CWU’s athletic community is full of history and there are elements that most people aren’t aware of concerning the program’s background. CWU has nurtured some very talented and successful athletes, coaches and athletic figures from Dean and Leo Nicholson, the most successful coaching duo in CWU history and Nicholson Pavilion’s namesake, to some of the most diversely talented athletes in a wide variety of sports. These figures include Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, former Ultimate Fighter Champion in the women’s bantamweight division. CWU may be a smaller school, but it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to creating some of the most talented and successful students and faculty. There is an extensive list of famous athletes and coaches from CWU.
According to CWU’s website, John Kitna was a National Football League (NFL) quarterback on the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. Kitna attended CWU and led the Wildcats to an NAIA championship in 1995. Mike Reilly went to CWU and is currently a quarterback for the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos. He was named the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2017. Reilly played in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was drafted in 2009.
Adam Bighill is a linebacker for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, another CFL team. He played football for CWU and spent some time with the New Orleans Saints.
These are just a few of the Wildcat football players that have made their name in professional football.
There have been some well known names leaving CWU to become Major League Baseball (MLB) players. Dan Heaverlo, a former CWU relief pitcher that spent six years in the MLB from 1975 to 1981, played for teams like the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. He had a Major League record of 26-26 with a 3.41 Earned Run Average (ERA). He also had a total of 288 strikeouts over the course of his professional career.
Billy North is a CWU alumnus who played 12 years in the MLB. He played for the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. He was a switch hitter who threw right handed. This is all coming from ESPN’s website.
Basketball has been a different story at CWU, as the coaches have been more associated with the university’s success, as opposed to individual players or teams. According to CWU’s website, the basketball program saw its best years when it was led by one or both of the father and son Nicholson duo. The father and son combined for over 1,100 wins, becoming the winningest coaches in CWU history. In 2017, Dean Nicholson’s number was retired. Number 10 wasn’t the only number he wore while playing as a student at CWU, but it was his last. you can catch many indoor sporting events at Nicholson Pavilion, such as men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball.
The mainstream sports arena hasn’t been the only thing that CWU has had success in. There have been many Ultimate Fighting Champions in the past from CWU, the most prominent one being Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, former strikeforce champion and UFC bantamweight champion of the world.
Bryan Caraway, Matt Hume and Anthony Hamilton have also fought in the UFC representing their alma mater CWU. UFC’s website expresses that Tate is “one of the most successful UFC fighters of all time.”
CWU gives us so much to be proud of. Past athletes at this university have graduated and have gone on to do great things. CWU’s Athletic Department is one example of this.