By Chris Brown
The abrupt end to NCAA athletics for the school year meant the end of a decade of seasons which took place during the 2010s. The previous 10 years featured plenty of outstanding Butler sports teams. Let’s take a look back at the best season for each Division I Butler program during the last decade.
A quick note about the parameters. Since we’re examining every Butler program, we’re looking primarily at three major factors: overall record, conference record, and postseason performance.
The Butler baseball team only exceeded .500 in conference play once in the previous decade but did get to play in three postseason games during that season in 2018. Under then-second-year head coach Dave Schrage, the Bulldogs went 9-8 in Big East action and 34-20 overall, with their highest overall win total of the decade. Butler entered the Big East Tournament as the No. 3 seed and captured its first postseason victory since 2009 with an extra-innings win over Seton Hall. The Bulldogs met the Pirates again in the semifinals of the conference tournament, falling 4-3 to end the season.
There was hardly a choice to be made here. The Bulldogs, of course, reached the NCAA National Championship game twice at the beginning of the decade, falling by 12 points in 2011 but nearly coming up with the title in 2010. In 2010, Butler rattled off 26 victories in a row before falling to Duke in the title game. Easy call here.
Cross Country: 2019
The important preface here is that the nature of cross country itself makes it difficult to evaluate easily on an overall season-by-season team basis. While certainly various measurements could make the argument for other seasons in the decade to be the top for men’s cross country, 2019 was certainly an impressive year. The Bulldogs finished first at the Butler Twilight, third out of nine teams at the Big East Championships, seventh at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, and redshirt senior Euan Makepeace earned All-American honors with a 15th place finish at the NCAA Championships.
The football team captured two Pioneer Football League titles in the 2010s, both in seasons with 7-1 conference records. In 2012, the Bulldogs with 8-3 overall and earned a share of the title along with Drake and San Diego. But for the team’s best season, we’ll look at the next year, when the Bulldogs won one more game, finishing 9-4. They won a share of the PFL title once again, this time with Marist.
Golf being another sport very difficult to assess on a team level with basic stats, we looked at conference championships as a significant factor here. The 2018-19 team finished third out of nine teams at the Big East Championship, its highest finish since joining the conference. That team also took first place at the Butler Fall Invitational and Big Four Classic.
The men’s soccer team has found a great deal of success since joining the Big East, playing in the NCAA Tournament in three seasons. The team’s best overall and conference records of the decade, in 2017, coincided with its deepest NCAA Tournament run. The Bulldogs went 8-1 in Big East action, 14-5-2 overall, and defeated Lipscomb and No. 22 VCU in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament before falling to No. 1 Wake Forest.
The men’s tennis team captured the school’s fourth Big East title in 2017 after coming back to defeat Marquette 4-3 in dramatic fashion. That victory led the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament in men’s tennis since 2007. Though Butler fell to 3-seed Ohio State in the first round, it was still a great season for the program. The Bulldogs finished the year 18-6 overall, including 3-1 in Big East action.
Track & Field: 2012-13
The nature of collegiate track and field makes evaluating teams on simple numbers a highly difficult task. But in examining the last decade it’s clear that the 2012-13 men’s track and field team deserves some recognition. In their only year in the A-10, the Bulldogs finished fourth out of 12 teams at the conference indoor championships and third out of 13 teams at the outdoor championships.
The women’s basketball team played in the WNIT postseason tournament five times last decade, but only advanced past the first round one time, in 2019. With one of the best teams in program history, the Bulldogs went 23-10 overall and 11-7 in Big East play during the 2018-19 season. After falling to Creighton in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals, Butler defeated Northeastern and Kent State in the WNIT before losing to Cincinnati in the Sweet 16.
Cross Country: 2019
The women’s cross country team won conference championships in three different leagues in the 2010s, but none seemingly more impressive than its Big East title this past season. Head coach Matt Roe and his staff were named Big East coaching staff of the year. The Bulldogs went on to finish seventh out of 31 teams at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, and two athletes from the women’s cross country team participated at the NCAA Championships.
The women’s golf team finished in the top-two at their conference championship four times last decade across three different conferences. One such occasion was a first place finish in the Bulldogs’ sole season in the MAAC in 2012-13. Butler finished first out of seven teams at the MAAC Championship and went on to compete in the NCAA Central Regional, finishing tied for 23rd.
The lacrosse program began just a few years ago, and the team only played three seasons in the 2010s, with their best campaign coming in 2019, when the Bulldogs captured three victories. While we’re not including 2020 results in this breakdown, it’s worth noting in this case that the Bulldogs were off to an impressive 5-2 start to this season before the coronavirus led to an abrupt end to play.
The women’s soccer team has played in the Big East Tournament in each of the last five years, with two NCAA Tournament appearances during that time, but the program’s best season came in 2017, when the Bulldogs went 13-2-6 overall and didn’t lose a single regular season conference match. Butler finished Big East play 5-0-4 and advanced to the championship of the conference tournament before falling to No. 19 Georgetown. The Bulldogs went on to fall to Northwestern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on penalty kicks.
There was no doubting which season to go with here. Under head coach Scott Hall, the Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament for the first — and to date, only — time in program history in 2016. The Bulldogs finished the season with a 9-7 conference record, captured the Big East title with an extra-inning win against St. John’s and played two games in the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated.
Like some of the other Butler sports, swimming is difficult to evaluate with basic statistics due to the nature of the competition. The Bulldogs finished sixth at the Big East Championship meet for four straight seasons before jumping one spot to fifth in each of the last three years. Butler’s best team point total at the conference meet came this season, with 287 points.
The women’s tennis team notched three double-digit win seasons last decade, but their highest win total came during the 2010-11 season, when the Bulldogs went 15-9 overall, including 6-2 in conference play. That season included victories over Dayton, Valparaiso and Ball State.
Track & Field: 2009-10
After first acknowledging the complexities associated with evaluating track and field on basic team statistics, let’s take a brief look back at the 2009-10 campaign. The Bulldogs finished second at the Horizon League Indoor Championships and third at the outdoor championships. Both those marks were among the highest at conference events last decade for the program.
The volleyball team played in the Big East Tournament twice last decade, but the team’s best overall season was in 2010, when the Bulldogs went 13-3 in conference play and 21-10 overall. Butler won the Horizon League title and went on to compete in the NCAA Tournament, falling to No. 14 Dayton in the first round.