Men's basketball and football may be the reigning sports in the public sphere, but dozens of other student athletes are competing at the University of Arizona.
More than 1,000 UA students and their collaborators maintain 35 athletics organizations, groups that most often do not fall under the National Collegiate Athletic Association's purview.
Termed "sports clubs," most are highly competitive and lead substantial fundraising campaigns to support annual budgets upwards of $100,000 for some.
"One thing we sometimes forget in our enthusiasm and energy for the varsity teams are all the sports clubs," said UA President Robert N. Shelton.
Soccer, synchronized swimming, ice hockey, American Tae Kwon Do, capoeira, water polo, running and cycling are among the sports clubs – both competitive and recreational – UA students maintain.
"The clubs are setting the right tone for young people to be active and physically fit throughout their lives," Shelton said. "The club sports are a valuable part of the entire message this university is sending, which is that people should not only be intellectually viable, but also physically fit."
Most recently, table tennis and the men's baseball groups were initiated to the list of organizations, which maintain a collective budget of more than $1 million annually, said Mary O'Mahoney, assistant director for the UA's sports clubs, family programs and aquatics.
"These are not scholarship opportunities, but they get to play in championships and for Arizona," said O'Mahoney, whose programs fall under the UA's Campus Recreation.
Most of the group pay to play and raise funds by holding car washes, benefit tournaments, T-shirt and bake sales, percentage nights and through donations provided by their alumni pools and parents.
The competitive teams play regionally, nationally and, in some cases, in other parts of the world. And many are performing exceedingly well.
Arizona Rugby is gearing up for its new season after having closed the last with a top-eight finish in the country and a top-four finish at the USA Rugby 7's tournament.
"On our recruiting cards, it's very simple: Outstanding education. Distinguished rugby tradition," said Dave Sitton, the head coach for rugby who has been involved with the team nearly 40 years.
"We are looking for student athletes who can balance their athletic and academic lives, and we expect them to make a commitment to excellence in rugby and in the classroom," Sitton added.
The team, which is holding its newcomer orientation Sept. 14, finished last season with a 10-4 record, qualifying for the national tournaments broadcast on NBC and FOX Sports Net – a first for the team.
In previous seasons, members of the team have played in competitions held in Scotland and New Zealand.
"Senior leadership is what holds true for a lot of the team, and we had a dedicated group," Sitton said. "If players want something and have a common goal, they can."
The team's alumni have gone to work for major national companies, as physicians and for branches of the military and law enforcement. Additionally, the team's members have earned numerous All American, National Team members and other honors.
"The achievement of our guys goes on and on," Sitton said.
The same goes for other groups such as Laxcats, the men's lacrosse team.
Head coach Mickey-Miles Felton said team members, who are celebrating the team's 50th year at the UA, see tremendous growth and opportunities by being involved in the sport.
"You can lose a game and that doesn't mean it's the end of the world as long as you play your best and give it all you have," said Felton, who played for the team for four years and has been involved for more than 35 years.
On the field, "there are so many things to learn that are applicable to real life," he said, adding that more than 50 UA students will play for Laxcats, which competes during the spring semester.
While most of the UA clubs are highly competitive, they also provide social networking.
Alex Yang, president of the Ballroom Dance Club, said his club, which competes about four times annually against teams regionally and nationally, is both competitive and social.
No prior experience is needed to join and training is based mainly on an American style of ballroom dancing. And while some members had prior ballroom dancing experience, others join because they want to learn a new skill or are drawn to the competitive and social nature of the group, Yang added.
"We allow people to train as hard as they want, whether that is extra technique practices and conditioning, or simply as a one-hour-per-week activity where you can learn something new and meet some new people," said Yang, also a UA junior studying aerospace engineering and applied mathematics.
But the dancing is "intense, fun and competitive as you want it to be," he said. For instance, some may practice six hours weekly, but he devotes up to 15 hours on his skill.
O'Mahoney said that, collectively, the competition among members participating in sports clubs is strong, and their commitment to both their sport and their academics is fierce.
"They are practicing six to 12 hours a week and many have part time jobs," O'Mahoney said. "They have to be passionate because they are doing a lot to wear 'Arizona' across their chest."