Golden Bears


  • • 1966: Athletic program established by Eric Geldart with three original men's teams in basketball, soccer, and baseball.
  • • 1968: William Arthur "Red" Downes is hired as assistant coach for men's basketball. Downes would go on to serve as head coach for baseball, basketball and soccer. Today, he is in his 30th season as men's golf coach.


  • • 1970-71: Led by future Hall-of-Famers George Jerman and Rodney Butler, the men's basketball team makes consecutive appearances in the NAIA Division I Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
  • • 1973: Rivers Memorial Gymnasium is built providing the first indoor athletic facility on campus. That same year, Downes establishes the school's Physical Education program.
  • • 1975: The men's soccer team posts a record of 15-4-2 and wins the NAIA regional title, before finishing fourth at the national tournament in Raleigh, N.C.
  • • 1976: Title IX takes effect, and basketball becomes first women's sport. Softball follows in 1979.


  • • 1981: The football program achieves varsity status, becoming a member of NCAA Division III and the New England Football Conference.
  • • 1981: Women's field hockey is established.
  • • 1984: Women's soccer program is established.
  • • 1989-90: The men's basketball squad becomes the first team to reach the NCAA Tournament after posting a 23-3 record.


  • • 1992: Rodney Smith '89 wins a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling at the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. He went on to compete in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
  • • 1993: The 123,000-square-foot Alumni Healthful Living Center (AHLC) opens, housing athletic offices, a 2,000-seat gymnasium, wellness center, aerobics room, eight-lane pool, elevated indoor track, racquetball and squash courts, and weight rooms.
  • • 1998: Dr. Mike Theulen is hired as just the second Director of Athletics in the history of the department. Later that year, the women's soccer team finishes 20-2 and captures the ECAC Division III Metro Tournament, marking the start of the 'Golden Era' of WNE athletics.
  • • 1999: Women's soccer becomes the school's first women's program to reach the NCAA Tournament. The Downes Athletics Hall of Fame is established.


  • • 2002: WNE revamps its outdoor athletic facilities, building Golden Bear Stadium and Trelease Park (2004). Renovations are also completed at Suprenant Field, the Volvo Outdoor Tennis Courts, and Golden Bear Softball Park.
  • • 2003: The softball team captures the program's first NCAA New England Regional championship, earning a trip to the Women's College World Series.
  • • 2004-09: The men's soccer program makes six straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.
  • • 2007-09: The men's lacrosse team reaches the NCAA Quarterfinals in three consecutive seasons. The '07 squad went 17-1 and finished the season ranked No. 3 nationally.


  • • 2011: The baseball team sets a program record with 42 wins, captures the NCAA New England Regional, and reaches the NCAA DIII College World Series for the first time.
  • • 2015: The women's lacrosse and softball teams both win Commonwealth Coast Conference championships – the first women's CCC titles for WNE since joining the conference in 2007.
  • • 2015: WNE opens its $1.5 million Flynn Family Golden Bear Pavilion, featuring state-of-the-art locker rooms for eight of the Golden Bears' outdoor sports teams, training rooms, public restrooms, and a concession stand.
  • • 2016: Men's Soccer and Men’s Football both win conference titles.
  • • 2017-2018: Men's Football, Men's Golf, Women's Softball, Men's Baseball, and Men's Lacrosse all win Commonwealth Coast Conference titles, celebrating four spring season championships.
  • • 2018-2019: Women's Basketball wins their first Commonwealth Coast Conference title. Men's Football wins their fourth straight title and Men's Lacrosse repeats their championship win, both holding onto their Commonwealth Coast Conference championship titles. John Boyle captures the 184-pound national title at the NCAA Division III Championships.
  • • 2019-2020: Women's Ice Hockey program is launched, recruiting the first team.

"Red" Downes

  • • One of the most beloved figures on campus, Coach Bill "Red" Downes, has contributed quite a lot to WNEU’s athletic history since his start in 1968.
  • • After coaching multiple sports for 33 years, Coach Downes has come to be known as the "Dean" of the coaching staff and still coaches the men's golf team.
  • • For all of his support and leadership, the University recognized him in 1999, by creating the Western New England University Athletics Hall of Fame in his honor.
  • • Downes has led the University to multiple championships and titles and helped the Golden Bears gain regional and national recognition.
  • • Coach Downes retired in 2018 after 50 years of service to Golden Bear Athletics.
It's a great time to be a Golden Bear!
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