Sports are Big Time in College Programs
According to the 2015-16 High School Athletics Participation Survey, close to eight million U.S. students are involved in sports at the high school level. Many of these students will continue to pursue their chosen sport in college, and indeed, many base their choice of school based on the athletic program offerings.
Luckily for such up and coming athletes, there are plenty of universities nationwide with outstanding athletics programs that will enable them to show what they can do and more. Indeed, with focus and determination, they may even become national champions before finishing their degrees, and for the best of the best, making it in the big leagues is not beyond reach.
In this article, we showcase the colleges across the nation who have boasted the most successful athletic programs of all time. Total championships won, and consistency are both crucial areas of focus, while particular attention has been paid to achievements in football and basketball. Famous sports alumni and top college athletic facilities have also been given the spotlight.
We hope this information will demonstrate to prospective college students about the merits of these outstanding examples and inspire tomorrow’s elite athletes to choose the schools that will help them realize their dreams.
To determine which are the top 30 most successful college sports programs and work out the final ranking, we used the following method:
Base Ranking + Championship Ranking = Overall Ranking
1. To establish an underlying ranking of sports programs, we used data from the Capital One Cup, which measures colleges’ achievements in multiple sports – providing definitive evidence of athletic excellence across the board. Specifically, we took the final standings for each year from 2010 to the present day and then compiled them to generate a Base Ranking encompassing every NCAA Division I sports program.
2. To factor in the consistency of success over time and give emphasis to particular keystone sporting disciplines, we then analyzed the number of NCAA championship finals that each college has both reached and won since 1992 in the following sports:
- Men’s Football
- Men’s Basketball
- Men’s Baseball
- Women’s Basketball
- Women’s Softball
Teams’ performances across all five sports were appropriately weighted and then compiled to generate a Championship Ranking for each of the colleges.
3. Lastly, the Championship Ranking was combined with the Base Ranking to produce the Overall Ranking of college sports programs.
30. Baylor University – Waco, Texas
Variety is the key when it comes to Baylor University’s sporting success. All 19 of its athletic programs have enjoyed at least one post-season showing since 2007, and its trophy room is packed with 65 Big 12 Conference championship trophies. These trophies represent the success of their basketball, baseball, tennis, football, soccer, softball and golf players, as well as the equestrian team. As for resources, the Waco college boasts an impressive range of state-of-the-art facilities, including the $266 million McLane Stadium, the 3,200-seat Baylor Ballpark and the 12,100-square-foot Beauchamp Athletics Nutrition Center. And achievements seem to thrive on such solid foundations. The school’s most formidable period came in the 2011-12 season, a.k.a. the “Year of the Bear,” in which it posted a NCAA record-breaking tally of 129 combined wins in men’s and women’s basketball, football and baseball. Graduates of Baylor, meanwhile, include Olympic gold medal-winning sprinters Jeremy Wariner, Darold Williamson and the great Michael Johnson, PGA champion Jimmy Walker and 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III.
29. University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, Arkansas
Originally dubbed the Cardinals, the Arkansas Razorbacks gained their name following a rousing speech by coach Hugo Bezdek in 1909. Referring to a victory against Louisiana State University, Bezdek branded his football team a “band of razorback hogs,” and the ferocious-sounding moniker has stuck ever since. But football isn’t the only sport in which the institution has come to excel. For one, the college has an exceptionally successful track and field program, with 42 men’s national championship titles to its name in the sport from 1982 to 2006. And the number of University of Arkansas alumni who have won Olympic track and field gold medals speaks to the quality of the school’s program. Among them, triple jumper Michael Conley Sr., 4 x 100m sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown, 110m hurdler Omar McLeod and 4 x 400m runner Taylor Ellis-Watson all honed their skills in Fayetteville. Meanwhile, future stars should benefit from the University of Arkansas’ state-of-the-art Randal Tyson Track Center. Since its 2000 opening, the indoor venue has, notably, played host to 67 championship events.
