Seattle University’s Intercollegiate Varsity Athletic Teams, The Seattle RedHawks

The Seattle RedHawks are a team in Seattle, Washington, of the Seattle University. As the members of the institution of the WAC (abbreviated for the Western Athletic Conference), they are competing in the NCAA’s Division I. The Seattle University prides itself not only on the overall success of their students but also on the success of the Seattle RedHawks.

The History of Seattle RedHawks

Before joining the West Coast Athletic Conference, now known as the West Coast Conference, in 1971, the Seattle RedHawks competed between 1950 and 1971 as an NCAA Division I independent. They were led by the O-Brien Twins, Johnny, and Eddie; both were named All-Americans; Johnny was able to become the first college player to score 1000 points. They led the Seattle RedHawks team to the 1952 NIT in Madison Square Garden, after which, in 1953 they had their first NCAA Tournament berth.

The twins were selected by the Milwaukee Hawks in the NBA draft of 1953, but they were also incredible at baseball. From 1953 to 1969, in the 11 NCA basketball tournament appearances, the Seattle RedHawks team has eight wins, and half of those wins were from 1958, when the Chieftains were able to go against the University of Kentucky in the Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, for the championship game.

They were led by a person who was named as the most outstanding player of the tournament, the future NBA Hall of Famer and the consensus All-American, Elgin Baylor. He is a former American basketball player, executive, and coach, who scored 23 points and was able to get 22 rebounds as the Seattle RedHawks team won by 22 points.

In the 60s, the team led the nation with the NBA active players. Some of the mention-worthy alums include Tom Workman, Eddie Miles, Clint Richardson, and Rod Derline, who all won the NBA title in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Before leading the USA Davis Cup teams in the 70s, Tom Gorman, a tennis player, led the SU. The trailblazers in the 50s in the advancement of women’s sports were Jannet Hopps in tennis and Pat Lesser in golf, and they were competing nationally on the men’s team. The top LPGA player in the 60s was the Seattle native Ruth Jessen.

An event that was conducted by the Division of Girls’ and Women’s Sports, later evolved into the current NCAA championship for women’s golf and Patricia Lesser won the golf championship in 1953. Due to a cripple to the region caused by a recession, in 1980, March, there was a contemplation of whether to drop the intercollegiate athletics. However, two months later, the SU voluntarily decided to downgrade their athletic program to a small college NAIA from the NCAA Division I, and the Chieftains competed for the next 21 years at this level.

In January of 2000, the nickname was changed from Chieftains to RedHawks, under the university president Stephen Sundborg’s leadership. In 2001, the Seattle RedHawks rejoined the NCAA and then competed in Division III for one year, then from 2002 – 2009 in Division II. The Seattle RedHawks became eligible for Division I NCAA Championships once again, at the beginning of 2012, and in all 20 sports, they are a full Division I-AAA member (no football).

The 2nd Longest Tenured WAC School

During the NCAA conference realignment, in 2010 – 2014, the WAC saw that a large number of members are leaving. 12 schools left the WAC from 2011 – 2013, thus  WAC decided to invite the Seattle team to join as a full member, In June 2011, which was accepted for all the sports it sponsored at the varsity level; excluding rowing. That sport was not sponsored by the WAC, together with men’s swimming and diving. However, WAC did end up sponsoring the men’s swimming and diving eventually, in 2013.

After the 2012 season, the conference decided to drop football, and only three members from the prior year remained in the summer of 2013, conference. There were 6 new members added to the WAC in 2013. After just three seasons in the league, the Seattle team became the 2nd longest tenured WAC school, in 2014, when Idaho returned to the Big Sky.

After they’ve joined the conference, the Seattle RedHawks were able to claim three individual titles and five team titles, and four of their student-athletes were named as the Player of the Year. Another interesting fact in 2014, included Stephanie Verdoia, who, for women’s soccer, was named the two-time Academic All-American, two-time WAC Player of the Year, and she was named an All-American of the Year.

This intercollegiate varsity athletic team, the Seattle RedHawks, has brought a lot of victories and pride to the University of Seattle. They are home to many sports, and currently, they are competing in men’s basketball.

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