The Great Danes have sent multiple players to try-outs and NFL training camps as un-drafted free agents. In addition to the NFL, multiple alumni have participated in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. Many former coaching staff members have also coached in the NFL, including former NFL head coach Dave Campo. From 2006 to 2010, Tony and Andy Sparano were key figures on the Great Danes roster. At the same time, their father, Tony Sparano, was head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
The strongest connection to the NFL is the university hosting the New York Giants Summer Training Camp. Since 1996, the university's practice fields are handed over to the Giants, bringing fans and media from around New York and the United States to Albany. In 2007, the school dedicated the university’s football practice field in honor of Wellington Mara and Preston Robert Tisch, the late co-owners of the Giants. Mara and Tisch were instrumental in making the University at Albany home to the Giants’ summer training camp.
Division I Era
The process to become a Division I program was slow. From the 1999–00 season, the first year in Division I, to the end of the 2004–05 season, UAlbany recorded a 48–118 record. The team finished with over 10 victories in only two seasons. However, in the 2005–06 campaign, the Great Danes compiled a 21–11 season. In that season, the Great Danes would take on both the eventual national champion Florida Gators and UCLA Bruins, both of which would play each other for the National Championship.
"Why Not Us?: The 2005–06 Season"
On March 11, 2006, the men's basketball team won the America East conference tournament, earning the school (and the SUNY system) its first ever berth to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, defeating the University of Vermont 80–67 in a sold out RACC. The Great Danes were seeded #16 in the Washington, D.C. region and were matched up against top-seeded UConn. Despite the #16 seed being 0–87 before Albany took the floor, head coach Will Brown believed that his team had a chance to beat UConn in the tournament. With that, the team took the motto, "Why Not Us?". Fans and alumni wore shirts with the motto.
On March 17, 2006, the Danes nearly became the first #16 seed to defeat a #1 seed in the Division I tournament. The Danes, down only 1 at the half, went on a 13–0 run early in the second half to take a double-digit lead over the Huskies. With the game televised on CBS, the Danes led 50–38 with just over 11 minutes left in the game. However, a late run by the Huskies' stifling defense stopped the Danes' offense, and the Huskies averted the upset, winning 72–59. The play against UConn gave the program instant notoriety.
In the 2006–07 season, the Great Danes faced a much stronger America East conference. The Great Danes would accomplish a 20–9 regular season, but be the #2 seed in the conference tournament. This forced the Great Danes to travel to Vermont, who was the #1 seed for the conference championship, where they were previously 0–7.
The Great Danes, considered underdogs, would not falter. On March 10, 2007, the men's basketball team won their second consecutive America East title, beating Vermont 60–59 in the conference final on a last second steal by Carl Ross and Brent Wilson. The Great Danes would be seeded 13th in the South Division of the 2007 NCAA Division I Tournament, and lost to the 4th seed Virginia Cavaliers 84–57 in the first round in Columbus, Ohio.
Prior to the conclusion of the 2006–2007 season, the men's basketball program retired the number 31 of player Jamar Wilson. Wilson finished his career as the school’s all-time scorer with 2,164 points, plus ranked second in assists with 488. Wilson became the first player in school history to score 500 points or more in three different seasons. He also shattered the school standard with 620 points in a season, breaking a record set by Jason Graber in 1993–94. He would also win two America East Player of the Year Awards, something only three other people in conference history had achieved. Many believed that his commitment to the university was part of the early Division I success of UAlbany's men's basketball program. No athlete in the program's history has had their number retired prior.
In 2012-13, the Great Danes would go 21-10 in the regular season. The season was highlighted by games against Top 10 ranked Ohio State and a 63-62 victory against the University of Washington in Seattle on November 13, 2012. Despite 21 wins, UAlbany had lost twice to regular season champions Stony Brook, regular season runner-up Vermont and third place Boston University, giving many fans limited faith in making a run for a conference title. However, the Great Danes would knock off Maine 50-49 and upset Stony Brook 61-59 in the 2013 Conference Tournament, played at SEFCU Arena. On March 16, 2013, the Great Danes traveled to Vermont for a chance to win the AE Championship. Despite a 10-0 run by Vermont to start the game and being out-rebounded 34-20, the Great Danes pulled off the upset 53-49 to win the AE Championship and receive the conference automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament. It was the third straight victory for the Danes in the AE Championship game and the third time beating Vermont for the title. UAlbany became the first #4 seed to win the conference tournament. They would take on Duke University in the 1st Round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament as a 15 seed in the Midwest Bracket. On March 22, the Great Danes lost to Duke 73-61 in Philadelphia, PA.
