The official word came July 7, 2009.
That was the day Utah Valley University officially completed its seven-year provisional period to finish the move from a junior college to a full Division I member of the NCAA.
Such a move never had happened in the history of the NCAA, and it remains the crowning achievement of Mike Jacobsen, who announced his retirement Monday after 29 years as UVU’s athletic director. He will turn 70 in March.
“No question it was a milestone for us,” said Jacobsen, who plans to begin an LDS Church mission with his wife, Alice, once he officially steps down June 30. “A lot of us worked hard to make that happen. It was quite a process.”
The day after Jacobsen retires, Utah Valley officially joins the Western Athletic Conference. This final achievement, following several frustrating years of pushing, made it tougher for Jacobsen to finally make the decision.
“We’ve been talking about it for quite a while, really,” he said. “It was time. You’re never going to feel good walking away, but we needed to be able to do some things before we weren’t able to do them.”
Jacobsen was named the NACDA Athletic Director of the Year for the Junior/Community College West Region in 2000. Utah Valley became the first Division I school in 33 years to add wrestling three years later.
The 2002-03 athletic season was Utah Valley’s last as a junior college. The Wolverines began a partial Division I schedule the next season.
“It is becoming less and less common for someone to exhibit this kind of loyalty to one institution, particularly in the athletics profession where things seem to change on almost a minute-by-minute basis,” UVU President Matthew S. Holland said. “He’s given his all to this program the past 29 years, and this institution will always be grateful to him for that. He built a program virtually from scratch in many regards and now leaves us with a quality Division I level operation in a regionally competitive conference.”
Jacobsen said the search for a successor will begin immediately.
“No question, getting into the WAC, a conference with an automatic [NCAA Tournament] qualifier, was a big thing for us,” Jacobsen said. “That’s what made it tough going forward. That slowed [my decision].”