28. University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia
Victory has almost become second nature to the University of Georgia’s Bulldogs. More than two dozen different teams have lifted NCAA titles over the past 30 years, including the ten-time-winning gymnastics program. And fans clearly appreciate such sporting success. On average, more than 92,000 fans attended each game during the 2016 NCAA Division I FBS football season at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs football team, after all, secured four SEC Championship titles and four SEC Eastern Division Championships during their ’00s era under Mark Richt. Along with their success on the gridiron, Georgia students and alumni come through in the pool, too. Led by two-time Olympic coach Jack Bauerle, the women’s swimming and diving team became NCAA champions in 2016, while one of their most successful recent graduates, Allison Schmitt, picked up five medals for swimming at the London 2012 Olympic Games. From 2002 to 2016, the Athens-based institution also consistently won top-20 placings in the race for the Learfield Directors’ Cup, an annual award given by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics honoring the colleges and universities in the U.S. who have had the most success in collegiate athletics.
27. University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Lincoln, Nebraska
With an impressive 13 Final Four appearances, four NCAA titles and legions of fans to their name, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers have established themselves as the ones to beat in the world of women’s college volleyball. In fact, the team has proven to be a boon for the Lincoln institution, acquiring a significant fan base. And the Cornhuskers have also achieved great things in several other sports outside of the big four. Most notably, the men’s gymnastics team have claimed an impressive eight national titles, while the women’s bowling team has emerged victorious in five NCAA championships since 2004. That said, some of the college’s most famous alumni are football and baseball stars – like Miami Dolphins defensive tackle and five-time Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh and Kansas City Royals World Series winner Alex Gordon.
26. University of South Carolina – Columbia, South Carolina
Few other colleges embody the “If at first, you don’t succeed…” maxim better than the University of South Carolina. After all, the Gamecocks failed to win a single national title in 100 years – and yet, more recently, they have lifted seven trophies within the past decade and a half. The women’s outdoor track and field team paved the way in 2002, and the men’s baseball team and women’s equestrian and baseball teams then followed suit. The men’s basketball team is also on the rise, having won more NCAA tournament games in 2017 than they had previously done throughout the whole of the team’s existence. Added to which, the university has been particularly successful in producing 400m Olympians, with Otis Harris Jr., Tonique Williams-Darling and Natasha Hastings all having won gold during their careers. And the Columbia school’s sporting facilities are likewise world-class; for example, both Founders Park and Williams-Brice Stadium are widely regarded as among the best facilities in college baseball and football, respectively.
25. University of Kentucky – Lexington, Kentucky
In an extensive study conducted by the Associated Press and then revealed in 2017, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program was rated as the greatest of its kind ever. Certainly, more current NBA players have emerged from the Wildcats’ ranks than from any other college team, with DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Anthony Davis just some of the University of Kentucky’s former stars. The Wildcats also clinched the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2012 and have progressed to the men’s Final Four on four occasions since 2011. Away from the court, meanwhile, the college boasts a co-ed rifle team who lifted the NCAA Rifle Championship title in 2011, while major facilities include the 61,000-seat Kroger Field, the John Cropp Stadium, opened in 2013, and the world-class Lancaster Aquatic Center. Other famous graduate athletes from the Lexington school include National League Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb and 13-time All-American gymnast-turned-Hollywood stuntwoman Jenny Hansen.
24. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan
Since the 1993-94 sporting season, the University of Michigan has regularly placed within the top ten of the Learfield Directors’ Cup table; in 2015-2016, furthermore, the Wolverines have ranked third best in the nation. And as the Directors’ Cup measures colleges’ overall athletic achievements, it’s safe to say that Michigan athletes are no strangers to success. A case in point is the men’s swimming and diving team – who, with 13 titles to their name, have won the greatest number of national championships among Wolverines teams, their most recent crown coming in 2013. What’s more, individual Michigan athletes have claimed 312 national titles in total, while the Wolverines have also secured an incredible 386 Big Ten championships. So, given the college’s sporting pedigree, it’s unsurprising to learn that some true greats have come out of the Ann Arbor school. Among those celebrated alumni are five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady, five-time World Series champ Derek Jeter and swimming legend Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete ever.
