The University of Denver (DU) field hockey program had the unfortunate distinction of being the shortest-lived varsity athletic program in school history. Although the length of its stay at the university was disappointing, its accomplishments were quite the opposite.
Beginnings and AchievementsField hockey was one of the first five varsity women’s sports introduced at DU. The four other sports from 1974 were basketball, tennis, skiing and gymnastics, which all still exist as varsity sports today. The administration wanted young women to have the opportunity to play a varsity sport during any quarter, and field hockey was the sport selected for the fall. During those first few years, Coach Poo Putsch began establishing a solid foundation for future success. One of the highlights of those early years was hosting the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Championships Games in 1977. In 1978, Sue Pringle became the head coach and helped take the lady Pioneers field hockey team to a new level. In fact, they qualified for their first national tournament the following year, taking ninth place in the nation in AIAW division II. The lady Pioneers built upon their success in 1980 by finishing fourth at the national tournament under another new head coach, Jody Martin. That season was surely the finest in the program’s history. By the conclusion of the 1981 season, DU finished sixth at the national tournament. The lady Pioneers of field hockey had clearly established their dominance in the rocky mountain region. The DU field hockey team was one of the finest in the nation.
How it EndedUnfortunately, as other regional schools began to drop their varsity field hockey teams, it looked as though the DU team would soon suffer the same fate. In fact, the lady Pioneers felt the full repercussions of the troublesome situation as early as 1982, when they had to travel for all but one of their official games. The coaches realized that it was unfair to their team to dedicate so much time solely to travel, and the university decided to officially end the varsity field hockey program at the conclusion of the 1983 season.
When the program lost its varsity status, it acquired a club sport status which it maintains to this very day. Ultimately, although it lasted only a decade as a varsity sport, it certainly lived up to the Pioneers’ tradition of athletic excellence during that time.
Ed. Erik Prenzler, “Other Sports,” A Tribute to Champions, Mile High Alumni Boosters, Denver, 1985, 25-26.
The University of Denver Kynewisbok (Yearbook), 1975, 1978, 1981, 1982 and 1983.