Sports schools: 10 universities for sports fans
What makes a university a great place for sports fans? Fans love company, so we need an equally enthused crowd to cheer with. Why get a skin for your phone (or paint your own skin) with your school colors, unless there's someone to share it with? Here are 10 sports schools that we think deserve to do a victory dance in the end zone. We picked these places based on the fun sports environment, passionate fan devotion, geographical diversity, wide range of sports. For stats lovers, here are some records as of December 2012; of course, rankings are dynamic and subject to change every season.
- Louisiana State University and its fans are the reason for all the "Geaux Tigers" signs around Baton Rouge, La. From 2005 to 2011, the football team grabbed two SEC titles and made two appearances in the BCS National Championship Game. LSU Tigers teams have also won titles off the gridiron, including baseball's College World Series in 2009. As of the 2011-12 athletic year, LSU athletics teams had earned more than 40 NCAA-sponsored national titles. Women's track teams (indoor and outdoor) won 25 national championships between 1987 and 2011, and women's soccer has multiple championships in the SEC Western Division.
- Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., might have a color for a mascot (the Stanford Cardinal does not refer to a bird), but more than 100 NCAA championships go to show that symbols aren't everything. Big names in recent football history include Toby Gerhart, Coach Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck. The men's football team can boast back-to-back BCS Bowl appearances, while the women's basketball team has made the Final Four from 2008 to 2012. In 2012, the 16 Olympic medals for Stanford athletes ranged from women's water polo to men's tennis.
- The University of Alabama Crimson Tide is another colorful athletic program with a long history. From its first undefeated Rose Bowl season in 1925 through the era of Paul "Bear" Bryant and up to their SEC dominance and National Championships in recent years, fans in Tuscaloosa have shouted "Roll Tide!" and the Tide have listened. Crimson Tide baseball teams have earned some shouts of their own, winning the College World Series. Out of a total 22 National Championships for the Tide, football has 14 national titles, and in 2012, gymnastics, softball and women's golf also won titles.
- The University of California, Los Angeles -- or UCLA, as most people know it -- lays claim to more NCAA Championship teams than any other university in the nation. According to the school website, UCLA Bruins have earned better than 250 Olympic medals, half of them gold. Whether it's baseball, basketball, football, golf, soccer, gymnastics, women's volleyball or another of the school's 22 varsity programs, UCLA fans could be rooting for a contender in the Pac-12 conference and beyond.
- The University of Connecticut Huskies are practically synonymous with college basketball -- multiple championships include the men's team in 2010-11. The UConn Huskies women's basketball team has made it to championship tournaments regularly, with an unprecedented back-to-back pair of undefeated seasons in 2009-10, constituting the longest winning streak in NCAA Div. 1 basketball history. Huskymania fan support is big at home in Storrs, Conn.
- The University of Florida, another SEC powerhouse, is a multi-sport competitor, from touchdowns to tennis to track. The Gators of Gainesville have earned three national championships on the gridiron and two titles on the hardwood in the past 20 years. The Gator baseball team has made numerous appearances in the College World Series tournament, including three consecutive years in 2010-11-12. The Gator Zone also stretches beyond team sports, having produced multiple individual sport championships, and graduated such breakout competitors as Olympic swimming sensation Ryan Lochte.
- The University of Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan., have been playing basketball since 1898, and fans have seen 14 NCAA Final Four appearances, with one in 2012. KU athletics proudly include baseball competitors as well as a Division 1 rugby team. The Big 12 dynamo shares a multisport NCAA honor with Florida as winner of a BCS Bowl game and a College Basketball National Championship in the same season. The basketball team boasts a coaching roster that includes the inventor of basketball, James Naismith.
- The University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., is another giant of the SEC and home to a much-storied basketball program. As of 2009, the Kentucky Wildcats had won more basketball games than any other school in the U.S., topping the 2,000 victory mark. The Wildcats won the national title in 2012, with a total of 8 NCAA championships. The UK women's basketball team has appeared in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Outdoor sports are strong as well -- the Wildcats took home the 2012 national championship in smallbore rifle shooting.
- The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish claim 11 football national championships (according to consensus), more than 100 winning seasons and the second-highest winning percentage in college football. The namesake of Notre Dame, Ind., has a TV contract even with a non-conference, independent football program. After an 11-0 season in 2012, ND is headed for the BCS championship game. Fighting Irish athletics don't stop there, with other strengths including golf. The university has announced plans to move from the Big EAST to the Atlantic Coast Conference in the future.
- The University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., is known in particular for its Sooners football team, which has won more than 40 conference titles and multiple national championships while racking up a fearsome reputation in each conference that has attempted to contain it. From 1948 to 1959, the Oklahoma Sooners won every title in their conference. According to the school website, the Sooners also field a highly decorated gymnastics squad and a quite respectable basketball program, and the numerous national titles include softball and men's golf. Still, football dominance is the real draw in Norman, and 2012 brings home another Big 12 championship (although shared with Kansas State University).
Plenty of sports fans prefer college competition to the pros, especially at schools like these. The shared emotion, fierce enthusiasm and community spirit of college sports can't be denied. Students at online schools who want to join the crowd can just pick up tickets to a game nearby and get ready to holler.