23. Syracuse University – Syracuse, New York
In 2015 Business Insider named Syracuse University as having the “most dominant college sports program” in the state of New York. That tribute may well partially reflect the success of the university’s men’s basketball team, who have appeared in the Final Four twice since 2013. But it’s in two other sports that the school has dominated recently. In 2015 the men’s cross-country team won their first national title in over six decades, while the women’s field hockey team claimed their inaugural national championship title that same year. As for resources, the college’s pride and joy is the Lampe Athletics Complex, which boasts an array of impressive facilities, including Manley Field House, the Roy Simmons Sr. Coaches Center and Coyne Field. And NFL all-time great Jim Brown, six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb and National Lacrosse Hall of Famer Gary Gait are just a few of the athletes who have graduated from the Central New York based school.
22. The University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee
56 Olympic medals have been won by former students of the University of Tennessee system, including an impressive 17 in women’s basketball and 19 total in women’s and men’s track and field. Along with an impressive number of Olympians, the University of Tennessee’s list of sporting graduates includes major NFL stars like Peyton Manning, Albert Haynesworth and Reggie White and one of the WNBA’s all-time greatest players, Tamika Catchings. As for other more immediate success for the program, the Tennessee Volunteers have garnered 23 NCAA title prizes in their trophy room to date, with the 2008 women’s basketball team and 2009 women’s indoor track and field team the most recent victors. The University of Tennessee has also invested a significant amount of money into several new and revitalized facilities. The tennis, swimming, golf, basketball, and softball programs have all received new homes since 2008, while the Lindsey Nelson Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena and Neyland Stadium were renovated during the same period.
21. Pennsylvania State University – State College, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State University’s Nittany Lions have excelled over the past decade, having achieved an exceptional 19 NCAA titles since 2007. The men’s volleyball and gymnastics and women’s soccer teams have all won one apiece in that time. However, it’s in women’s volleyball, men’s wrestling, and co-ed fencing that the Lions have truly dominated, with those teams having clinched 16six, between them from 2007 to 2017. And the college’s recent run of success has also extended to the Olympics, as a record eight medals were won by Penn State graduates at Rio 2016. These included a silver medal for shot putter Joe Kovacs and bronzes for fencer Monica Aksamit and men’s volleyball team members Max Holt, Matt Anderson and Aaron Russell. Other noteworthy alumni of the program include NBA star John Amaechi, NFL Hall of Famer Mike Munchak and soccer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup winners Ali Krieger and Alyssa Naeher.
20. University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Virginia
The University of Virginia is fast becoming the home of men’s college tennis. After all, not only have the Cavaliers won three consecutive NCAA championship titles in the sport since 2015, but they have produced six professionals currently on the ATP World Tour, including Ryan Shane, Treat Huey, and Dominic Inglot. Away from the court, the Cavaliers claimed their first ever men’s baseball NCAA championship in 2015, while the women’s teams’ most recent NCAA title success came in rowing in 2012. Overall, in fact, the University of Virginia has an impressive 25 NCAA championships to its name, and the Charlottesville institution has finished within the top 20 of the Learfield Directors’ Cup every year since 2007. Meanwhile, its array of impressive sporting venues includes the 14,593-seater John Paul Jones Arena, the picturesque Scott Stadium and, of course, one of the finest collegiate tennis facilities in the country, the Boyd Tinsley Courts at the Boar’s Head Sports Club.
19. University of California, Berkeley – Berkeley, California
When it comes to winning in the water, few colleges are as successful as the University of California, Berkeley. Since 2014 alone, the Golden Bears have claimed NCAA titles in both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving as well as championships in the men’s water polo and women’s crew rowing. Past and present Berkeley students were also responsible for 12 gold medals in the pool at the 2016 Rio Olympics, including two apiece for Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin and three for Ryan Murphy. And in Natalie Coughlin the program has a graduate who, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, made the podium a record six times. On dry land, however, it’s the Golden Bears’ men’s rugby team that dominates the field, for they have won five consecutive Penn Mutual Rugby Collegiate Championships since 2013 and an impressive 31 national trophies in total. Meanwhile, the school’s Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance can stake a claim to being among the finest college football facilities in the whole country.
18. Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida
In 2017 it was revealed that Florida State University had joined forces with 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus to help renovate its Don Veller Seminole Golf Course and Club. And before the start of the 2014-15 sporting season, the Tallahassee school also poured $17 million into upgrading its basketball venue, the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The college’s investments in its sporting facilities may just help the Seminoles to future sporting success, too. Not that they’ve been slacking, mind you; in fact, Florida State sportspeople have claimed an incredible 75 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) team championships across 14 separate disciplines since 1992. The Seminoles’ most recent NCAA title came courtesy of the women’s soccer team in 2014, while the men’s outdoor track and field competitors emerged victorious at the 2006 and 2008 NCAA championships. Meanwhile, famous Florida State graduates include Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, record-breaking NFL receiver Randy Moss, Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl winner Deion Sanders and World Series champion Doug Mientkiewicz.
17. University of Notre Dame – South Bend, Indiana
Having boasted average attendances of over 80,000 during the 2016 NCAA Division I FBS football season, the University of Notre Dame’s fiercely independent football team may well be the school’s biggest sporting draw. But in terms of results, it’s in other areas that the Fighting Irish currently reign supreme. For example, in 2017 the Indiana institution’s co-ed fencing team picked up their fourth national title since the turn of the millennium, while the women’s basketball team – who have reached the Final Four six times this century – started the 2016-17 season as the nation’s top seeded team. Both the men and women’s soccer teams have also enjoyed recent success, with the former winning the NCAA championship in 2013 and the latter doing the same in 2010. Meanwhile, successful athletes who have come from Notre Dame include Major League Baseball player Jeff Samardzija, NBA hero Adrian Dantley and two-time WBNA champ and Olympic gold medalist Ruth Riley and football icons such as Joe Montana, Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown.
16. The Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio
Consistency has been one of The Ohio State University’s great claims to fame in the world of athletics. In 2017, for example, the Buckeyes beat Brigham Young University for the second consecutive year to lift the men’s volleyball NCAA title, while the women’s rowing team secured three successive NCAA Championships from 2013 to 2015. In fact, CBS Sports even named Ohio State as having the most successful college sports program in the U.S. during the 2014-15 season. The Columbus institution has also enjoyed recent NCAA triumphs in men’s wrestling and co-ed fencing. And yet the school’s football team – currently led by Urban Meyer – arguably remain the biggest sporting draw on campus; indeed, over 28,000 students are season ticket holders at Ohio Stadium. With all this said, it’s from athletics and golf that Ohio State’s two most iconic graduates have emerged. Specifically, Jesse Owens, winner of four Olympic gold medals, and 18-time professional major winner Jack Nicklaus are both former Buckeyes.
15. University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland
The University of Maryland excels in women’s lacrosse: the Terrapins have claimed an astonishing 13 NCAA titles in the sport, including seven in succession from 1995 to 2001. And after winning the 2017 championship with a victory over Ohio State, the men’s team will likely be hoping to kick-start a similar run. That said, having lifted eight National Championships to date, the women’s field hockey team are almost as dominant as their lacrosse-playing counterparts, and the University of Maryland remains one of only two colleges ever to win NCAA titles in both men’s and women’s basketball. Added to which, the College Park-based school has some top-class amenities where its athletes can display their skills. In 2009, in fact, The Princeton Review rated the university’s sporting facilities – among them, the Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, the XFINITY Center and Ludwig Field – as the most impressive of their kind in the country. Famous alumni, meanwhile, include Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes and four-time NFL Pro Bowler-turned-commentator Boomer Esiason.
