When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2010, no one involved with the Utah Valley University athletics program knew precisely what the next decade would bring.
The Wolverines were only one year removed from the end of the mandatory seven-year probation period that went with going from being a junior college to having Division I athletics.
Since UVU had made the jump, the Wolverines knew there were going to be growing pains but also felt like the sky was the limit.
Now the decade of 2010s are in the books and it’s a chance to look back at the major things that happened for UVU sports.
Here are the Top 10 stories of the 2010s for the Wolverines:
1. Going to a new conference
In early October of 2012, there was quite the buzz around the UVU athletic department. Although the Wolverines had enjoyed quite a bit of success during their time in the Great West Conference, they wanted to have a shot at an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
That was granted in many sports as UVU accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference, a league with a long history of success.
That decision shaped Wolverine athletics for the rest of the decade as teams developed conference rivalries, hosted conference tournaments and battled for those elusive NCAA tournament opportunities.
2. Changes at the top
The decade began with long-time athletic director Michael Jacobsen directing the department but in 2013, Jacobsen stepped down after 29 years.
UVU hired Vince Otoupal to replace Jacobsen and he guided the continued growth of Wolverine athletics until he chose to resign in February 2019.
Now UVU is in the dedicated hands of Dr. Jared Sumsion, a long-time Wolverine who is now overseeing 16 Division I sports involving 330 student-athletes and 84 staff, fundraising efforts, and the elevating of UVU’s national profile.
3. Men’s football added — in the world sense, not the American sense
Speculation has lingered for years that eventually UVU would add American football at some level as part of the athletic program but it still hasn’t happened.
In 2014, however, the Wolverines did add the other kind of “men’s football” as the university became the only school in the state to have a Division I men’s soccer program.
Under the direction of head coach Greg Maas, UVU compiled an overall record of 53-36-7, including making it to the NCAA tournament in 2015.
4. Facilities reflect commitment to sports
During the last 10 years, the Wolverines added some significant structures that showed just how dedicated the university is to improving in athletics.
Arguably the most significant was the construction and opening of the Nuvi Basketball Center in 2017, a building that housed state-of-the-art basketball practice facilities as well as offices and training rooms.
In addition, in 2018 the school celebrated the opening of UVU’s new Wolverine Training Dome — a domed practice facility in Vineyard — as well as making improvements to the soccer and track facilities.
The school also recently set aside part of a $17.7 million donation from dõTERRA as the the initial gift toward funding a new student-athlete wellness building.
5. Former Wolverines make the most of Olympic spotlight
Two UVU alumni were under a world spotlight at the Winter Olympic games in Sochi in 2014 with Noelle Pikus-Pace, a 2005 UVU graduate, taking home a silver medal in the skeleton. Chris Fogt, who graduated from UVU in 2008, won a bronze medal as a member of the four-man bobsleigh team. Fogt ran track at UVU and set six school records.
Another Wolverine track star, Akwasi Frimpong, may not have won a medal but he did become the first West African to compete in skeleton in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
6. Post-game scuffle brings national attention to Wolverine basketball
On Feb. 28, 2014, the UVU men’s basketball team hosted New Mexico State in a thrilling WAC battle with regular-season title implications. The game went to overtime but the Wolverines made the plays down the stretch to get the 66-61 win.
But it was what happened next that focused the eyes of the nation on Orem.
With time expiring, a New Mexico State player grabbed the ball and firing the ball at a UVU player. With the Wolverine students already coming onto the court to celebrate the victory, the action incited both players and fans, resulting in a fluid brawl on the court.
Coaches, security personnel and university staff moved quickly to limit the violence and although there was definitely pushing and shoving, there were no reports of damage or injuries.
Video of the incident was played on ESPN’s SportsCenter as well as other national broadcasts.
7. UVU women’s soccer earns two NCAA tournament bids
Few Wolverine squads have been able to get to the “Big Dance” but the UVU women’s soccer teams has not only been there ... they’ve been there twice.
In 2015, the Wolverines won through the WAC tournament with a pair of 2-0 wins, setting up a crosstown showdown at BYU in the NCAA first round. The Cougars held on to knock off UVU, 1-0.
Two years later the Wolverines would be back with another WAC title win. This time UVU went to No. 1 Stanford and fell to the Cardinal but the two berths were a solid accomplishment for the school and the program.
8. Wolverines men’s basketball stuns BYU, competes in “Toughest 24”
For a UVU athletic program attempting to emerge from the shadow of its established neighbor, Nov. 26, 2016 was a day never to be forgotten.
UVU men’s basketball went to Provo and shocked the Cougars, making 18 3-pointers on its way to a 114-101 victory in the Marriott Center.
Another big moment for UVU basketball came in 2017 when it embarked on what might be considered the toughest 24 hours of basketball ever played in NCAA history as the team officially opened the season at No. 4/5 Kentucky on Nov. 10 and at consensus No. 1 Duke on Nov. 11.
The Wolverines led the Wildcats by as many as 12 points early in the second half but ended up losing both road games by double digits.
9. Wolverine wrestling joins Big 12, enjoys numerous successes
Greater exposure means more opportunity and for Utah Valley University’s wrestling program, that’s a good combination.
In 2015, UVU announced that after nearly a year of discussion, its wrestling program would officially join the Big 12 Conference.
“For us the timing is great,” UVU wrestling coach Greg Williams said at the time of the announcement. “The expectations for our wrestling program continue to go up. This will give our kids an increased level of competition and I feel like we’ll be up for the challenge.”
At least one Wolverine grappler has qualified for the NCAA Championships in each of the past 10 seasons with two being named All-Americans: senior 125-pounder Benjamin Kjar (placed fourth) in 2011 and senior 133-pounder Jade Rauser (placed eighth) in 2016. A program-best six NCAA qualifiers went to nationals in 2019.
10. UVU baseball gets passed over in 2012, gets NCAA bid in 2016
There was a time early in the decade when the UVU baseball team could only watch as it got passed over for a spot on the sport’s biggest college stage.
In 2012, the Wolverines won an amazing 40 of their finals 41 games and finished with a spectacular 47-12 record — only to be on the outside look in when the selections for the NCAA tournament were made.
Those memories made things all the sweeter when the champions of the Western Athletic Conference in 2016 earned the automatic berth to the tournament. UVU ended up losing to LSU and Southeastern Louisiana.
Honorable mention: Wolverine track and cross country teams savor dominating seasons