While not making the NCAA Tournament from the 2006-07 season to the 2012-13 season, the Great Danes did participate in a postseason tournaments. In 2011-12, UAlbany made the CIT Tournament, but lost to Manhattan in the 1st round.
In 2009, the University at Albany played host to its first America East Men’s Basketball Championship at the 4,538-seat SEFCU Arena on campus. The America East brought the conference tournament back to SEFCU for the 2013 Conference Championship.
The program began in 1970 with a 3–7 record competing in Division III. In 1975, the program would reach the ECAC Division III Tournament under coach Dave Armstrong. From 1975 to 1997, the Great Danes would reach two more ECAC Division III Tournaments. In 1997 the Great Danes would reach the finals of the ECAC Division II Tournament.
In 2000, the Great Danes began play in the America East at the Division I level. In 2001, Scott Marr was given the reigns of the program. Even though the Great Danes finished with a 3–8 record in 2001, the Great Danes compiled an 8–6 regular season to take the regular season conference championship in the America East in 2002. They would reach the championship game but lose to the Stony Brook Seawolves 8–6.
Led by a new crop of recruits, some of the first lacrosse players in school history to be on scholarship, such as Kevin Rae and Luke Daquino, the Great Danes would start making a mark on college lacrosse in 2003. The Great Danes would go 8–6 and seek revenge against Stony Brook in the America East semifinals 11–5 to move on to face the University of Hartford for the America East Championship. On May 3, 2003, Albany would defeat Hartford 7–5 to win their first ever America East Championship. They would go on to face and lose to Princeton University in the first round on the NCAA Tournament.
The success for the Great Danes would not stop after 2003. With incoming recruits and a strong core of returning players, the Great Danes would continue their championship ways. In 2004, including an upset against the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Great Danes would go on to win another America East Championship. They would play Syracuse University in the first round and lose 21–13.
The surge would continue into 2005 as the Great Danes defeated Stony Brook 16–7 to win their third straight America East Championship. However, the first round NCAA Tournament jinx would continue as the Great Danes were demolished by the University of Virginia 23–9.
2006 would be an off year for the Great Danes. With all-time career points leader at the time Luke Daquino and career saves leader Kevin Rae graduated, the team was young and over matched. The Great Danes would sneak into the America East Tournament, but lose 19–10 to UMBC. However, it would be soon that the Great Danes would go back to their winning ways.
Despite a season of struggles in 2006, the program took one major stride during the season. In the fall of 2005, John Fallon Field was completed and became the new home of the Great Danes. An all-weather facility, Albany finally had a place to call home. In previous seasons the team would play home games at University Field. However, do to harsh winters and wet springs, the field was usually not in playing condition come lacrosse season. This forced many home games to be played at local high schools and community colleges. With John Fallon Field, Albany now had one of the premier outdoor lacrosse fields in the Northeast.
In the 2007 season, the lacrosse team would be ranked in the top-25 in both USILA and Nike/Inside Lacrosse polls and reached a high of #2 in the USILA poll. Notable wins were against #1 ranked Johns Hopkins Blue Jays and #10 Delaware. On May 13, 2007, the men's lacrosse team became the first team at the Division I level to advance/win a match in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Loyola College in Maryland 19–10 in front of nearly 3,000 people at John Fallon Field. One week later, the Great Danes were defeated by undefeated Cornell University 12–11 in the NCAA Quarterfinals at Princeton University.
The team finished ranked #4 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse poll, the highest ranking for any team in school history. Head Coach Scott Marr was awarded the USILA Division I National Lacrosse Coach of the Year to cap the amazing season.
One of the big stars for the lacrosse team in 2007 was senior attackman Frank Resetarits. He would become the first Great Dane in school history to earn first-team All-American honors as he was selected to the 2007 USILA All-America Team. Resetarits was also named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy. Resetarits would also become the first lacrosse player in school history to be drafted into the Major League Lacrosse, selected by the Washington Bayhawks, but being traded and making his debut with the Long Island Lizards. Resetarits would also join the National Lacrosse League, drafted #5 overall by the San Jose Stealth in 2007 NLL Draft.