14. Texas A&M University – College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University recently upgraded its historic Kyle Field, thanks to a $450 million investment, and it’s now the nation’s fourth largest football stadium by capacity. The school has also transformed the Bright Football Complex into the ultimate collegiate athletics training compound and is planning to invest in a brand-new stadium for its most successful NCAA sport, track and field. Between them, the men’s and women’s teams have won nine indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships since 2009. And the men’s golf and women’s basketball teams have added to the trophy room over the past decade as well, having claimed NCAA titles in 2009 and 2011, respectively. But whatever sports the Aggies participate in, they can be inspired by the star athletes who have come before them. After all, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, four-time World Series champ Chuck Knoblauch, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton and onetime world record-holding shot putter Randy Matson are all among the college’s former students.
13. Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University has been among the most consistent producers of future NFL players over recent years. As of 2016, in fact, 46 former Tigers were plying their trade in the league, including the likes of three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr., two-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry, and Patrick Peterson, who made six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2011 to 2016. Perhaps such successes helped inspire the Baton Rouge institution to increase the capacity of Tiger Stadium to just over 102,000 in 2014. Either way, the school is in the process of renovating its state-of-the-art football operations facility. But it’s the Tigers’ track and field athletes who have brought home the most accolades by a long shot. Of the 43 NCAA titles that Louisiana State has achieved, an astonishing 25 were won by the women’s outdoor and indoor teams, while six are courtesy of victories by the men’s indoor and outdoor teams. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ most recent major NCAA title came in the men’s golf championship in 2015 – their first in the sport in 60 years.
12. University of Texas – Austin, Texas
Incredibly, had the University of Texas system competed as a separate country in the 2016 Rio Olympics, it would have finished joint seventh in the overall gold medal table. Thanks to Team USA’s basketball win, NBA champion and 2013-2014 season MVP Kevin Durant helped bring the past and present students’ gold medal tally to ten. Five current and former student swimmers also made it to the top of the podium, which is little surprise given the University of Texas’ rich history in the pool. Under long-running coach Eddie Reese, the men’s swimming and diving program has claimed 13 NCAA titles since 1981, including a third consecutive honor in 2017. And that same program once included former Longhorn and three-time Olympian Aaron Peirsol, whose record for the 200m backstroke long-course event has stood since 2009. The University of Texas has likewise enjoyed recent success in men’s golf, and women’s volleyball, with NCAA championship titles clinched in both of those sports in 2012.
11. University of Southern California – Los Angeles, California
The University of Southern California has won more men’s NCAA championships than any other college in the U.S. Of these 84 titles, nine have been in water polo, all under coach Jovan Vavic, and four were consecutive tennis victories earned from 2009 to 2012. But it’s the Trojans’ women’s teams who have led the way of late, having picked up NCAA titles in beach volleyball, golf and water polo since 2013. Added to which, the university itself has strong ties to Olympic glory. For instance, its Uytengsu Aquatics Center – formerly the McDonald’s Olympic Swim Stadium – hosted the swimming and diving events at Los Angeles 1984. And the institution has also spawned more Olympians, Olympic gold medal winners and medalists, in general, than any other American school. The college’s football program definitely shouldn’t be forgotten, either, especially as Trojans teams have been crowned national champions 11 times – most recently in 2004. Moreover, 16 former University of Southern California players and staff members were on the Seattle Seahawks’ roster in the 2015 Super Bowl.
10. Duke University – Durham, North Carolina
Duke University athletes arguably shine brightest on the basketball court. To date, the men’s team have taken home a record 19 ACC tournament trophies – one more than their arch-rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, have managed. What’s more, the Blue Devils have made nearly as many NCAA Tournament Final Four appearances, at 16, claiming five national titles along the way. The women’s basketball team have shone in recent years, winning three ACC championships since 2010 and finishing as tournament runners-up in 2014 and 2017. Perhaps they’re inspired by the magnificent Cameron Indoor Stadium, which author Hazel Landwehr has dubbed “the crown jewel of college basketball’s classic venues.” Indeed, she asserted, “More than a few [Duke] victories have been influenced by the electric atmosphere within its Gothic halls.” But basketball isn’t all that the Durham college’s students shine at. In 2014, for example, the men’s lacrosse and women’s golf teams both defeated the competition to win NCAA championships.
