Sports flashback: UNC earns back-to-back national championships

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The University of Northern Colorado football team has won back-to-back national championships at the Division II level. These two national championships are the lone awards for UNC’s long athletics history. Many teams have won conference awards, but few have made it all the way to the national championship, much less win.

UNC made this historic run with legendary Coach Joe Glenn. While at UNC, Glenn went 98-35, went to playoffs seven times (five in a row in 1995-99) and of course the two national championships.

With Glenn’s help, the Bears went through playoffs in 1996 and 1997 with both semi-final games being decided by only one point. Here’s how the 1996 playoffs played out:
• UNC defeats Pittsburg St. 24-21
• UNC defeats NW Missouri St. 27-26
• Clarion loses to UNC 19-18
• UNC defeats Carson-Newman 23-14

The UNC Bears had won their first national championship despite winning the first three games by a combined five points. Despite the close wins, UNC was be the team to beat going into the 1997 season. Here’s how the 1997 playoffs played out:
• UNC defeats Pittsburg St. 24-16
• NW Missouri St. loses to UNC 35-19
• UNC defeats Carson-Newman 30-29
• New Haven shut out by UNC 51-0

The 1997 season was less of a nail-bitter than the 1996 season as UNC had found its dominance. The first three opponents UNC had faced the previous year in playoffs and did better in each game except the Carson-Newman game.

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In the last nine minutes, UNC was able to orchestrate a 10-point comeback. The national championship would be far less exciting as UNC completely handled New Haven by an outstanding 51 points in the championship.

UNC football would go onto playoffs in the 1998 and 1999 season, but lose each season in the quarter finals. Both losses were to common playoff opponent NW Missouri St. 1998 UNC lost 42-17 and lost in 1999 by 41-35. UNC would reach the Division II playoffs once more after Coach Glenn’s departure in 2000. In 2002, UNC would beat Central Missouri St. 49-28 in the first round. In the second round UNC would beat their playoff rival NW Missouri St. 23-12. The Bears would make it all the way to semi-finals before getting blown-out by grand Valley St. 44-7.

Since 2002, the Bears have not returned to the playoffs, but have left a historic legacy for future teams to follow.

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