Commentary: Which is most successful MVC sports team?FeaturedGalleryOpinionSports

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Commentary by Chase Burgess

On a campus full of student-athletes, each individual athlete takes pride in his or her team. Whether it is putting in extra time in the weight room, going over the playbook in their downtime, or spending extra time hitting the books, going the extra mile is what makes an athlete successful. Successful athletes lead to successful teams and, when a team is successful, other programs want to match the standard set by that team. With 26 teams represented on campus, many conference and national championships have made their way to Missouri Valley College over its 125-year history. On top of the number of team awards, a number of All-Americans, professional athletes, and Olympians have called themselves Vikings over the years.

So which team on campus is the most successful? Instead of presenting a case for each team, I have narrowed the pool to football, men’s and women’s wrestling, men’s cross country and track, cheerleading and men’s rodeo. Although wrestling and rodeo don’t compete in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, they have their spot in this conversation for other reasons which I will get into later.

I had a hard time justifying other sports such as baseball, softball, women’s cross country and track, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball in this conversation because those 12 teams have combined for only 22 of Valley’s 49 HAAC championships, and women’s cross country and track account for 11 of those 22 HAAC titles. Women’s rodeo and men’s volleyball do not compete in the HAAC and neither program has won a national championship; men’s lacrosse, although maintaining a near perfect winning percentage, is in its first year of competition; and women’s lacrosse is yet to take the field competitively.

I’ve taken into consideration conference championships, regional championships for those teams not competing in a conference, the number of All-Americans produced, the number of Olympic athletes produced, national championships won, and any outstanding record that a program might hold. Now that you know how I made my decision, let’s get started.

Men’s Rodeo

Why they are the most successful.

On the surface, saying that the men’s rodeo team is the best team on campus may seem like a stretch, but upon further investigation, there is some legitimacy to this claim. The rodeo team is in a very interesting situation when it comes to their competition. They have the misfortune of having to compete against schools from all levels of competition including NCAA Division I programs. Even with the high level of competition, the men’s rodeo team has had their fair share of success.

In 2010, the team took second place at the College Nationals Final Rodeo. On top of their runner- up finish, the rodeo team has won six Ozark region titles. Pretty impressive for a program that just turned 20 years old this year. To help solidify the rodeo team’s resume, the program has produced multiple individual national champions.

Why they are aren’t the most successful.

Lacking a team national title hurts the men’s rodeo team tremendously in this conversation. Any time someone wins a national championship, it’s something to be praised. However the rodeo team is riding a rate of roughly one individual national champion every 10 years, not a great ratio. With other programs racking up double-digit conference championships and a handful of national championships, it’s hard for the men’s rodeo team to compete with other programs on campus.

Men’s Cross Country & Track

The first thing you might notice about this segment is the fact that I combined the cross country and track teams into one group. Before you accuse me of being unfair, let me explain. Cross Country is really just an extension of the track team, and nine times out of 10 the coaching staff is the same. Combining the teams also makes comparisons easier as the track team has two separate seasons, indoor and outdoor.

Why they are the most successful.

The cross country and track teams combine for an impressive 14 HAAC championships, which tie them with football for the most conference titles at Valley. All but one of these conference championships came between 1986 and 1994. The lone exception came from the cross country team that won the HAAC title this past fall. Between 86-94, the outdoor team  dominated the HAAC by winning seven out of nine possible HAAC titles. The indoor team added another five titles and cross country added one. It was during these nine years that the program produced most of their 60 All-Americans, including four-time national champion and eventual professional runner, Eliud Barngetuny. No other program on campus has a four-time national champion. To add to the 60 All-Americans, the program has 10 individual national champions.

Why they are aren’t the most successful.

