What College is the D-1 Champion in Sports?
With the recent completion of the men’s D-1 NCAA basketball tournament, I started thinking about all of the other sports that universities offer and how the championships of those games, outside of football, are not easy to find on TV.
The harsh reality of college sports is that football and men’s basketball are the only two sports that generally cover their own program costs when factoring in scholarships. For some schools, even the men’s basketball program works out to about a break-even status, while at large universities, football can be such a revenue-positive sport that it about makes up the entire budget of athletic departments.
A few years ago, UCLA decided to make the “C” on their basketball jerseys gold to signify 100 NCAA championships across the various sports they offer. At the time, they were the first school to cross that threshold. I decided to see if that was still the case.
UCLA does still hold the title for most championships with 113, but not by much. Stanford is only 4 behind UCLA (not counting 2017 championships) with 109 while USC has 102.
Looking at the chart above, one conference – the Pac12 – does seem to dominate in D-1 athletics. The conference has the top three schools in championships and 5 of the top 16. UCLA absolutely dominated in men’s basketball for years while USC did the same in football. However, winning the BCS championship counts just as much as winning women’s water polo on this list. All three of the top schools have done very well in sports that you can rarely find on TV.
Moving down the list, there really are not a whole lot of surprises, almost every school listed has a major athletics department that focuses on churning out Olympic-caliber athletes.
The surprise of the bunch comes in at #12 – University of Denver – which competes in several different conferences depending on the sport. Even so, the school holds 31 D-1 championships, 7 in men’s hockey, one in men’s lacrosse, and perhaps unsurprisingly, 23 in skiing. Those skiing championships help put it over perennial powerhouse football schools like Florida, Oregon and Ohio State.