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Year of Champions

Back on that July 2011 day on those State Capitol steps, when the University of Utah officially joined the Pac-12, it was hard to envision how long it might take for the Utes to achieve the type of broad-based success they’ve enjoyed this year. Across the board, there were seven conference championships, six combined individual and team national championships, and six national top-16 finishes. Needless to say, it was the most successful season Utah Athletics has had.

“The success achieved across all of our sports programs this year has been incredible, and I want to acknowledge and applaud the hard work and commitment of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” said Mark Harlan, Director of Athletics. “They are elite, and their relentless pursuit of excellence contributes to this championship culture that has been established here.”

The historic ’22-23 run started in a familiar place, as Kyle Whittingham led Utah Football to an undefeated record at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the fourth time in five years and its second-consecutive Pac-12 Conference championship. Fall also saw the success of the Cross-Country team, which finished No. 12 in the nation—highest in program history—at the NCAA Championships and came an eyelash from winning a conference title (they tied Colorado in the Pac-12 meet but lost on a tie-breaker).

The Utes’ gymnastics, women’s basketball and perennial powerhouse Utah Ski Team kept things hot during the winter months. The Red Rocks did what they’ve done since their inception, qualifying for the National Championships for the 47th time—the only program in the nation that can boast such a streak. They ended up finishing third for the third consecutive season, with Maile O’Keefe winning the all-around individual championship.

Women’s Basketball, led by Pac-12 Coach of the Year Lynn Roberts and Pac-12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili, won a share of their first Pac-12 regular season title and earned a No. 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. That seed brought home games at the Jon M. Huntsman Center for the first two rounds, where they defeated Gardner-Webb and Princeton before losing a heartbreaker in the Sweet 16 to the eventual NCAA champion LSU.

The Utah Ski Team continued its dominance, winning its fourth consecutive NCAA championship and 16th overall. Utah’s women’s team swept all four individual NCAA titles, with Alpine competitor Madison Hoffman winning the slalom and giant slalom, and Nordic standout Novie McCabe winning the women’s 5k freestyle and 20k classic races.

Utah’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs also sent individuals to their respective NCAA Championship meets, with men’s swimmer Andrei Ungur and women’s diver Holly Waxman earning All-America honors.

Spring showers brought Utah Softball powers. Picked to finish eighth in the preseason Pac-12 polls, the Utes far exceeded outside expectations by winning the Pac-12 Tournament and reaching the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1994. Coach Amy Hogue’s squad hosted both a regional and super regional of the NCAA tournament, and the Utah fan faithful showed up! Both weekends featured standing-room-only crowds, with multiple records being set, culminating in more than 3,000 fans at Dumke Family Softball Stadium witnessing the Utes’ win in the super regional final to clinch the trip to the WCWS in Oklahoma City.

“Our great fans and supporters play such a vital role in helping to create the environment for our programs to excel, and who celebrate and share in their many accomplishments,” Harlan said.

Men’s Tennis won the regular season Pac-12 title for the first time in program history and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. The Utes finished the season at No. 17 in the ITA rankings.

Lacrosse won both its regular season and conference tournament championships (they play in the ASUN) and played in the NCAA Championships for the first time in its five-year history.

Utah Track & Field built upon a strong a strong indoor season, and capped off the historic year for Utah Athletics by sending three student-athletes— Emily Venters, Simone Plourde and Dinedye Denis—to the NCAA Championships in Austin. The three national qualifiers is the most by the program since the turn of the century, and all three earned All-America honors. At the final meet in Austin, Venters finished second in the 10,000-meter race, the best finish in program history, and third in the 5,000-meter race. Plourde finished seventh in the 5k and Denis placed 18th in the 400m hurdles. Overall, Utah Track & Field finished 15th in the team standings, best in program history, and second highest among Pac-12 programs.

The year’s accomplishments added up to the program’s best finish (28th) in the NACDA Learfield Directors’ Cup, an award given annually by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics in recognition of broad-based success, with points awarded for teams competing in the postseason.

But the success did not stop on the playing surfaces. The combined GPA for student-athletes across all sports for the 2022-23 academic year was 3.355, the third-highest in school history. Utah Athletics has now achieved 34 consecutive semesters with a departmental GPA of 3.00 or higher, and the past seven semesters have seen Utah’s student-athletes post the seven best GPAs in department history.

This unprecedented academic success has coincided with Utah’s athletics programs putting in two of best years of competition in department history in 2021-22 and 2022-23, with 16 total conference championships, including regular season and tournaments or championship games.

“As an alum and avid Ute fan this past year has been amazing to watch our teams play and bring home championships. It is clear that our student-athletes can succeed at the highest levels, both on the field and in the classroom,” said Taylor Randall, president of the University of Utah. “Knowing that our student-athletes have the support of a talented group of coaches and staff, combined with the passionate enthusiasm of our fans, I am confident the U’s championship culture will continue to thrive.”