ncaa-d1 flag

Anthony Chiusano | | August 21, 2017

How the college sports world stood back at the last total solar eclipse

  Duke won its first-ever national title against Kansas in 1991.

A lot has changed since a total solar eclipse was last visible from the United States, prior to Monday's highly-anticipated spectacle. 

Back on July 11, 1991, when a total eclipse could be seen in parts of Hawaii, the top song on Billboard's top 100 was Paula Abdul's "Rush Rush."Twenty-six years later — 9,539 days, to be exact — Luis Fonsi's "Despacito" tops the chart.

Back in 1991, moviegoers flooded theaters to see "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Today, newly-released "The Hitman's Bodyguard" — starring Ryan Reynolds, who had yet to appear on the silver screen in 1991 — is leading the box office.


Here's how the college sports world stood in July 1991:

College football

Two co-champions stood at the apex of college football heading into July 1991. Six months prior to that year's eclipse, Colorado and Georgia Tech split national championship honors with respective wins in the Orange Bowl and Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day.

Colorado stood atop the final AP poll after a 10-9 win over No. 3 Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. Georgia Tech earned one more vote than the Buffaloes in the coaches poll following its 45-21 rout of Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl. College football would have two more split national champions before the BCS era was ushered in eight years later. 

More tidbits:

  • BYU quarterback Ty Detmer was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner after a record-breaking 1990-91 campaign where he threw for 5,188 yards. That mark has since been surpassed five times, all coming since the turn of the century. Detmer is now in his second year as BYU's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
  • Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley is currently the youngest head coach in the nation at 33 years old. He was seven at the time of the 1991 eclipse.
  • The current longest-tenured head coach at one school, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (19 years), was entering his second year as a head coach back in July 1991 ... at Maine. Ferentz led the Black Bears from 1990-92 before becoming an assistant coach in the NFL. He then took over at Iowa in 1999.
  • Urban Meyer was a second-year wide receivers coach at Colorado State, Jim Harbaugh was in his fifth season as a Chicago Bears quarterback and Nick Saban was just starting out as an offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.
  • Finally, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was in his second season as a scholarship player at Alabama, after walking on in 1989. He won a national championship with the Tide five months after the eclipse. Another two and a half decades later, Swinney is once again on top, this time after defeating his alma mater.

Men's basketball

High Five: 1991 NCAA Tournament Moments
Believe it or not, Duke's basketball trophy case was devoid of a national title before 1991. Now the Blue Devils have five.

Duke picked up its first championship on April 1, 1991 when it defeated fellow blueblood Kansas 72-65 in Indianapolis. Led by the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Christian Laettner, Duke seized revenge in the national semifinals against reigning champion UNLV and then captured the program's elusive first title in its fourth straight Final Four appearance.

Mike Krzyzewski was in his 12th year at the helm of Duke while Roy Williams was in his fourth year at Kansas. Their national title matchup marked just the second head-to-head meeting between the two coaches at the time. The two Hall of Famers now face off at least twice a year since Williams left for rival North Carolina in 2003.

More tidbits:

  • Larry Johnson was the winner of the 1991 Naismith Award and John Wooden Award. He led the Runnin' Rebels to a second-straight Final Four berth and averaged a double-double (22.7 points, 10.9 rebounds).
  • Williams' replacement at Kansas, current Jayhawks coach Bill Self, was still three coaching jobs away from landing in Lawrence. Self was an assistant at Oklahoma State in 1991 and later made head coaching stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois before joining the Jayhawks in 2003.
  • Self wasn't the only Basketball Hall of Fame coach who was just getting started back in 1991. Michigan State's Tom Izzo was an assistant for the Spartans, and would continue to be one for another four years. Kentucky coach John Calipari was four years into his first head coaching gig at UMass.

Women's basketball

The Tennessee Lady Vols were less than four months removed from their third national title under Pat Summitt when the July eclipse rolled around. Tennessee had defeated Virginia 70-67 in a battle of No. 1 seeds in New Orleans.

The Cavaliers were two minutes away from clinching its first national title, but Tennessee stormed back and sent the game into overtime behind five late points from Dena Head. Head finished with 28 points in the title game.