Resetarits was joined in the pros by UAlbany elite goal scorer Merrick Thomson. Thomson would sign a free agent contract with the New Jersey Pride on the MLL, and then drafted #2 overall by the Philadelphia Wings in the 2007 NLL Draft. Both Thomson and Resetarits are ranked one and two in career points at Albany. Thomson is also the all-time leading scorer in Great Danes history. Defender Liam Gleason was also signed by the New Jersey Pride shorty after the 2007 Major League Lacrosse draft.
Two other pieces of the championship team were drafted in the 2008 Major League Lacrosse draft. Midfielder Jordan Levine was selected 10th Overall by the New Jersey Pride, re-uniting him with Thomson and Gleason. Star goaltender Brett Queener was selected 48th Overall by the Rochester Rattlers making him the 5th UAlbany graduate to play professionally in Major League Lacrosse.
The 2013 season opened with high expectations. Many in the media felt the team had the ability to go far in the NCAA Tournament. Those predictions grew further in the season opener at Syracuse. The Great Danes had never beaten The Orange, who were ranked #13 in the nation. However, UAlbany would knock them in double-overtime 16-15. It would be the first season opening loss for Syracuse since 1996.
After going 5-3 in their next eight games, the Great Danes would travel to Johns Hopkins. With the games being shown on national television (ESPNU), the Great Danes once again pulled off an upset. UAlbany, ranked #20 at the time, would defeat the #10 ranked Blue Jays 10-9. Freshman goalie Blaze Riorden had his best game of his short career, recording 20 saves.
The Great Danes would finish 4-1 to finish the season, 11-4 overall. UAlbany would go 5-0 in regular season America East play for the second time in program history. Amazingly, the Great Danes would go 9-2 on the road while only 3-2 at home. On May 4, after a five years without a title, the Great Danes would defeat UMBC 19-10 to win the America East Championship. Head Coach Scott Marr would also record his 100th career win at UAlbany during the season.
The Great Danes success in 2013 was centered around one family. Miles, Ty and Lyle Thompson (also known as the Thompson Trio), were a vital part of the Great Danes offense. Miles and Lyle Thompson are brothers, while Ty is their cousin (another brother, Jeremy Thompson played for Syracuse until 2011). All three were star recruits coming to UAlbany. Ty Thompson would score 51 goals, Miles Thompson would score 42 and Lyle 46 goals going into the NCAA Tournament. The fourth leading scorers for the Great Danes, Will Fuller and John Maloney, had only 18 goals.
Lyle Thompson would be the key factor for the Great Danes. The sophomore was vital in leading the No. 1 offense in the nation with 108 points through 17 games. Thompson became the eighth men’s lacrosse player in NCAA history to record 100 points in a season. He is seven points behind all-time NCAA record holder Steve Marahol’s (UMBC) 114 points (37g, 77a) set in 1992. He would win the America East Player of the Year Award and became the second Great Dane to be named a Tewaaraton Award finalist, and the first Native American to be named a Tewaaraton Award finalist.
Other Division I athletic success
- In 2013, women's basketball became the 7th team in America East Conference history to go unbeaten in the regular-season. They defeated Stony Brook 60-49 on March 2, 2013. It was the first ever conference regular-season title for the program at the Division I level. On March 16, 2013 UAlbany defeated Hartford 61-52 to become the 4th team in America East history to go undefeated through an entire season and win back-to-back AE Championships. They would go into the tournament at 27-3 and a 19 game win streak. They would be the #14 seed and take on the University of North Carolina. Despite leading 28-23 at the half, UAlbany would fall to the Tar Heels 59-54.
- In 2011, the Women's Lacrosse team would finish the regular season a perfect 17-0. They would be the only team to finish the regular season undefeated in the nation going into the NCAA Tournament. The trip to the NCAA Tournament would be the first in program history. They would defeat UMBC 11-4 in the America East Championship. They would be seeded #7 in the tournament, however would have to play their first round game at Dartmouth (conflict with universities graduation weekend). They would defeat Dartmouth 10-7, however lose in the Quarterfinals 18-4 to Northwestern. They would finish the season a program best 18-1.
- Field Hockey won its first ever America East Championship in 2008 after being ranked within the top-20 nationally for the majority of the season. They would be eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by the top seeded Maryland Terrapins.
