UAA celebrates 10th anniversary

In the 1997 U.S. News & World Report rankings of the 229 best universities, eight Ivy League schools are listed in the top 30. That should not be a surprise, given the outstanding academic reputations of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, etc.

What may surprise some is that seven other schools, including Emory, in the top 30 belong to an NCAA Division III athletic conference known as the University Athletic Association (UAA). No other athletic conference in the nation, in any division, comes close to matching the UAA's numbers.

Want more numbers?

Try that the UAA teams have had nearly 200 Academic All-Americans, 39 NCAA postgraduate scholars, 985 athletic All-Americans, 62 individual national champions or Players of the Year, 10 national team champions, 91 teams in the top 10 at the national championships and 90 others in the top 20.

But this fall, the most notable number is 10 as in the 10th anniversary of the UAA, which began athletic competition in the fall of 1986. Formal recognition of the anniversary will take place at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 19 in conjunction with the conference cross country championships.

The locale is fitting considering that Washington is credited as the leader in forming the UAA. Informal talks began in the early '80s and picked up speed in fall 1984. The official announcement came on June 25, 1986.

"The thing that distinguishes the UAA is that the member schools chose to associate with each other on the basis of their institutional academic profiles rather than athletics or geography," said Dick Rasmussen, UAA executive secretary.

Indeed, the geographical scope of the UAA spans from Atlanta to St. Louis (Washington University) to Chicago (University of Chicago) to Cleveland (Case Western Reserve University) to New York (New York University and University of Rochester), to Boston (Brandeis University) to Baltimore (Johns Hopkins University) and Pittsburgh (Carnegie Mellon University).

"When I rattle off the list of schools for recruits, they're impressed and realize that we're serious about athletics because of the financial commitment, particularly in travel expenditures, that Emory has made to be a part of the UAA," said Chuck Gordon, Emory's director of athletics and recreation.

From the beginning, the guiding principle of the conference was to put the student-athlete first and to provide a first-class athletics experience within the proper context of higher education. Though it was not consciously planned, the UAA has provided top-rate athletic competition to its member schools.

"To be in the UAA carries a sense of pride and expectations for a school's athletics program," said William Fox, Emory vice president for Institutional Advancement, who served as the Emory delegate during the formation of the conference. "To be a member of an athletic conference with like institutions permits our student-athletes to compete with their peers in every sense of the word."

And Emory has held its own with its peers, winning 15 of a possible 34 conference titles the last two school years. The Emory women's tennis team has won all nine UAA team championships to date, a feat matched by only Johns Hopkins in men's swimming and diving.

"The UAA has become such an important part of our athletics program that I can scarcely imagine what it was like or would be like without this association," said Fox.

--John Arenberg

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