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When you think of Sports Dynasties, you think of the old Yankees and Canadiens, the UCLA Bruins of John Wooden's era, and the 1959-66 Boston Celtics, right? Well, stretch out a little and get a handle on some current dynasties that rank right up there, in their own lilliputian way. A splendid example is the Hobart College lacrosse team, which has brought 10 straight NCAA Division III championships home to Geneva, N.Y. If the Statesmen win title number 11 on May 19, they will tie Kenyon College, which last weekend won its 11th straight Division III men's swimming crown, for most consecutive national championships in the history of intercollegiate sports. The previous record for consecutive national titles was nine, shared by Iowa wrestling (1978-86), Southern California track (1935-43) and Yale golf (1905-13).
And, of course, nobody comes close to the record set by the men's swim team at Indian River ( Fla.) Community College, whose Pioneers have won 16 straight National Junior College Athletic Association titles.
Although parity may now reign in big-time college athletics—e.g., no Division I basketball team has repeated as national champion in 17 years—these are heady times for minor sports dynasties. Take the men's golf team at California's Stanislaus State in Turlock. The Warriors have won 12 of the last 14 Division III championships, including the last six. And the University of North Carolina's women's soccer team has an unbeaten streak of 95 games, and counting. Then there's the men's indoor track team at the University of Arkansas, which has won seven Division I titles in a row. Not to be outdone, the NAIA has a few win streaks of its own. The Prairie View ( Texas) A&M women's outdoor track team, for instance, has racked up eight straight titles, and the Azusa Pacific men's outdoor track team has won seven straight.
Let's lift a glass to the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo women's cross-country team, which has won eight straight Division II crowns, and tip our hats to the men's cross-country team at tiny Adams State of Alamosa, Colo., 7,540 feet up in the Rockies, which last fall won its seventh straight NAIA championship, its 11th in 13 years.
Unfortunately, not many people know of or even care about these teams. Their victory streaks have either been ignored or, at best, taken for granted. Says Stanislaus State's coach Jim Hanny, "We're bigger news when we lose."
Should we take these feats less seriously because they involve minor sports? "Not at all," says best-known dynasty builder Wooden, whose Bruins won seven NCAA titles in a row (1967-73) and 10 in 12 years. "They are all major to those involved. No sport is inferior and no sport is superior."
Likewise, it's unfair to put down a dynastic team because it competes below the Division I level or because it's female. A dynasty is a dynasty is a dynasty, and the only requirement is that a team dominate its own level of competition. All of Wooden's great UCLA teams would have lost to every team in the NBA, but that doesn't devalue the Bruins' accomplishments.
Still, no one is exactly sure what constitutes a dynasty. The San Francisco 49ers? Please. The Lakers? Get serious. But Kenyon junior Eric Chambers has a definition that's as good as any: "A dynasty is when you own a sport, when you define a sport." Here are five teams that own and define.
"What am I going to say when we lose?" asks Hobart's first-year lacrosse coach, William (B.J.) O'Hara. "How will I put it in perspective? How will I use the loss to move us ahead?"
These are good questions, because the one factor these five dynasties have in common besides winning is that in every case, each has had just one coach. And that guy, for seemingly mystical reasons, is a perfect match with his team. At Hobart, the man who guided the lacrosse team to those 10 championships was Dave Urick, who last August left to become the coach at Georgetown.