThunderWolves lose to Adams State, they will boast the fourth best season of a Division II startup football program in NCAA history.
In 2008, the ThunderWolves joined Lake Erie College as Division II programs playing its first year of NCAA football. Lake Erie is 3-7 so far this season, playing a schedule that consists of seven Division II teams and four Division III teams. All 10 of CSU-Pueblo's 2008 opponents are Division II schools.
NCAA Division II Startup Programs with winning records during their first season of competition:
SHAW (NC) UNIVERSITY - (7 wins, 3 losses in
Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., the oldest historically Black Institution of Higher Learning in the South, reinstated its football program in 2002 after a 23-year hiatus (the program was discontinued in 1979). In 2002, Shaw began as a club team before joining the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and playing a full CIAA schedule in 2003.
In 2003, Shaw started 4-0 and finished the season 7-3, the best ever for any NCAA Division II program in its first year of competition. Since resuming its football program, Shaw has won two CIAA titles (including the 2004 title in their second season).
Founded in 1865, Shaw University's football program dates back to 1897 (circa). The program was discontinued in 1942 & 1943 during the war years. With the end of the war and an increase in enrollment, the football program was revived in 1946 and the University began a recruiting program, offered scholarships and initiated more formalized training in football. During the 1947 season, the football team finished with 10 wins, no losses, no ties, and won the CIAA Championship and the Black College National Championship. The program continued (with the exception of one year in 1952) through 1978 season. In 1979 the program was once again discontinued.
VALDOSTA (GA) STATE UNIVERSITY - (5 wins, 4 losses in
Now known as one of the jewels of NCAA Division II Football as well as the defending NCAA Division II national champion, Valdosta State began its program in 1982 to immediate success, going 5-5-1 in the Gulf South Conference. The program began as the school wanted to match its rival, Georgia Southern, which already had a successful football program. Like CSU-Pueblo, Valdosta football was announced just one year prior to their first game, in the Spring of 1981, with their first game coming in the Fall of 1982. Valdosta State enjoyed its first winning season in 1986, and haven't been stopped since, only turning in three losing since 1986. Since 1982, Valdosta has won over 200 games, and has captured two national championships, serving as a model of the possibilities for a startup Division II football program. The Valdosta State football program matured from its infancy as a club team, starting in 1980.
BRYANT (RI) UNIVERSITY - (5 wins, 4 losses in
Bryant University, a longtime member of the Northeast-10 Conference, began its Division II football life in 1999 as a member of the Eastern Football Conference (A Division-II precursor to the Northeast-10). With a 5-4 record and 4-4 mark in conference play, Bryant finished tied for sixth in the then-11-team conference. Prior to its first season of intercollegiate football, the Bryant football team competed as a club sport in 1998. Bryant has won the past two Northeast-10 championships, and now competes in the Football Championship Subdivision (Formerly NCAA Division I-AA).
OTHER NOTABLE STARTUP SUCCESS STORIES
St. Anselm (NH) - St. Anselm College restarted its football program after a 58-year hiatus, joining Bryant University in the Eastern Football Conference as a new program in 1999. St. Anselm finished tied for sixth in the conference (with Bryant) with a 4-4 mark in conference play and 4-5 overall.
St. Paul's (VA) - St. Paul's, like Shaw University, a historically Black Institution of Higher Learning in the South, joined the CIAA in 2005 and put up a 4-6 record. In the years since, St. Paul's has gone 12-18, included 5-5 seasons the past two years.
University of North Carolina-Pembroke - UNC-Pembroke is the latest success story for startup football programs. Pembroke went a respectful 4-7 in its first season in 2007. So far in 2008, UNC-Pembroke has gone 8-1.