When goalkeeper Joel Dennerley left the pool after defeating UCLA 7-4 on Sunday Dec. 4, 2011, he could call himself a national champion — four times over. Four national championships in four years.
In the grand scheme of college athletics, the Trojans’ four-peat is truly historic. There are few runs in college sports that have matched that of the USC water polo team. To put what the Trojans have done into perspective, here are a few of the great dynasties in college sports.
UCLA Men’s Basketball
From 1966-1973, the Bruins won the national title every year. For those counting, that’s seven straight. Under coach John Wooden, the Bruins had three undefeated seasons with 30 wins and lost a total of five games. Players such as Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Sidney Wicks made the UCLA basketball dynasty.
From 1970 to 1974, USC baseball won five straight national championships. Led by legendary Rod Dedeaux, the Trojans featured stars such as Fred Lynn and Jim Barr. Under Dedeaux, USC won a total of 10 titles.
Under coach Tom Osborne, Nebraska won three straight national championships between 1993-1995. Because college football does not have a playoff system, several different organizations hand out national titles. Before the BCS era, the AP was the most prominent. Osborne won two AP titles and one other from a lesser polling organization. Nevertheless, the team went 36-1 over three years.
Bud Wilkinson led the Oklahoma Sooners to 47 wins in a row, which stands as a record in college football history. They won three out of four titles, including two from the Associated Press.
Princeton Men’s Lacrosse
From 1992-1998, Princeton won five out of seven championships, including three in a row.
Virginia Men’s Soccer
The Cavaliers won the national championship between 1991-1994. In four championship games, they did not give up a single goal.
Connecticut Women’s College Basketball
Led by Geno Auriemma, the Huskies won four titles between 2000-2004. From 2009 to 2010, they had a 90-game-winning streak.
When looking at some of the historic runs in college athletics, USC’s run of four straight titles in water polo is incredibly impressive. Over the past four seasons, the Trojans have lost a total of seven games, including an undefeated season in 2008-2009. Their roster was filled with numerous All-Americans, including Dennerley, who leaves USC as the school’s all time leader in saved goals.
Water polo might not be the revenue sport at USC, but there is no denying the incredible streak the team has been on over the past few seasons. In fact, there might not be a more underrated coach in all of college athletics than Jovan Vavic, who, since taking over 17 years ago, has won six men’s national championships, he’s accumulated a winning percentage of 86 percent and has been named the coach of the year on nine separate occasions by the NCAA.
Though other consecutive national champions have seemingly been honored and revered, the Trojans have been overlooked for the most part. Unless you’re an avid water polo fan, you might have missed the championships.
That, however, does not make it right. The Trojan legacy deserves to be remembered. It should not be cast aside because water polo is not one of the most popular sports on college campuses. It is just as legitimate as football or basketball in its competitive nature. In fact, the streak is as majestic as any in recent college sports memory.
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