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From Jim's Desk...

Jim Baker thanks President James D. Spaniolo for his service to UTA.
 
Jim Baker thanks President James D. Spaniolo for his service to UTA.
 

June 25, 2012

We've completed another athletic school year at UT Arlington, but that doesn't mean we're slowing down. We've got a lot of exciting Mavericks news to report as we prepare for the 2012-13 season in the Western Athletic Conference.

Before I begin with athletics, I'd like to congratulate President James D. Spaniolo on his career at UT Arlington. President Spaniolo recently announced his impending retirement from UTA after more than eight years of wonderful service to our university. President Spaniolo's dedication and love of athletics is one of the main reasons I came to UTA. His vision will live on as we enter a new chapter in UTA athletics.

UTA officially moves into the WAC on July 1 and the Mavericks volleyball team has the honor of kicking off our new conference membership with their first match on Aug. 24 against Savannah State at the College Park Center. Head coach Diane Seymour will have the Mavericks ready as they move into the CPC for the first time.

As many of you know, our first year in the WAC will also be our last. UTA had a deep investment in making the WAC work and we were hopeful for a long, successful run in one of the nation's most-esteemed leagues. Conference realignment, however, changed the playing field and UTA was forced to look into other possible affiliations.

We held a strong belief that UTA would land in a conference that would continue the momentum our department has built in recent years, increase our national exposure and give our student-athletes the best chance to be successful. The Sun Belt offers all of those opportunities and more.

I'd like to thank President Spaniolo and Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson for their tireless work in helping UTA find a new home for athletics. The 12-member Sun Belt stretches from Texas to Florida with institutions that mirror UTA's commitment to athletics and academics.

We truly believe our new softball coach, Kristie Fox, demonstrates that commitment. Coach Fox is all about winning on a national stage, as both one of the top young coaches in the country and as a player. Kristie was a two-time All-American at Arizona and part of two national championship teams. She also helped turn Texas Tech into a perennial NCAA playoff team during her three years on the Red Raiders' coaching staff. I truly believe Coach Fox will take the UTA softball program to new heights in the years to come. Read more about Coach Fox here.

Coach Fox can't do it alone. In the near future, we're going to announce a capital campaign to update our softball and baseball complexes to give those programs the best chance to win on a national scale. That's been done for the programs that reside in the College Park Center, and it's time to bring softball and baseball up to the same level. Stayed tuned to this space in the months to come for more details in how you can help.

We've also hired new strength-and-conditioning assistant coach Alan Bishop. He's a former college football player who will work primarily with the basketball and tennis programs. Read more about Coach Bishop here.

The 2011-12 athletic year has been one to celebrate. Men's basketball and baseball claimed Southland Conference championships, both qualifying for the postseason. Baseball outfielder Preston Beck was drafted in the fifth round by the Texas Rangers. The tennis program produced Players of the Year in Maria Martinez-Romero (women) and Mindaugas Celedinas (men). Men's track featured Romain Martin, an indoor first-team All-American and SLC Indoor Male Athlete of the Year. Volleyball celebrated the career of Alicia Shaffer, who shattered the school's career record for digs and was named SLC Libero of the Year.

A number of student-athletics also brought home a number of academic accolades. I'd love to list them all, but doing so would double the length of this posting. Believe me that's a great problem to have. 

Until next time,

Jim

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