History in the making at The UCCU Center
Utah Valley University is entering a new era of college basketball.
Of course, the words “basketball” and “Utah Valley,” may bring to mind that other university… and for good reason. With well over a century of history, Brigham Young University boasts a proud basketball tradition that includes 29 conference championships, 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, and 45 NBA draft selections, such as Danny Ainge, Shawn Bradley, and Jimmer Fredette.
But over the past 12 years, the UVU basketball program has been making its mark as a Division 1 team in the prestigious Western Athletic Conference. And with the announcement of Mark Pope as the new head basketball coach, the Wolverines are poised to take UVU basketball to a whole new level.
“I could not be more excited to be the new head coach at Utah Valley University,” Pope said at a recent press conference. “This is going to be a really special time and a special run.” Standing at 6’10”, Mark Pope can rightly claim a proud basketball history of his very own. As a player, Pope helped University of Kentucky to a national championship in 1996 before playing seven years in the NBA. And Pope is certainly no stranger to Utah Valley basketball. In fact, he comes to UVU straight from BYU, having served as an assistant coach for the past four seasons, helping BYU to a 98-43 record with three NCAA Tournament appearances.
As Pope enters UVU, he stands ready to lead UVU basketball to new heights. “UVU is an extraordinary place,” said Pope. “I’ve played and coached at universities all across the country, and I’ve never seen a place like this, that offers the innovative, academic, cultural experience that is available here. It is unbelievable. I am excited to be part of it.” Pope signed a five-year contract with UVU—which boasts the largest enrollment of any college in the state—after beating out over 100 other candidates for the position. “We got the right guy,” said UVU athletic director Vince Otoupal. “He’s a really good college coach, a former NBA player, a star, a family man and a coach who really understands academics. The whole package.”
The expectations are high, as is the confidence of the university’s athletic program. “Coach Pope is going to take UVU basketball to another level,” said Jason Erickson, Assistant Director of Communications of UVU athletics. “He’s going to take us to the NCAA tournament and put this team on the map.” And for UVU, this new season—and era— begins in the most fitting way possible, with the announcement of a four-game series against BYU. “This series has been a long time coming,” said Otoupal. “BYU is an excellent program with national respect and this series will be great for the fans, the community, and the state of Utah.”
The Wolverines will open their 2015-2016 season at the Marriott Center at BYU. The following season, the Cougars will play at the UCCU Center on UVU campus for the first time in the school’s history. This historic match-up may very well be the beginning of a Utah Valley competitive sportsmanship dynasty. “We’re not trying to be BYU,” Pope recently told The Deseret News, “But we can be some things BYU can’t be. I’m putting together a group of guys who can grow together. I love it. It’s magic.” It’s basketball history in the making, and it all happens at the UCCU Center at UVU. So don’t miss your chance to be a part of it. For tickets and up-to-date information on UVU Men’s basketball, visit WolverineGreen.com