History of the Thunderbirds
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are the varsity athletic teams representing Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, in intercollegiate athletics. The university sponsors seventeen teams, including six men’s sports: basketball, cross country, football, golf, and track and field, and nine women's sports: basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, track and field, and volleyball. The baseball program was dropped after the 2011–12 season. The Thunderbirds competed in NCAA Division I and joined the Big Sky Conference on July 1, 2012, after departing from The Summit League.
College Sports Established
Cedar City, Utah
Southern Utah University
1993 - Present / NCAA Division I–AA / FCS
1986 - 1992 / NCAA Division II
1963 - 1985 / National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
2022 - Present / Western Athletic Conference
2012 – 2021 / Big Sky Conference
2004 - 2011 / Great West Conference
1996 - 2003 / I-AA Independent
1993 - 1995 / American West Conference
1986 - 1992 / Western Football Conference
1969 - 1985 / Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference
1963 - 1968 / Independent
Thunderbirds - In the earliest years of the institution, the University of Utah's Branch Normal School in Cedar City was like many such schools in the nation and did not have a nickname, but by the time the school had evolved to the Branch Agricultural School under the auspices of the Utah Agricultural College in Logan (the Aggies), Utah, the school's Cedar City teams became known as the Branch Aggies. However, the school needed it own unique mascot to usher in the college's inaugural 1946 football season, and the Branch Agricultural College became known as the Broncos.
The BAC Broncos grew in number and notoriety across the college's early years of athletic competition in the Mountain West region. Unfortunately, many other schools of similar agricultural roots found the bronco a befitting mascot, and the strength of its good luck charms felt muddled when pitted against a fellow bronco herd. So, in 1961, just a few years after the Branch Agricultural College became the College of Southern Utah, the broncos became thunderbirds and, with the exception of a 2008 April Fools stunt in which the University purportedly became the SUU Prairie Dogs, the Thunderbirds have flown high and proud.
There are some 1,200 member schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and each one has a nickname, with birds and cats dominating the list of teams. There are no fewer than 176 genera of cats, from lions and tigers and wildcats to tomcats. And, there are 152 birds represented, including the 44 variants of eagles, the most popular name in the NCAA. However, there is but one school that can boast of its thunderbird.
Men's Basketball 0
Women's Basketball 0
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