That year's championship was the Lady Vols' third in five years. Tennessee won five more titles with Summitt at the helm.

More tidbits:

  • The 1991 championship game marked the first overtime battle in women's Final Four history.
  • Virginia's Dawn Staley was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Staley led South Carolina to its first-ever national championship as head coach last season.
  • In order to get to the final stage, Virginia eliminated UConn in the semifinals. That marked the Huskies' first trip to the Final Four, coming in Geno Auriemma's seventh year as head coach. Flash forward to today: Auriemma has taken UConn to 10 straight Final Fours and 11 overall national titles.

College baseball

LSU went undefeated in 1991 College World Series play en route to winning its first title just a month before the solar eclipse. The Tigers faced Wichita State in the finals on June 8, 1991 and won 6-3. The win marked Skip Bertman's first national title as head coach at LSU. The Tigers would win three more times that decade and now have six championships (five under Bertman).

More tidbits:

  • One especially familiar name on the 1991 all-tournament team was Long Beach State's Jason Giambi, coming off a year in which he batted .407. Giambi later became an AL MVP and five-time All-Star in his 20-year MLB career.
  • Stanford's David McCarty took home Player of the Year honors in 1991 with a ridiculous .420/.514/.828 slashline and 24 home runs. He was drafted No. 3 overall by the Minnesota Twins that June and played in parts of 11 MLB seasons.

College softball

Arizona softball also picked up its first national championship in 1991 after knocking off three-time defending champ UCLA in Oklahoma City. Led by four all-tournament selections — Debbie Day, Julie Jones, Julie Standering and Kristin Gauthier — the Wildcats topped the Bruins 5-1 in the final game on May 26, 1991.

Arizona now has eight titles, its last coming in 2007.

More tidbits:

  • Exactly two months before that July's eclipse, Creighton and Utah played the longest game in college softball history. The Bluejays outlasted the Utes 1-0 in 31 innings in Game 2 of the best-of-three Western Athletic Conference Championship series. That set up a Game 3 elimination game starting at around 1 a.m. that lasted another 25 innings — the third-longest game in history.

Men's soccer

On Dec. 2, 1990, with the eclipse still a couple of seasons away, Jorge Salcedo delivered UCLA its second title with the deciding shootout goal to top Rutgers in a thrilling final match. After the Bruins and Scarlet Knights battled to a scoreless deadlock through four overtimes, the first championship game shootout was needed. Salcedo's turn clinched a 1-0 (4-2 PK) win for UCLA.

Twenty-six years later, UCLA is gearing up for its 2017 season that begins on Saturday. Who will be leading the Bruins from the sideline? That'll be Salcedo, who enters his 14th season as his alma mater's head coach.

Women's soccer

North Carolina quickly formed a dynasty from the very first year of women's soccer championship play in 1982. The Tar Heels won 16 of the first 19 titles and nine straight from 1986-1994. The 1991 title was their eighth.

UNC finished a perfect 24-0 in 1991 as part of its second winning streak of at least 100 games since 1982. The Tar Heels shut out UConn 6-0 in the championship game and were led by Most Outstanding Player Kristine Lilly, who finished with four NCAA titles. Lilly went on to win two Olympic gold medals and a silver for the United States national team.

Until 2015, there had never been a three-year period where the Tar Heels failed to capture a national championship. UNC was ranked sixth in the 2017 preseason poll and looks to return on top for the first time in five seasons.

2023 NCAA spring sports championship schedule

Here is the 2023 NCAA spring sports championships schedule, including the dates and locations for DI, DII and DIII championships.

How the NCAA DII men’s basketball tournament works: History, important dates, and FAQs

The 64-team DII men's basketball tournament concludes the basketball season every March. Here's everything you need to know about how it works, how the selections are made and the history of the DII men's basketball championship.

NCAA Division I Council modernizes rules for coaching limits

The Division I Council took steps to modernize a number of rules Wednesday, including approving adjustments to transfer waiver guidelines, modifying personnel rules across several sports and formally eliminating the requirement for standardized test scores in initial eligibility. The Council met as part of the 2023 NCAA Convention in San Antonio.