By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
The University of Michigan-Dearborn is well acquainted with Davenport University.
According to previous schedules on UM-Dearborn’s athletics site, six of its varsity teams (men’s soccer, women’s and men’s basketball, volleyball, hockey and softball) have played Davenport.
The women’s basketball, men’s basketball and volleyball teams have played the Panthers since 2006. Davenport games can be found on softball and hockey schedules starting with the 2009 and 2010 seasons, respectively. Men’s soccer, a newer varsity program, has played the Panthers since 2012.
But next year could mark the final chapter in the series between UM-Dearborn and Davenport.
Davenport accepted an invitation to join the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a strong NCAA Division-II conference spanning Michigan and Ohio, on Jan. 15. Davenport hopes to start competing in the conference starting with the 2017-2018 seasons, pending approval of the NCAA. The decision should be made by July.
With Davenport’s potential departure to the NCAA, I decided to break down its history vs. UM-Dearborn in those six aforementioned sports. The numbers were astounding, to say the least.
Since Jan. 2006, UM-Dearborn women’s basketball has went 0-23 against Davenport. Men’s basketball is 5-19 against the Panthers in that span but is on a 14-game losing streak in the series. Volleyball won its first seven games against the Panthers but is on a 13-game losing streak since Sept. 2008.
Softball snapped a 19-game losing streak to Davenport last season but has a 5-22 record in the series since 2009. Hockey is 4-17 against the Panthers since 2010 and won its first game in Grand Rapids last season.
Men’s soccer has played Davenport four times since 2012, but has lost all four contests.
If you add up those totals up, UM-Dearborn has lost 98 of 119 games against Davenport during the respective time frames. That is awful; there’s no other way to chalk it up.
But with Davenport potentially leaving for greener pastures, where it would no longer bully UM-Dearborn, the Wolverines have an opportunity to pounce.
When I think of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, I think of Davenport and Cornerstone. Those two schools are the top dogs in many of the sports UM-Dearborn boasts.
When I think of the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League, I think of Davenport, Oakland and Adrian. Again, the top dogs.
UM-Dearborn has made strides in softball. The team made the WHAC championship last season, where it lost to — of course — Davenport. The men’s basketball team is getting there under Taylor Langley, who is a former Davenport assistant coach. Hockey — thanks to Chris Haltinner building his program around players who want to win, a method that could work for each of UM-Dearborn’s sports — is already at that level, and should compete for a national championship as early as March. But with Davenport’s hockey team not considered a varsity sport, it is unknown if it will make the move to the NCAA. Should the Panthers stay, they remain a formidable foe and measuring stick for the Wolverines.
Regardless if the hockey series remains, UM-Dearborn has the prime opportunity to take Davenport’s seat at the big boy table.
The university has shown it’s willing to put more of a focus on athletics. It’s revamped its website and social media efforts and is trying to get people in the stands. Games are being broadcasted.
But for UM-Dearborn to take the next step, the mediocrity has to end.
The women’s basketball team started the season 0-20 before topping Marygrove College Saturday, winning their first game since last February. The volleyball team had a winless season last year and won only six games in 2015.
There’s a reason why Davenport is at the top: there’s no mediocrity.
The Panthers have won 17 WHAC titles, 18 WHAC tournament titles one NAIA title and one ACHA national title across the six sports and the timeframe UM-Dearborn’s athletic site has archived. That’s a whole lot of rings and a whole lot of success.
If Davenport leaves for the NCAA, its void will be felt. Someone will surely take its place at the top, and UM-Dearborn has the chance to do just that. But how badly will the Wolverines want it?