- The Athletic Program would win a record-tying eight conference titles in the 2006–2007 school year, including five during the spring sports period. The Great Danes took home the conference championship in women's volleyball, men’s indoor track & field, men’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, men’s & women’s outdoor track & field, baseball and softball.
- The women's volleyball team in 2006 became the first team in school history to host a Division I NCAA Tournament event. In 2007, the Great Danes won their second consecutive America East Conference championship and defeated Cleveland State 3–0 to win their first NCAA Division I Tournament match.
- Men's soccer goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul would sign a contract with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer and make his professional debut, the first for an Albany alumni in the major-American (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS etc...) sports, on May 13, 2006. In January 2008, Coundoul was named to the Senegal National Soccer Team to compete in the 2008 African Cup of Nations Tournament in Ghana. The African Cup is the highest level soccer championship tournament in Africa. With being named, Coundoul became the first MLS player to ever compete in the tournament. In 2009, goalkeeper Steward Ceus became the first Great Dane selected in the MLS Draft when he was selected by the Colorado Rapids to replace Coundoul after he left to free agency.
- UAlbany has had eight players selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft: Terry Kenny (9th round, 1974, San Francisco Giants), Steve Checksfield (10th round, 2001, Houston Astros), Mike Grasso (11th round, 2002, Atlanta Braves), Adam Kroft (30th round, 2004, San Diego Padres), Tom Hill (34th round, 2007, Kansas City Royals), Mike Konstanty (39th round, 2008, Cincinnati Reds), Dave Kubiak (36th round, 2011, Tampa Bay Rays), Sean Lucas (25th round, 2012, Cincinnati Reds), and Stephen Woods (6th round, 2013, Tampa Bay Rays, (HS - did not sign). No Great Dane has ever played in the majors.
- Softball won three straight conference titles from 2005–2007. The team would win its first NCAA Division I Tournament game and advance to its first regional final after defeating Harvard 1–0 and Hofstra 4–2 in 2007.
UAlbany's biggest rival is Siena College located in Loudonville, NY. Both schools are separated by 8 miles (13 km).
While teams do not participate in the same conference, teams from multiple sports will face each other annually, with the strongest part of the rivalry lying with men's basketball. Both teams met for the 50th time in 2010. The first match-up was February 23, 1957 in which Siena defeated Albany 75–66 at Albany. After nearly twenty years, the series ended on February 3, 1977 with a 62–49 Albany victory.
All games since 2001 have taken place in the Times Union Center, officially making it a home game for Siena. Since 2001, the game has averaged an attendance over 10,000 for the annual match-up, with attendance being below 10,000 only three times.
While the women's basketball match-up receives less fan fare then the men's game, it is part of the Albany Cup battle. Their first match-up was in the 1975–76 season.
While both the men's and women's basketball games battle for the Albany Cup, the rivalry has been dubbed the "Crosstown Showdown" by sportscasters in the Capital Region.
Stony Brook University is UAlbany's biggest SUNY rival and has had intense competition in sports like men's basketball and lacrosse is recent years. From 2000-2013 in men's lacrosse, Stony Brook has met UAlbany in the America East Tournament ten out of twelve years. Four of these meets had been in the America East Championship game (2002, 2005, 2010, 2012).
In men's basketball, it has been a similar situation. While Albany has had more historical success overall in the NCAA's since 2000, they had lost to Stony Brook in three straight America East Tournament games (2010, 2011, 2012). In 2013, the Great Danes, as the #4 seed in the tournament, knocked off the Seawolves, the #1 seed, at SEFCU Arena to end the losing streak.
Baseball has also seen some good moments. UAlbany eliminated Stony Brook in the 2011 AE Tournament, even though Stony Brook swept them in four straight games of the regular season. In 2010, Stony Brook defeated UAlbany in the America East Championship. In 2012, Stony Brook defeated the Great Danes in three out of four regular season match-ups in their memorable run to the College World Series.
However, the biggest part of the rivalry is played out on the gridiron. From 1999-2006, the two programs were both associate members of the Northeast Conference. During that time, UAlbany went 5-3 against the Seawolves. Stony Brook would leave the NEC in 2007 to become independent and joined the Big South Conference in 2008. The two teams would meet in 2006 in a non-league game at University Field, in which the Great Danes defeated Stony Brook 24-23.
