Mines football wrapped up the regular season with a nationally televised 49-20 win over Chadron State on November 9th. This win officially closed the books on a historic season program-wide for the Orediggers. It’s hard to describe just how dominant Mines athletics were this season, so let’s break it down by the numbers.
Mines competes in six NCAA sports in the fall season; football, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, and cross country. Through the week of November 11th, Mines teams have spent a combined 49 weeks in the national rankings. Mines teams won over 93% of their conference games, with a record of 55-3-1. This led to a conference-record four RMAC regular season championships – football, volleyball and both soccer teams – plus RMAC tournament championships for each of the soccer teams.
For comparison, last academic year, Mines received their third consecutive RMAC All-Sports cup for the best all-around athletic program in the conference. Over the three seasons, Mines won six RMAC championships and one tournament title. This academic year is on track to be the best program performance in conference history.
That’s not to mention individual achievements. As a program Mines produced 47 All-RMAC honorees, 15 of whom were named first-team. To understand how a rigorous STEM school can field competitive athletic teams, we spoke to Mines’ Director of Athletics, David Hansburg.
“Having all six programs operating at such a high level is super exciting,” said Hansburg. This level of success is especially impressive when considering the turnover in players on several teams between seasons.
“Our men’s soccer team had lost 13 players from the year before,” said Hansburg. “The volleyball team had nine freshmen come in, most of them playing and contributing.”
Both of those teams had little trouble taking home a regular season conference championship. “The [most fun] things are when [the] teams that you’re not sure what you’re going to have exceed your expectations,” said Hansburg.
So what makes Mines athletics so successful?
Hansburg sees that student-athletes at Mines are students first. When he asks them why they chose this school, it’s always for the academics. Mines is one of the few places in the country that offers the opportunity for a top-level STEM education and competitive athletics, and it draws a unique breed of student-athlete to Golden from all over the world.
“To me, that’s what makes a good Division 2 program,” said Hansburg, “that there’s a balance for the student-athletes.”
Hansburg also noted that “creating an atmosphere that people enjoy” is an important aspect of the program. “Not only our student-athletes, but our student body, our coaches, our staff, our faculty,” said Hansburg. “Everyone enjoys the atmosphere at the games, and shares and appreciates our success.”
Hansburg got his start as a football coach at Northwestern, and his coaching philosophy has played a big role in how he operates the athletic department. “What great coaches do is put the kids in position to have success on the field,” said Hansburg. “What I think a great athletic administrator does is they do everything they can to put the coaches in position to put the kids in position to have success.”
Hansburg truly does everything he can. This season he has done work at all levels, from scheduling non-conference competitions to taking a spot on the on-field crew for a soccer match.
“We’re here to serve the coaches and the student-athletes,” said Hansburg. “If I have to shag balls at a soccer match because the game is in the middle of the day on a Monday because of snow, and all of the student workers are in class, well then that’s what I gotta do.”
Success is the product of a team effort, and Mines athletics takes that to heart. Hansburg is ecstatic that not just one but six teams made it to this year’s playoffs together.
“It really takes a huge effort to have this success… from the president all the way down.”
Every athlete, student worker and staff member makes an impact, and Hansburg knows that no role is too big or small in contributing to student-athletes’ success both on and off the field. He also wanted to acknowledge fans’ vital roles in the program.
“I appreciate everyone who comes out to support us, everyone that watches us on the road and follows us on Twitter,” he said. “All of those things make a huge difference.”
The fall teams asserted themselves as contenders in the regular season, but the level of competition increases dramatically at the national level. Hansburg is proud of how Mines has fared in RMAC this year, and hopes to keep the success going. But no matter what happens in the coming weeks, Mines has asserted itself as a conference contender in all sports, and one of the best places in the country to get a STEM degree and compete in the NCAA.
Mines men’s and women’s soccer both dropped in the NCAA round of 32 on November 12th, drawing an end to two phenomenal seasons. The women’s match ended in a draw, but lost a heartbreaker of a game in penalty kicks. Volleyball got their revenge against MSU Denver in the first round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the 2nd round for the fourth consecutive year. (Sentence about football results Saturday). Both cross country teams are set to compete in the NCAA championship meet on December 1 st . Keep updated with all playoff results on the Mines Athletics website (minesathletics.com) or on Twitter (@MinesAthletics).