Georgetown University sports first rose to prominence in the 1980s with the success of the men’s basketball program, culminating in a national championship trophy in 1984 that elevated the Georgetown athletic department to a nationally recognized program. Thirty years later, The Hoya has seen the 2010s usher in a new era of athletic excellence characterized by two national championships and over 30 Big East titles, pointing to a new decade of promising possibilities.
Basketball Teams Shine on National Stage
In securing the university’s first national title, the Georgetown men’s basketball team set the precedent for athletic success on the Hilltop. The basketball program’s celebrated history took off with the building of the McDonough Arena in 1950 and has evolved to playing games at the Capital One Arena.
The program produced a number of Hall of Fame players and has continued to remain in contention for another national championship, making runs at the trophy five times in the last decade. Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), now the Hoyas’ head coach, brings in experience from a career on the Hilltop that included two Big East Player of the Year titles and three consensus All-America honors.
While men’s basketball rose to success on the national stage, the development of women’s sports was just beginning in the 1970s as Georgetown transitioned to be a coed institution. The women’s basketball program spearheaded the establishment of women’s sports on the Hilltop, playing its first season in 1970. The team made its first appearance on the national stage in the 1992-93 season, just 22 years after the program’s start. With a berth to the Round of Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, the women’s basketball team excelled on the national level. Since the 1990s, the team has returned to the tournament three consecutive times in the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
The program has also cultivated a variety of professional athletes, including the team’s all-time leading scorer Sugar Rodgers (COL ’13), who led the team during its three consecutive tournament berths. It was a special experience to be part of the athletic community on the Hilltop and to represent the Blue and Gray on the national stage, Rodgers said in an interview with The Hoya.
“The athletes just treat you like family if you are on a team,” Rodgers said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “You play more so for the name on the front than the name on the back.”
Soccer Soars to New Highs
Following the women’s basketball team’s rise to success in the past decade, the men’s soccer program, founded in 1952, has been one of the best-performing teams in recent history. Led by Head Coach Brian Wiese for the past 14 seasons, the team has recorded 10 total NCAA Tournament appearances and has played in two national title games, notching the program’s first national victory this December. The Hoyas have dominated within the Big East Conference, nabbing 11 Big East regular season and conference titles. Six former players have gone on to play professionally in Major League Soccer, including Dan Gargan (MSB ’05), a fourth-round draft pick to the 2005 Colorado Rapids. Gargan expressed tremendous gratitude for the athletic program in his time on the Hilltop.
“It was an honor and something that I still am very proud of,” Gargan said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “It’s such a rich tradition and history to be a part of the school and also the athletic department that I really felt, and I still feel, really grateful that I was a piece of it.”
After the team’s national championship last month, the Georgetown men’s soccer program sees only opportunity in the future, according to Wiese.
“When I came in on my campus interview, the question [Athletic Director Bernard Muir] asks at the end of the interview was, ‘Well, do you think we can do it?’ I don’t know what ‘it’ was in his head, but for me it was [the National Championship]. My response to him was ‘I don’t see why not.’ And I don’t,” Wiese said in an interview with The Hoya. “The ‘I don’t see why not,’ the ‘Why not us?’ — that’s real.”
The women’s team similarly strengthened Georgetown’s soccer program, dominating competition in the Big East and competing at the national level in recent years. After its founding in 1991, Head Coach Dave Nolan took charge of the program in 1999, recording seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances during his tenure and a trip to the College Cup in 2018. The program has also secured three consecutive Big East tournament wins and two consecutive Big East Regular Season titles in the past five years.
Two alumnae have been drafted to the National Women’s Soccer League, including Ingrid Wells (COL ’11). After graduation, Wells attended training camps with the full U.S. Women’s National Team before pursuing her professional career. Wells has expressed appreciation for the athletic program on the Hilltop, elaborating specifically on her experience seeing the evolution of the women’s soccer program.
“I got to see, I think, the biggest time frame of the evolution of the program. And that’s also part of the reason why I chose to attend Georgetown and play for that team,” Wells said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
She joined the team during the first year the soccer programs were funded comparably to other Big East teams, according to Wells. During her freshman year, the team made the national tournament for the first time and played in the Final Four of the Big East tournament.
“It was me getting to see both programs really take on a new light,” Wells said. “I felt like it was a special time to be there because not only was I just getting to be a part of maintaining a program, but also really the growth and, like I said, the evolution of it.”
‘The Decade of Lee’
The women’s cross-country team solidified the notability of the women’s athletic program on campus by bringing home the second NCAA National Championship trophy in Georgetown history in 2011. The win came after the Hoyas defeated 30 other teams, including the 2009 and 2010 national champion Villanova. To date, the women’s cross-country team is the only women’s team at Georgetown to secure a national championship and has continued to dominate throughout the decade.
The hiring of Lee Reed, the university’s current athletic director, in 2010 signaled the start of a decade of athletic success at the Hilltop.
Wiese sees his team’s success as a product of Reed’s leadership, calling Reed’s 10-year tenure the “decade of Lee.” When Wiese first arrived in 2006, the men’s soccer program was not expected to play competitively beyond the Big East Conference, according to Wiese. Reed has since flipped this narrative.
“The ethos of what men’s and women’s soccer could be changed really with [Reed]. He’s always been someone who’s had the vision of ‘Well, how good can we get?’” Wiese said. “I think when your leadership provides the expectation of ‘Well, we should just compete in the Big East’ versus ‘Why can’t we win at a national level,’ it makes a huge difference for how you grow something.”
During his tenure, Reed has secured a 10-year multimedia deal with FOX Sports and headed the opening of the Thompson Athletic Center in 2016. He further addressed the university’s infrastructure by renovating Cooper Field and Shaw Field, Reed wrote in an email to the Hoya. Current work is also being done on Povich Field, which has hosted the baseball program since the early 2000s.
Despite increasing financial burdens and instability with conference alignment at the start of the decade, the department has continued to push athletic excellence, according to Reed. He recognizes how far the university has come in the last 10 years and looks toward the new decade.
“It is hard to predict what intercollegiate athletics will look like in the years ahead. However, we can affirm that we are committed to leveraging all that is good in intercollegiate athletics to complement and expand the mission of our great University,” Reed wrote. “We will do this through our investment in quality people, and demanding excellence from ourselves in all that we seek to achieve. And hopefully, along the way, we will win a few more national championships!”