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University at Albany Marks 10th Anniversary of Division I Athletics
Jamar Wilson, UAlbany’s leading basketball scorer, celebrates the 2006 men's basketball America East conference victory.
ALBANY, N.Y. (August 26, 2009) -- The 2009-2010 academic year marks ten years of competing at the NCAA Division I level for the University at Albany Great Danes. The University will begin a year-long celebration titled “10 at 2010” in honor of this accomplishment with the start of the first field hockey game on August 29. All 19 varsity sports have proven themselves true Division I competitors in the past decade, earning 37 conference championships and appearing in 15 NCAA tournaments since 1999.
“Our commitment to Division I athletics is part of a larger commitment to excellence in education,” said UAlbany President George M. Philip. “Our first decade of Division I competition has yielded many far-reaching benefits. It has built pride in our campus community, strengthened bonds with our alumni, and advanced UAlbany’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading public universities.
“We owe our Division I success to the dedication and hard work of our athletic director, Lee McElroy, his coaching staff and administrators, and our talented student-athletes.”
From 1972-1995, UAlbany was a Division III athletic institution; from 1995-1999, it moved up to Division II. When UAlbany stepped up to Division I athletics, many alumni and leaders felt it would take years to successfully compete at the top level, but excellent recruiting and student-athlete commitment served as the catalyst for success.
“I’m sure not many people seriously penciled us in to beat UConn [in the 2006 NCAA Men’s basketball tournament East Regional],” said Jamar Wilson, UAlbany’s leading basketball scorer, whose number 31 is the sole jersey retired in UAlbany history. “Although we didn’t win, everyone in the country was sitting on the edge of their seat the entire game. Who would have thought such a program as relatively new as ours would put up a fight that had the potential of knocking out the number-one ranked team in the nation for the first time in history?”
The “why not us” slogan printed on the Great Danes’ t-shirts that year has reflected the true competitiveness of the entire UAlbany athletics program ever since.
Meagan Butsch, honored as an America East Conference Scholar-Athlete. (Photo Bob Ewell)
“We are truly excited to be celebrating our first decade of Division I athletics,” said Lee McElroy, Vice President for Athletic Administration and Director of Athletics for UAlbany. “Our student-athletes, entire faculty and staff, alumni and the UAlbany and Capital Region communities have been supportive of the Great Danes throughout our transition and the years leading up to it. Their combined efforts and positive outlook have helped us reach and surpass the level of intensity and competition we envisioned ten years ago.”
The Great Danes' successes throughout the past decade include:
• Sixteen student-athletes drafted into their respective professional sport
• Twenty-seven Division I All-Americans including Honorable Mentions
• The first SUNY school to play in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament (almost pulling off the greatest upset in NCAA history as a 16-seed versus the number 1 ranked team in the nation, UConn, in 2006)
• Four perfect softball games in one season…by one pitcher, in 2009
• Volunteering more than 20,000 hours in 10 years to local charities such as the Salvation Army, American Cancer Society and Big Brothers/ Big Sisters
In addition to excelling on the field, nearly 50 percent of the current UAlbany student-athletes hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Great Danes have been honored with ESPN Academic All-American Awards, All-American Honor Awards, Chancellor Scholar-Athlete Awards, America East Conference Academic Honor Roll and University Presidential Leadership Awards.
“There is nothing quite like being a Division I student-athlete,” continued McElroy. “While these kids train hard throughout the season, they are also working hard in the classroom and in the community. Our student-athletes are fantastic examples of the ideal NCAA student-athlete.”
Building on a solid tradition of academics and athletics, the UAlbany Great Danes will honor past, present and future student-athletes and staff throughout each varsity sports’ schedule. Events, promotions, ticket specials, alumni pick-up games and commemorative ceremonies will take place on the University’s uptown campus spanning the entire 2009-2010 season.
Fans, alumni and community members can follow every detail of the year-long celebration of UAlbany Athletics on Twitter @UA10at2010, or on Facebook by joining the UAlbany – Celebrating Our First Decade of Division I Athletics group.
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Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 58 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit www.albany.edu. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.