From Jim's Desk...
June 10, 2013
As we finish off an eventful 2012-13 academic year, it's only fitting we look back on many of the highlights for your UT Arlington Mavericks across all sports and in the classroom. We've experienced a special year through the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and our many supporters.
Our one season in the Western Athletic Conference proved to be a welcome step up in competition and has given us a roadmap to where we need to go to build championship-caliber programs. The entire UT Arlington community is so very appreciative of our time in the WAC and we wish the conference nothing but success in the future.
We couldn't have asked for a better start to WAC competition than winning the Men's Cross Country championship in the fall. Our men's basketball team reached the finals of the conference tournament and earned a spot in the postseason for the second straight year. Baseball claimed a share of a WAC regular-season title for its second consecutive league championship.
Paul McConnell won the WAC men's golf individual championship and a spot in the NCAA Regionals. Thirteen members of the men's and women's track squads reached the NCAA West Preliminary Round, with three going on to the National Championships. UT Arlington had 81 student-athletes earn All-WAC designation during the year.
The recent school year also saw the debut of our softball coach Kristie Fox and the hiring of women's basketball coach Krista Gerlich. Fox, along with assistants Vanessa Soto and Meagan Denny-White, oversaw vast improvement in the program, which won nearly 70 percent more games than the previous year. The foundation is being set for great days ahead for UTA Softball.
Gerlich and her top-notch staff – assistants Kristin Cole, Ashley Crawford and Talby Justus, along with director of operations Courtney Lee – have already hit the recruiting trail hard and the returning players are gearing up for the summer. Just as the strides made in softball this season, we believe the future is just as bright for women's basketball.
Be on the lookout for finalized women's and men's basketball schedules in the coming weeks. The schedule format for games in the Sun Belt Conference will be somewhat different from what we've been used to over the past several years. For most SBC home games at College Park Center, the women's team will play Wednesday night and the men's team on Thursday night. Saturday will feature a men's and women's doubleheader.
Both programs have put together challenging non-conference schedules to go along with the Sun Belt schedule. The quality of teams we'll face next season at College Park Center and on the road will prepare our basketball programs for runs at the postseason. The men, for instance, will face national power Kentucky on the road.
On the facility front, we hope to announce later this summer more improvements for the softball and baseball programs. The batting cages that opened in January for both programs were out-of-the-park successes (pun intended) for Coach Fox and Coach Darin Thomas. I believe this next round of announcements will continue that momentum. First-class facilities are the lifeblood of recruiting and we're committed at UT Arlington at providing our student-athletes and coaches all the tools necessary to win championships.
On the academic front, I couldn't be more pleased with the achievements of our student-athletes. The baseball and men's tennis programs both finished in the top 10 percent nationally in APR. Twenty-six student-athletes earned our Super Scholar Athlete of the Year designation and 23 were Scholar Athletes of the Year.
Three new additions to the staff need to be mentioned. Kris Wood has moved over from women's basketball to head up our Letterman Club. Kris is reaching out to our alumni and ex-letter winners to build the club into a permanent bridge to our proud past. Former men's basketball assistant coach Derrick Daniels is returning to the program as director of basketball operations. Jason Bibler joins volleyball coach Diane Seymour's staff as an assistant.
As we move from the WAC into the Sun Belt Conference on July 1, I want to again personally thank James Spaniolo for his vision and leadership in helping propel UT Arlington Athletics to new heights. Jim promises to be our No. 1 fan and we're going to hold him to that promise. We also feel privileged to welcome our president Dr. Vistasp M. Karbhari and his wife Lisa into the UT Arlington Athletics family. Dr. K is an enthusiastic supporter of student life and we look forward to working closely together for years to come.
Until the fall, Buck 'em,