“Three-Peat” No Easy Feat – Throughout NCAA Division I Sports History

June 25, 2012
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The South Carolina baseball progam’s quest for a third straight NCAA title caused us to dive into the record books for various college sports, seeking to gain historical perspective on how difficult it is to “three-peat” in different NCAA-sponsored sports. A summary of the basic findings follows below (we may pass along more later, particularly if the Gamecocks win tonight’s game-2 in the best-of-3 series):

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When looking only at the 16 “team-based” sports currently sponsored on the Division I level (baseball, men’s & women’s basketball, women’s field hockey, football, M & W ice hockey, M & W lacrosse, M & W soccer, softball, M & W volleyball, and M & W water polo) …

(Essentially, the notes below illustrate that winning three straight NCAA titles, particularly in a team-based sport, is no easy feat …)

• A team has repeated as the outright national champion three (or more) consecutive years in a team-based sport a total of only 29 times in these 16 sports.

• As we all know, USC is the only team ever to win three straight D-I baseball titles (5, 1970-74).

• In men’s basketball, UCLA is the only team ever to win three (or more) consecutive NCAA titles (7, from 1967-73).

• In women’s basketballTennessee (’96-’98) and Connecticut (’02-’04) are the only programs ever to win three straight titles.

• In softball, there has been only one 3-year title run and it dates back to the late-80s (UCLA, ’88-’90).

• The North Carolina women’s soccer team won the first three NCAA titles (’82-’84) and nine straight from ’86-’94, but there have been no other three-year title streaks in the 30-year history of D-I women’s soccer.

• The Virginia men’s soccer program (led by future U.S. National Team coach and current MLS coach Bruce Arena) won four straight NCAA titles from 1991-94 and remains the only DI men’s soccer program ever to win three-plus national championships in succession.

Women’s lacrosse owns the distinction as the only team-based NCAA sport that has seen two different programs rattle off streaks of five straight titles (or more). Maryland claimed seven straight women’s lacrosse titles from 1995-2001 while Northwestern was the champion five straight seasons (2005-09).

Michigan (1951-53) is the only men’s ice hockey team ever to win three straight D-I championships – and you have to go way back to the early 1950s to find that streak.

• Similarly, Penn State in 2009 became the first D-I women’s volleyball program with three straight titles (PSU then won its 4th straight in 2010).

Men’s lacrosse is another sport that has yet to see a team win the national title four straight seasons, with only two teams winning three straight (Johns Hopkins from ’78-’80 and Princeton in ’96-’98).

• Women’s field hockey also has yet to produce a 4-year title run, but there have been streaks of three straight titles four different times (Old Dominion in ’82-’84 and again in ’90-’92, UNC in ’95-’97, and Wake Forest from 2002-04).

• Based on national titles recognized by the NCAA (ncaa.com), Division I-A/FBS football rarely has seen a team win three straight national titles – last being done by Minnesota from 1934-96 (in the very early years, Yale was the champ from 1882-84 and 1886-88).

• One of the longer national title streaks in a team-based sport belongs to the UCLA women’s water polo program (5, from 2005-09).

USC men’s water polo won four straight from 2008-11 while California had 3-year title runs from 1973-75 and ’90-’92.

• Yet another southern California team, UCLA men’s volleyball, won four straight NCAA titles from 1981-84 (after winning from 1970-72 and ’74-’76).

• Finally, Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey won three straight NCAA titles from 2001-03.

. . . . . .

Among Division I sports currently sponsored by the NCAA, here are the longest NCAA title streaks

12 – Arkansas men’s indoor track & field  (1984-95)

11 – LSU women’s outdoor track & field  (1987-97)

10 – Oklahoma State wrestling  (1937-46)

9 – Iowa wrestling  (1978-86)
… North Carolina women’s soccer  (1986-94)

8 – Yale men’s golf  (1905-12)
… USC men’s outdoor track & field  (1935-43)
… Arkansas men’s outdoor track & field  (1992-99)

7 – UCLA men’s basketball  (1967-73)
… Denver combined men’s & women’s skiing  (1961-67)
… Southern California men’s outdoor track & field  (1949-55)
… Maryland women’s lacrosse  (1995-2001)

Others … 
6 – West Virginia combined M/W rifle (’88-’93) … Alaska-Fairbanks combined rifle (’99-’04) … Indiana men’s swimming & diving (’68-’73) … Iowa wrestling (’95-’00) … Villanova women’s cross country (’89-’94) … Stanford women’s tennis (’86-’91).

5 – USC baseball (’70′-74) … Houston men’s golf  (’56-’60) … Michigan men’s swimming  (’37-’41) … Auburn men’s swimming (’03-’07) … Utah women’s gymnastics (’82-’86) … Georgia women’s gymnastics (’05-’09) … Northwestern women’s lacrosse (’05-’09) … Texas women’s swimming & diving (’84-’88) … Stanford women’s S&D (’92-’96) … LSU women’s indoor track & field (’93-’97) … UCLA women’s water polo (’05-’09)

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