Being proud to say that you’re a wolverine was easy during the 2011-12 school year, easy as long as you know what to be proud of. Wondering where to look? Here is a hint: check out our student athletes.
Utah Valley University’s athletic program excelled in multiple programs throughout last season including earning Great West Conference titles in baseball, men’s basketball, soccer, volleyball and cross country. The success has left Athletics Director Mike Jacobsen with some pride in the wolverines as well as some reflections going into this season.
“This is why athletics is so great,” Jacobsen said. “We are the front portion of the university. We’re not better, we are all here to go to school and get an education. But we can send a message that we are for real. We can send a message that we are a great university. That comes with success in our athletic group.”
The Great West Conference Commissioner Ed Grom stated in a press release that UVU has set a standard for the conference’s athletics, and the award of the GWC Commissioners Cup for the third year in a row showed that.
“Winning the commissioners cup for a third year is a huge thing for us,” Jacobsen said. “We just have really great kids who are committed to go to school and getting a degree while being the best in their arena of competition.”
Along with Jacobsen, any coach will always specify that their athletes are students first. Success in your sport will come as you continue to succeed in the classroom. When the Great West Conference released its list of 2011-12 Academic All-Conference honors Utah Valley found 58 of its student-athletes receiving the honors.
“There is no question that we feel really good about that,” Jacobsen said. “If they were just good students and not at all in the competition arena we wouldn’t be very happy. Being able to have a combination of both is really important.”
Now the future of UVU athletics holds some questions. Not that it is a bad thing or anything. Jacobsen knows where he would like to see the program and what changes need to be made to get there. What seemed to be the most important to Jacobsen was entering a new conference. But change causes growth and growth causes pain.
Growing pains aren’t anything that Utah Valley is new to. Together the former Utah Valley State College became a striking university, and nearly 10 years ago the school became a NCAA Division I program. Utah Valley has a program that has proved they don’t need to know how high the ladder is, they’ll take it one step at a time.
Jacobsen reflected on becoming a Division I school.
“Everywhere I go, people are amazed at where we are and what we have done,” Jacobsen said. “Nobody thought we could do it, but we did it first class and we did it successfully. If we had known how hard it was going to be, then we would never have done it.”
According to Jacobsen, a spot in a NCAA sanctioned Regional Conference would mean a lot of things: tougher competition, higher financial return, better recruitments. The list goes on. Jacobsen considers it the “only piece of the puzzle that we are lacking.”
The changes Utah Valley has faced, and will continue to face, only make the program stronger as they enter into bigger conferences and face tougher competition. While throughout it all, giving Utah Valley its own identity and a better story to tell.