The two teams would not meet again until November 26, 2011. However, this meeting would be different. The two teams each won their respected conference titles and were meeting in the First Round of the FCS Playoffs. For both programs, it was their first time being in the FCS Playoffs since joining Division I athletics. The match-up also had the story line that Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore was a 1982 UAlbany graduate who started three seasons at fullback, then served for three years as UAlbany's running backs and strength coach for head coach Bob Ford. UAlbany would have a 28-10 third quarter lead, but the Seawolves answered with 21 points to take the lead. However, UAlbany would have a chance to win the game at the goal-line with under a minute to play. On second-and-goal from the Stony Brook 3-yard line, Dan Di Lella had a pass intercepted in the end zone by free safety Dominick Reyes with 47.4 seconds left as the Seawolves held on for a 31-28 victory before 8,286 fans at La Valle Stadium and advance to the Second Round.
The rivalry was rejuvenated in August 2012, when it was announced the Great Danes and Stony Brook would become associate football members in the Colonial Athletic Association starting in 2013. The teams will meet for the first time as CAA rivals on November 23, 2013 on Long Island.
A notable rivalry exists between the Great Danes and the Binghamton University Bearcats. Both teams joined the America East conference around the same time, when they were relatively new to Division I sports. Their SUNY connection as well as geographic proximity has fostered the rivalry and generated the name, "The I-88 Rivalry (Interstate 88 (east))." Both teams post the largest away crowds at either school's athletic events.
The athletic rivalry between Albany and the University of Vermont is mainly focused on basketball. The rivalry has been based around the success the two programs had from 2003-2007, in which the two teams combined for five America East Titles. In that time frame, UAlbany and UVM met twice met in the America East Tournament finals with the Great Danes winning both games. The first win came in 2006 at home and the second came in 2007 at Vermont (Albany's first-ever win at Vermont). In 2013, the teams would meet again in the America East Championship in Burlington. For the third time, the Great Danes would defeat the Catamounts.
Annual Sporting Events
The Department of Athletics annually host two major sporting events. The first event is the Homecoming Football Game.
The University’s first Homecoming Weekend was held October 31, 1953 and it featured a soccer game, punch party, and a dance. This first Homecoming appears to have been organized by the Senior Class, reuniting the Classes of 1951, 1952, and 1953.
Every fall since then, the UAlbany campus becomes a hub of activity during Homecoming/Family Weekend. One highlight of the Weekend is checking out Great Dane Athletics. The highest level of tail-gaiting takes place during this weekend while the University hosts the Homecoming Touchdown Tailgate.
During Homecoming Weekend, the Athletic Department also enshrines players, coaches and administration from the past into the UAlbany Athletic Hall of Fame. The most recent inductees can be found at the UAlbany Athletic Website.
The Big Purple Growl is the annual winter homecoming. The Ferocious Feast kicks off the festivities with lots of great food and fun. The Growl usually features a doubleheader with both the women’s and men’s basketball teams playing home at the SEFCU Arena. Beginning in 1997, this annual event is an exciting fun-filled, spirited day for all members of the University community.
The University also hosts an annual Cross Country Meet (UAlbany Invitational), Track and Field (UAlbany Classic) and other events.
UAlbany Football and Men's Basketball games air on Fox Sports Radio WOFX AM 980 in Albany, NY. Roger Wyland has been the voice of the Great Danes since 1994.
Select athletic events also air on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (Albany, NY). TWCSN has broadcast rights to select football, America East Conference Network (usually involving UAlbany teams) and men's and women's basketball games. The station has also aired select Lacrosse and Women's Volleyball games.
WCDB has done select athletic events in past years. The station was at one point the exclusive home of UAlbany Women's Basketball, Men's Lacrosse and Women's Volleyball, doing select games every year.
In 2007, the university began streaming live video coverage of selected events on the University Athletic Website. The America East Website  also live streams selected events.
"Purple and Gold," the UAlbany fight song, was unveiled in the spring of 2000. The song was written by UAlbany students John Regan and Jonathan Hansen in conjunction with the university's move to Division I that academic year.5
Purple and Gold, your colors shining through
Hear as the carillons are ringing true
The State of New York sends up its cheers to you
Let’s go Albany!
Hail, young and old
We shall prevail,
Purple and gold
One true triumphant call
Albany Danes are standing tall
Purple and Gold, our flags are waving high
Singing our victory song into the sky
All of the world will fear our mighty cry
Let’s go Albany!