A die-hard Longhorn fan and a friend of mine recently complained about the “awful athletic year” Texas is having. If you are a Texas sports fan, you’ve had a few reasons to sulk this year.
Your football team bumbled and fumbled its way to an 8-5 season that left a weird aftertaste in the collective mouths of UT fans. It was kind of like the aftertaste of a cold piece of pizza the morning after it’s been sitting on the kitchen counter all night. Not good, but still somehow edible.
Your basketball team played about as well as it was expected to play. What more can you ask from a team that had one scorer, no real big men and six freshmen running the show in the second-best league in the country? Few thought Texas would end up ranked at season’s end, and the Longhorns’ first round bow out of the NCAA tournament is evidence of that.
The women’s basketball squad didn’t even live up to its potential, and it actually has a team with experienced talent. Texas had a diamond in Chassidy Fussell, a leader in Yvonne Anderson, a post-presence in Ashley Gayle and Cokie Reed, and a bevy of young talent to build around. They ended up losing in the first round of the national tournament for the fourth consecutive time.
Texas’ baseball team, the one group of guys you could count on to not only make an appearance in the national rankings, but be on the top of it, is a pedestrian 10-8.
Isn’t this the same school that secured its own television network based primarily on its world-class major athletic programs? Aren’t these Longhorns supposed to be the Joneses of the college sports block? Turns out there are programs on campus that still run the streets, it’s just that few fans have taken notice.
Connie Clark’s No. 6 softball team is a cool 23-2 through this first part of the season. The expectations were always high for this team, but after last year’s meltdown, no one predicted they’d play this well, this early. The only games the Longhorn softballers have lost all year were to the top two squads in the country. And even still, Texas may have lost to No. 2 California as recently as this weekend, but it was on a 12-game win streak prior to the drop and have faced top-level opponents along the way. Texas boasts the best batter in the Big 12 in Lexy Bennett and conference-leading pitchers up-and-down the rotation. Head coach Clark is up for a revised contract at the end of this season, and somewhere in that mix should be a thank you note and a cash bonus for her from the Longhorn Network. After all, the network is broadcasting 31 of the team’s games this season (29 more than the amount of football games aired on LHN), and they are the only ones living up to the “Texas” hype.
There was once a time where the tower glowed burnt orange every Saturday in the fall. Lately, one of the only athletic programs raising UT’s electric bill is the men’s swimming and diving team. Coach Eddie Reese has laughed his way past conference competitors in the pool for 33 straight years, never losing a league title during that span. In 2008 the Longhorns men’s swimming team led all schools nationally with seven then-current, former and future athletes earning spots in the Beijing Olympics — all Reese products. He’ll take his No. 2 ranked squad to the NCAA championships this Thursday and it’d be wise to follow their times online through ESPN3 or on ESPNU, because if you blink, you just might miss them.
Those are just some of the sports that deserve their due from Texas fans. So if you’ve been dragging your feet because Texas didn’t beat OU in the Cotton Bowl, or it busted your bracket this March, or because rooting for the home team at the ballpark has been a shame, then quit it. You’ve got the No. 13 and 8 men’s and women’s tennis teams respectively, the top-ranked men’s golf team, a softball team that shows no mercy and many other programs that may not rake in the top-cash, but are cashing in on real talent. Pick your shoulders up friends. The Joneses still exist, and schools are still trying to keep pace, but perhaps you sulkers should too.
Printed on Monday, March 19, 2012 as: Major athletics trumped by successes of others