As I sit here on a beautiful Sunday afternoon penning my last column as the sports editor for The Collegian, I can't help but think about how I got to this point.
When I applied to college, I wanted to go to a school with two things: a strong athletic program and a broadcast journalism department. Richmond had neither of those back in the spring of 2007, which is why I casually threw aside my acceptance letter when it came in the mail, thinking my odds of becoming a Spider were slim.
But when I came to visit campus during the spring, something clicked. It's difficult to pin down exactly why I decided to change my mind only days before the deadline, but I did, and thus began my journey to this point.
Tim Hightower and the University of New Hampshire football team provided my first Spider sports memory. It was Family Weekend and the first home football game of my college career. Hightower rushed for four touchdowns, Justin Rogers returned a kickoff for a touchdown and the Spiders needed every bit of it, as they escaped with a 45-38 win. Even my dad, who has worked for ESPN and FOX Sports and seen more sporting events than the Goodyear blimp pilot, said it was one of the most entertaining games he'd ever seen.
Who knew that it was just the beginning?
During the next three seasons, the Spider football team won 35 games. Thirty-five games! Are you kidding me? Throw in a National Championship, two CAA championships and three NFL draft picks and it became clear that my assumptions about Richmond's athletic program were a bit off.
But even with the unprecedented success of the football team, my friends at other, bigger schools around the country still refused to give the Spiders any dap. "It's FCS," they would say. "It's like the minor leagues."
As wrong as they were, it was hard to convince them otherwise. But this season, the other major college sports team on a campus of 2,900 students made my buddies at the University of Connecticut and the like bite their tongues.
What the men's basketball team did this season, in some ways, defies logic. Sure, it won 20 games last season, but the College Basketball Invitational is not the tourna-ment that anyone dreams of playing in.
Then this year, with four of those same CBI players back in the starting lineup, the Spiders beat every team in the Atlantic 10 conference. Kevin Anderson won A-10 Player of the Year. The team beat the University of Missouri, the University of Florida, Xavier University, Temple University and Mississippi State University. Three years after an 8-22 season, they reached the NCAA tournament and finished 26-9.
As UConn and the University of North Carolina floundered into National Invitational Tournament irrelevance, the Spiders proved they were giant killers even without winning a tournament game.
The truth is, in three short years, Richmond has proven that you don't have to have a marquis name and a five-digit enrollment to make a splash in the world of college sports. At one of the more competitive academic schools in the country, athletics have soared to a level I never would have imagined when I first registered for CORE three summers ago.
And if you ask me, the element of surprise has made these few years even more amazing. If I had gone to the University of Wisconsin, I would have expected to compete for Big Ten football titles. If I had gone to Villanova University or the University of Maryland, I would have expected trips for the Sweet 16 on an annual basis. But instead, I came to Richmond, and instead of another ho-hum tourney berth or bogus bowl game, I got to experience the growth and success of a little-known program rising to the upper levels of college sports. Not too many people from any college anywhere can say that.
So as I prepare to leave the back page and become the next editor-in-chief of The Collegian, I want to thank everyone who has helped make the last three years of Spider sports so memorable. From the players to the coaches and everyone else that makes the athletic department go, you have made us proud to be Spider born and Spider bred. I also want to thank those of you who read my column every week, or every other week, or every now and then, because as much as I love reading my own writing, it wouldn't mean a thing without you all reading it.
As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and I guess that's the case with my reign in the sports section. But even with the sudden ending to both the football and basketball seasons this year, the good things about Richmond athletics don't have to come to an end just yet. The groundwork has been laid for making Richmond a national athletic power, and although I'll be watching from the stands instead of the press box, I couldn't be more excited about it.
Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at email@example.com