Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Carleton Frisbee Dominates, but are they Historic?

Carleton College's ultimate frisbee team (CUT) won Division I nationals earlier this week, besting Wisconsin 11-5. It was a great victory, avenging an earlier defeat to Wisconsin in the North-Central Regional finals and capping an undefeated run by Carleton through the tournament. It's also Carleton's second championship in three years (and they were runners-up to Florida in 2010).

I told this to my dad, and he raised an interesting question. Carleton has an enrollment of a little less than 2,000 people. The University of Wisconsin has an enrollment of over 42,000 people (that counts graduate students -- but graduate students can be part of a college ultimate roster, and indeed, Wisconsin had at least one graduate student playing for it in the championship match). Carleton thus has 40,000 fewer students than Wisconsin -- it's over 20x our size. Our previous two D-I titles were over UC-Santa Barbara (2009) and the University of Georgia (2001), both smaller than Wisconsin (though Georgia clocks in at nearly 35,000 students) [my reading comprehension skills are terrible. Those were the women's champions that year -- Carleton defeated the University of Colorado (30,000 students) in both 2001 and 2009]. He asked whether, in the history of college team sports, there has ever been a championship match where the winning team was that much smaller than its opponent in terms of enrollment?

It's a fair question. In individual sports, of course, every once in awhile you get a standout who randomly is at some tiny school. But in team sports it is much rarer that a small school even plays with the big boys, and in the rare cases where they do and aren't utterly overmatched (e.g., Davidson in D-I basketball), they still don't typically win championships. Now, there might be some exception back in the old days when random teams came out of nowhere to win championships. And even today, one can imagine a sport like Crew or something where a smaller school might have matched Carleton's feat. But it's quite possible this is a unique, and uniquely impressive, accomplishment for CUT.

Anyway, regardless of whether it actually is a record, it's still a mighty impressive accomplishment. Congrats to CUT, and congrats to Carleton, for maintaining an elite level program in at least one sport for so many years.


Ken Wedding said...

We should note that none of the Ultimate teams (a women's team, Eclipse, won the division 3 championship this year) at Carleton are college teams. They are club sports. They get some funding, but there are no paid coaches or support staff.

Alison said...

In 2001, CUT beat the University of Colorado - Boulder, not Georgia. Georgia won the women's title that year.

Alison said...

I also forgot to mention that CUT beat Colorado in 2009 for the title as well. UCSB won the women's title that year.