Despite all the HAAC titles, the program has yet to even register a runner-up finish at the national meet. In fact, they are the only team on this list without a runner-up finish. Now don’t get me wrong, 60 All-Americans is impressive, but it pales in comparison to the other teams on this list. Fourteen HAAC championships is another impressive fact, but looking beyond the surface of the championships reveals an interesting fact. The HAAC is historically a weak conference in cross country and track. If the program can have another streak like they did in the late 1980s and early 90’s, they could make a much stronger case for the best program on campus.

Women’s Wrestling

Why they are the most successful.

Over 85 All-Americans? Check. National Championship? Check. Olympic medalist? Check. Finally, a team with a national championship has made the list. The women’s wrestling team can also add a runner-up finish at nationals in 2007 to their already impressive resume. Oh, and how many teams on campus have an Olympic medalist that they can call an alumnus? Just women’s wrestling.

Why they are aren’t the most successful.

Women’s wrestling makes a great case for the best program on campus, however there is one major flaw with the women’s wrestling team. Women’s wrestling isn’t a very popular sport. There aren’t many teams to compete against in comparison to other sports such as football or cross country. The number of All-Americans honors earned and national championships won is nothing to sneeze at, but women’s wrestling isn’t the only team on campus with a national championship under their belt.

Cheerleading

Now, I know what you’re saying. “Cheerleading isn’t a sport.” Although I tend to agree with this line of thinking, the NAIA does hold a national championship for cheerleading; and if there are awards to be won, there’s no reason why we can’t include cheerleading in this conversation.

Why they are the most successful.

The cheerleading team has something that only one other program on campus has: Multiple national championships. To match the pair of national championships the team owns, they have a pair of runner-up finishes at nationals as well.

Why they are aren’t the most successful.

Short of the number of national championships and runner-ups, there isn’t a lot to go off of when it comes to the cheerleading team. This isn’t necessarily the team’s fault, but rewarding a team based on its lack of available competitive opportunities is not fair to the other programs on campus.

Men’s Wrestling

Why they are the most successful.

Where do I start with the men’s wrestling team? Should I talk about the three national championships? Or how about the four runner-up finishes at nationals? Or what about the 15 individual national champions? Or how about the staggering 146 All-Americans produced? Pick any one of those numbers, and you’ll see why this is the best program on campus. Just in case the numbers don’t impress you, let us not forget that former WWE superstar Bobby Lashley was a four-time All-American and a three-time national champion during his time wearing the purple and orange singlet.

Why they are aren’t the most successful.

The men’s wrestling team faces the same issue as the women’s wrestling team. The amount of competition just isn’t there. Although there are more men’s wrestling teams than women’s, the number of wrestling programs pales in comparison to the number of football or cross country and track programs.

Football

Why they are the most successful.

Football. The lifeblood of our athletics department on campus. No team in the NAIA has won as many football games as the Missouri Valley Vikings have. Going 41 consecutive games without a loss from December 1941to December 1948 is a great way to convince people that you are the dominant program on campus. Although the team has yet to win a national title, they do have a runner-up finish in 1974. Valley is known for its football team, and deservedly so. The Viking football team is one of the most historic teams in the NAIA and is a perennial top 25 teams. Oh, and let’s not forget the nearly 100 All-Americans that have came through the football program.

Why they are aren’t the most successful.

Lacking a national title severely hurts the football team in its push for being the best team on campus. That fact that the team has only made the national title game once in its historic existence should be a little alarming. It’s difficult to imagine a team winning so many games without winning a national title.

The Verdict

Each of the six teams has some claim to being the best team on campus. However, there can be only one alpha dog.  Valley’s best team is the Men’s Wrestling team. Producing almost 150 All-Americans is just flat out impressive. The men’s wrestling team was brought back into existence in 1991 after being dropped in the 70’s. The wrestling team is averaging about five All-Americans per season, and has found themselves consistently in the top 10 in the NAIA’s rankings.

About Chase Burgess

Chase Burgess has contributed 10 posts to The Delta.

Chase Burgess is a senior Public Relations major from Lamar, Mo. He is also a member of the Track and Cross Country teams.

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