Maintaining a championship program isn’t just difficult – it’s extremely rare

It’s easy to take UConn for granted, with their nine-soon-to-be-ten titles. Same with Notre Dame the last five years. Baylor and Stanford are also programs considered elite.

Turning a team into a champion is a tough journey. Keeping a program on top is so difficult that it’s rare. To date, only three coaches have been able to do it on a championship level for any consistent length of time: John Wooden, Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma. As can be seen from the list of winners in the 33-year history of the women’s Tournament, others have come and gone.

The Bears and the Cardinal have taken two titles each, but have remained relevant by claiming conference titles year after year. Other team greats are a memory.

Remember when LSU made four straight Final Fours? Remember when Louisiana Tech was the team to beat? Texas used to be great; are they coming back for real, as it seems?

Champions, all-time history:

Year Champion (Record) Coach Score Runner-Up Site

2014 Connecticut (40-0) Geno Auriemma 79-58 Notre Dame Nashville, Tenn.
2013 Connecticut (35-4) Geno Auriemma 93-60 Louisville New Orleans, La.
2012 Baylor (40-0) Kim Mulkey 80-61 Notre Dame Denver, Colo.
2011 Texas A&M (33-5) Gary Blair 76-70 Notre Dame Indianapolis, Ind.
2010 Connecticut (39-0) Geno Auriemma 53-47 Stanford San Antonio, Texas
2009 Connecticut (39-0) Geno Auriemma 76-54 Louisville St. Louis, Mo.
2008 Tennessee (36-2) Pat Summitt 64-48 Stanford Tampa, Fla.
2007 Tennessee (34-3) Pat Summitt 59-46 Rutgers Cleveland, Ohio
2006 Maryland (34-4) Brenda Frese 78-75 (OT) Duke Boston, Mass.
2005 Baylor (33-3) Kim Mulkey 84-62 Michigan State Indianapolis, Ind.
2004 Connecticut (31-4) Geno Auriemma 70-61 Tennessee New Orleans, La.
2003 Connecticut (37-1) Geno Auriemma 73-68 Tennessee Atlanta, Ga.
2002 Connecticut (39-0) Geno Auriemma 82-70 Oklahoma San Antonio, Texas
2001 Notre Dame (34-2) Muffet McGraw 68-66 Purdue St. Louis, Mo.
2000 Connecticut (36-1) Geno Auriemma 71-52 Tennessee Philadelphia, Pa.
1999 Purdue (34-1) Carolyn Peck 62-45 Duke San Jose, Calif.
1998 Tennessee (39-0) Pat Summitt 93-75 Louisiana Tech Kansas City, Mo.
1997 Tennessee (29-10) Pat Summitt 68-59 Old Dominion Cincinnati, Ohio
1996 Tennessee (32-4) Pat Summitt 83-65 Georgia Charlotte, N.C.
1995 Connecticut (35-0) Geno Auriemma 70-64 Tennessee Minneapolis, Minn.
1994 North Carolina (33-2) Sylvia Hatchell 60-59 Louisiana Tech Richmond, Va.
1993 Texas Tech (31-3) Marsha Sharp 84-82 Ohio State Atlanta, Ga.
1992 Stanford (30-3) Tara VanDerveer 78-62 Western Kentucky Los Angeles, Calif.
1991 Tennessee (30-5) Pat Summitt 70-67 (OT) Virginia New Orleans, La.
1990 Stanford (32-1) Tara VanDerveer 88-81 Auburn Knoxville, Tenn.
1989 Tennessee (35-2) Pat Summitt 76-60 Auburn Tacoma, Wash.
1988 Louisiana Tech (32-2) Leon Barmore 56-54 Auburn Tacoma, Wash.
1987 Tennessee (28-6) Pat Summitt 67-44 Louisiana Tech Austin, Texas
1986 Texas (34-0) Jody Conradt 97-81 Southern California Lexington, Ky.
1985 Oid Dominion (31-3) Marianne Stanley 70-65 Georgia Austin, Texas
1984 Southern California (29-4) Linda Sharp 72-61 Tennessee Los Angeles, Calif.
1983 Southern California (31-2) Linda Sharp 69-67 Louisiana Tech Norfolk, Va.
1982 Louisiana Tech (35-1) Sonja Hogg 76-62 Cheyney Norfolk, Va.

The men’s tournament has had a far more diverse list of winners in their long championship history. With the exception of UCLA during Wooden’s historic run, winners have rotated often. A common pattern is to see a program take two consecutive titles, and then drop off.

Maintaining a program at the highest level takes a tremendous amount of energy and inspiration from a coach. Wooden, Summitt, Auriemma, Tara VanDerveer and Kim Mulkey deserve a lot of praise and admiration. So do Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino and John Calipari.

We just need more of them.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sue, I want to thank you for this objective and well-balanced blog.

    The story about Aleigsha Welch was so much more about women's hoops than the ESPN UConn lovefest. I'll be watching tonight with the sound off (can't stand Dave and Doris). Go, Irish!

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