The Bryant Bulldogs are the athletic teams representing Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. The Bulldogs are currently in NCAA Division I reclassification process and compete at the Division I level as a member of the Northeast Conference. Bryant's largest rivalry during its Division II years was Bentley College, both founders of the Northeast-10 and both have prominent business programs. Bryant University athletics started out as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) before it transitioned into Division II. Bryant competed in the Northeast-10 Conference from the conference's founding in 1980 until 2008 when the university began the transition to Division I. In 2012, Bryant became a full Division I member.
Bryant University originally competed independently before the NCAA had classifications. The first teams were men's basketball and rowing, which started in 1896. The first women's team was women's basketball. When the NCAA began more strict classifications Bryant moved to the NAIA in 1963. During Bryant's tenure in the NAIA, it competed as an independent school. The university's tenure in the NAIA saw the men's basketball team record an undefeated regular season, going 22-0 before losing the final two games of the 1966-67 season in the District 32 Tournament. The 22-2 overall record was the team's best during the NAIA years. The move to Division II was partly because of the new campus, and the school's goals.
During their NAIA playing years, they were known as the Indians, and were located in Providence, Rhode Island, near Brown University. The school's largest rivalry at the time was Salem State College. The school was still a small business school, who was still only known on a local level. In 1976 the college left the NAIA In 1977 the college exited the NAIA and became a member of the NCAA at the Division II level. From there they became a charter member of the Northeast-10 Conference when the conference formed in 1979 and began play in 1980.
In 1980 Bryant was one of the charter members of the Northeast-10. Bryant along with other New England schools helped create a Division II conference that could succeed on and off the playing field and create rivalries at the same time. With the conference affiliation Bryant was able to keep its closest current day rival Bentley College Falcons close both academically and athletically.
The university used the Indians nickname and logos since the inception of the athletics program in 1896 until 1995.
Entering the 2000s (decade) the university has won 40 conference championships; and the President's Cup 4 times in 2004, 2005, and 2007 and in their last season as a Division II member in 2008. They lost in 2006 by 1 point to Stonehill College. In their last year of competition in Division II and in the Northeast-10, Bryant won the President's Cup by over 30 points, and sent 19 out of the 22 teams into the NCAA playoffs. They also amassed a record of 292-65-6 throughout the entire year.
The 2000s (decade) also saw the injection of many new coaches at the university. Before the move to Division I they had signed four former Division I coaches from Duke University, Iowa State University, Wagner College, and UNLV. These moves have been noted as being one of the reasons that Bryant athletics have had such a successful run. This run has also brought on the exploratory commission to explore the move to Division I.
On October 18, 2007 Bryant announced it would join the Northeast Conference. The move had Bryant participating as a Division I institution starting in 2008. The NCAA voted in 2012 to make the university a full member, which would allow Bryant to be eligible for NCAA Division I member postseason tournament play as well as have voting rights for its conference.
A member of the Northeast Conference, Bryant University sponsors teams in eleven men's and eleven women's NCAA sanctioned sports:
Bulldog Stadium was completed in 1999 and has a seating capacity of 5,500 with a 4,200-seat permanent structure and press box on the home side of the field and 1,300 additional seats on the visitor's side. In addition to serving as the home of Bryant Football, Bulldog Stadium also serves as the home venue to the school's men's and women's lacrosse and men's and women's soccer teams. It has also been the host of Rhode Island's high school state championship games.
Conaty Park, the home of Bryant's baseball program, is located in the northwest section of the campus near the other athletic facilities. The field has dimensions 330' down the left and right field lines, 385' to the right and left center field gaps and 400' to center field. It is equipped with step down dug outs, each with a connected clubhouse space. It also has bullpens down each line with two mounds and a hitting cage down the left field line just out side of the fence next to the bullpen. In addition to hosting several Northeast-10 Conference tournament games, the Bryant Baseball Complex hosted the 2004 NCAA Division II Baseball Northeast Regional Championship, won by the Bulldogs.
The Chace Wellness Center is a 31,000-square-foot (2,900 m2) student recreation center that augments the current gymnasium and Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC). The center includes workout space, a 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) fitness center, and an aerobic and martial arts studio. The Elizabeth & Malcolm Natatorium is an olympic-size pool originally constructed with the additions to the current Wellness and Athletic Center. The pool had only recreational use until the winter of 2005 when Bryant added men's and women's swim teams as a varsity sport. The natatorium features six lanes equipped with a scoreboard, seating area, and sound system.
The Bryant Track and Turf Complex was built in 2005 and is the home venue for the men's and women's track & field teams. The facility also hosts soccer, field hockey and lacrosse games in addition to being used as the football practice field. The facility has a bleacher seating section with a capacity of 1,000 fans. Another valuable addition was the lights surrounding the track.
Conference championships:Baseball: 2013, 2014
Lacrosse (men's): 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Lacrosse (women's): 2014
Tennis (men's): 2014
While competing as a charter member of the Northeast-10 conference from 1980 until 2008 the school won the President's Cup, awarded to the best overall athletic team in the NE-10, eight times. Bryant also finished in second five times and third three times. Considered to be one of the most successful teams in Northeast-10 History Bryant has won 93 conference championships. In the 2007-2008 school year, the university won 9 conference championships. During its Division II years, the university sponsored 22 of 23 sports that the Northeast-10 Conference offered.
The Bulldog logo became the official new logo and mascot of the university after a 1995 campus-wide vote. The school now has a living mascot and a costumed mascot to represent the bulldogs mascot and university athletics. Bryant has also used two bulldog logos as they did during the Indian years; first using a realistic bulldog's head inside a diamond design, followed by the current design in 2004. The change came when Bryant went from being a college to a university.
Ironclad Tupper I, or Tupper for short, is an English bulldog purchased by Bryant University President Ron Machtley and his wife, Kati. The Machtleys gave the dog to the school to honor the class of 2010's senior class gift campaign, which exceeded its goals and set two senior class gift records. Tupper now serves as Bryant University's mascot and attends campus events, as well as performing community service as a therapy dog. He is the first live bulldog mascot in the university's history and received an honorary degree at 2010 commencement for "character and obedience."