9. The University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Since 2009 The University of Alabama’s football team has clinched four NCAA championship titles, bringing the Crimson Tide’s tally in the sport to 14. One of those victories came in 2015 – a year which also saw Derrick Henry claim the Heisman Trophy. Henry is now a running back for the Tennessee Titans, and he’s not the only former University of Alabama student to have made it in the NFL, either. Among the Tuscaloosa school’s illustrious roster of alumni are the likes of three-time Pro Bowl player and 2005 NFL MVP Shaun Alexander and Super Bowl champ, Pro Football Hall of Famer and all-around legend Joe Namath. And the Crimson Tide have swept to victory away from the gridiron, too. Most notably, The University of Alabama’s men’s golf team picked up consecutive NCAA titles in 2013 and 2014. Meanwhile, the women’s gymnastics team emerged victorious in 2012, following up their 2011 win with their sixth NCAA championship.
8. The University of Oklahoma – Norman, Oklahoma
In 2017 The University of Oklahoma added four more NCAA team championship trophies to its display cabinet. Two came courtesy of the school’s men’s golf and gymnastics teams, while the other pair were won by the women’s gymnastics and softball teams – both of whom had also claimed NCAA victory in 2016. Perhaps Oklahoma’s most historically successful program, though, is football; just ask renowned alumnus and seven-time NFL Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson. After all, the Sooners have picked up more wins than any other college team since 1946, have ended up in the top five of the Associated Press’ College Football Poll more frequently than their rivals and have the greatest number of post-war NCAA-recognized titles in college football. Furthermore, the fabled Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is undergoing a $160 million revamp to become something worthy of the institution’s illustrious gridiron history. Come the 2017 season, in fact, the Sooners will be playing in what the Norman-based school has dubbed the “best facilities in the country.”
7. The University of Arizona – Tucson, Arizona
When it comes to collegiate softball programs, The University of Arizona’s record of success speaks for itself. Certainly, the Wildcats have been a force to be reckoned with over the past three decades, with eight NCAA titles to their name since 1991. The school’s baseball team, too, have proven their mettle, earning four NCAA championships – most recently, in 2012 – and appearing at the College World Series a remarkable 17 times. The Tucson institution can also take pride in its men’s basketball program, which has earned one NCAA title, four Final Four places and spawned great players like Jason Terry. In 2011 Terry became an NBA trophy-winner with the Dallas Mavericks, and he boasts the third-best all-time NBA record for three-pointers. Other notable former Wildcats include two-time Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski, seven-time MLB All-Star Trevor Hoffman and highly decorated Olympian Amanda Beard, who was named Swimming World’s “American Swimmer of the Year” in 2003 and 2004.
6. University of Oregon – Eugene, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon, has been dubbed “Track Town, USA,” so it makes sense that the University of Oregon’s track and field program has produced men’s and women’s teams that are among the best in the nation. The school’s women’s team, in particular, can boast of an astonishing run of seven NCAA indoor championship titles out of eight since 2010 as well as outdoor victories in 2015 and 2017. And the Ducks’ cross-country competitors are pretty impressive, too: the men’s team clinched successive NCAA titles in 2007 and 2008, with the women emerging victorious in 2012 and 2016. It’s perhaps no wonder that the University of Oregon’s track and field program has yielded such exceptional results, though, given that it has the splendid Hayward Field at its disposal. The facility, which has been called “the Carnegie Hall of track and field,” has played host to three USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships since 2009 as well as the 2016 U.S. track and field Olympic Team Trials.
5. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
After their narrow defeat at the hands of the Villanova Wildcats in 2016, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s men’s basketball team claimed their sixth NCAA Tournament trophy the following year – adding to 2016’s ACC Tournament crown. But, while legendary alumnus Michael Jordan is undoubtedly proud, the Tar Heels’ sporting successes aren’t limited to just the basketball court. Most notably, the college’s women’s soccer team have brought an incredible 21 NCAA championship titles back to Chapel Hill since 1982, with nine of those won over consecutive years. The men’s lacrosse team are also in excellent form, having clinched an NCAA title in 2016 and an ACC Championship victory in 2017. Still, maybe it’s little wonder that the school delivers so many sporting triumphs. Among its facilities, UNC boasts the historic Fetzer Field, which acted as the U.S. track and field team’s training base before the 1996 Olympics, and the stunning greens of UNC Finley Golf Club, holder of a sterling 4.5-out-of-five rating from Golf Digest magazine.
4. University of Connecticut – Storrs, Connecticut
With a remarkable 11 NCAA championship titles to their name, the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team has dominated the varsity sport for much of the past 25 years. To date, they have also appeared in the Final Four 18 times and have broken records left, right and center. The only women’s team in Division I to have won NCAA titles four years in a row, Connecticut furthermore racked up an astonishing 111-game winning streak from 2014 to 2017. Given such impressive stats, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a number of Huskies have since headed to the WNBA, including Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore and the Seattle Storm’s four-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird. But the Storrs school’s men’s basketball team additionally deserve credit for their four NCAA championship titles – the most recent having come in 2014. And in 2016 the men’s baseball team triumphed with their American Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament win over the Houston Cougars.
3. University of California, Los Angeles – Los Angeles, California
The home of the University of California, Los Angeles’ football team, is Pasadena’s legendary Rose Bowl, and such a prestigious venue practically demands exceptional players to match. It’s fortunate, then, that many former Bruins have made their marks on NFL history, among them, Dallas Cowboys legend Troy Aikman and Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman and fellow Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. Meanwhile, members of UCLA’s basketball team can aspire to follow in the footsteps of stars like six-time NBA MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and current triple-double king Russell Westbrook. Still, many other varsity teams have helped take UCLA to 113 NCAA championship titles. In 2015, for example, the men’s water polo team clinched their tenth championship win, while nine years prior the men’s volleyball team established themselves as top UCLA athletes by earning their 19th NCAA national title. Plus, with the celebrated Pauley Pavilion, the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball programs have a first-rate facility that may just spur them on to future success.
2. Stanford University – Stanford, California
When it comes to the Learfield Directors’ Cup, Stanford stands alone. Indeed, the California college’s peerless 23 consecutive wins of the prestigious trophy may be a feat that no other school will match. And as that record suggests, Cardinal athletes are no strangers to sporting success. For example, 2017 NCAA championship triumphs came for Stanford’s women’s water polo team and the women’s swimming and diving team, the latter of whom included Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. The two Olympic gold medalists were part of a 30-strong Cardinal cohort that made it to Rio 2016 – the largest number from any U.S. university. But Stanford doesn’t just produce athletes who excel at aquatic pursuits. Also among the school’s former students are the likes of legendary tennis player John McEnroe, MLB star-turned-Boston Red Sox coach Rubén Amaro Jr. and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway.
1. University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida
The University of Florida Gators made yet more history when they clinched all three Southeastern Conference All-Sports titles of the 2016-17 season. This feat is something that has never been achieved by any other school in the conference’s history – and yet, incredibly, it was the 16th time that the Gators have managed to triumph. Moreover, those new trophies helped take the Gators’ total league titles to an astonishing 234 – a tally that beats all of their Southeastern Conference rivals. University of Florida athletes have done exceptionally well when it comes to NCAA team championships, too, with 30 such trophies won during the Gators’ history, including two for the men’s basketball team, three for the football team and seven for the women’s tennis team. It’s no wonder, then, that various graduates have gone on to do their alma mater proud throughout their professional sports careers. Among the Gainesville school’s illustrious alumni are 2006 World Series MVP David Eckstein, NFL all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith, and swimming’s six-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte.