Division I

The Texas Women’s Indoor Track & Field team was tagged as the one to beat after the Division I ranking were released earlier this week, placing the Longhorns first. 

Led by new coach Mario Sategna, the Longhorns return a nation-best five scorers from the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships to go along with incoming transfer Ashley Spencer, the two-time defending outdoor national champion in the 400 meters.

The men enter the season ranked No. 15, an improvement over their 23rd place finish last year. The team will be led by Ryan Crouser — the favorite to win the shot put title despite missing last indoor season due to injury — and sophomore heptathlon competitor  Johannes Hock.

Although it’s his first year as head coach of both the men and women’s teams, Sategna has been a fixture of the program for the last decade as an assistant to the men’s team under previous coach Bubba Thornton.

A credit-rating company released a report Friday outlining the advantages and risks of having well-known sports programs in NCAA Division I universities, and said successful programs can often strengthen a university’s public image. 

The report, released by Moody’s Investors Service, shows high-profile sports benefit universities by contributing to a stronger brand and increasing revenue through television contracts — specifically in major athletic conferences.

Corporate communications sophomore Ashley Horton said the brand recognition UT gains from its athletic programs is immeasurable.

“The brand is so established at UT,” Horton said. “If you wear burnt orange or a longhorn, everyone knows what that is. That’s mainly connected to our sports teams.”

Moody’s spokesman David Jacobson said the report suggested a correlation between a sports team’s successes and the number of applicants to a university.

“A successful program may lead to higher enrollment,” Jacobson said. 

The risks associated with high-profile college sports programs could include financial stress and increased media attention in light of scandals.

“The fines the university has to pay can impact its finances,” Jacobson said.

The report, which cited a spring 2013 Indiana University sports journalism study, asserted that more than 90 percent of Division I public universities do not have self-sustaining athletic programs, requiring resources from the university to continue.

While most Division I public schools do not have self-sustaining sports programs, UT’s total revenues surpassed its total expenses in 2012.

Evan Beyer, applied learning and development junior, said UT’s athletic gains should be going to other departments as well as going back into the athletics programs.

“If you put more money to get more money out of it, you have more money to put into other departments as well,” Beyer said.

Austin May, a finance, government and economics sophomore, said he believes the financing of high-profile sports is an issue worth examining, especially because head coach Mack Brown’s annual salary is more than $5.2 million.

“I think that a decently large amount of money should go to athletics, but one person should not be getting paid ten times as much as the highest paid professor here,” May said.

May said he believes academics should always take precedence over athletics.

“It’s a university first,” May said. “We’re a school that has a team, not a team that has a school.”

Jacobson said Moody’s specializes in rating bonds for universities and colleges to determine their credit worthiness, and that UT’s AAA rating is the highest the business offers.

Photo Credit: Colin Zelinski | Daily Texan Staff

While rowing might seem like a smaller sport, there are more Division I rowers on the University of Texas campus than athletes of any other sport than track and field and football. The Daily Texan has put together a Rowing for Dummies to make sure you can float with the lingo.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Division I volleyball means tough practices, nerve-wracking games and ever-present pressure to perform.

In the whirlwind that is volleyball season, Texas team members have found a calm leader in senior Sha’Dare McNeal.

She’s the one her teammates pinpoint as their quiet leader, a mellow force on the court even in the midst of chaos.

That laid-back attitude is signature of McNeal’s Southern California roots, a self-described innate personality trait that has served her well both on and off the court.

“I feel like it’s just my personality,” McNeal said. “I’m just a calm person and I really don’t let anything rattle me on the court.”

Entering college as the No. 5 recruit in the nation, there were ample opportunities for rattling. Yet McNeal swept pressure to the side, earning a spot on the 2010 Texas Invitational and Burnt Orange Classic all-tournament team as well as Academic All-Big 12 second team honors. In her second year on the team, she started all 33 matches and played in all 118 sets.

“Coming in, it was just a new experience,” she said. “I was ready to play, and I just embraced being on the team and learning a lot my freshman year.”

Four years and many games later, McNeal has stepped up into a leadership position on the team, guiding her younger teammates with her level- headed style.

“I’m a leader by example, so it’s just getting the girls ready for practice and telling them the goals that we have,” McNeal said.

Head coach Jerritt Elliott said seeing McNeal’s development has been a highlight of this season.

“She’s a big part of this program and has developed into a leader,” he said. “As a coach, you want to see players develop into confident young women, and I’m just pleased with where she stands with her confidence in herself and the lessons she can teach our younger players.”

Her home season could hardly have wrapped up on a higher note. McNeal had the last kill against West Virginia, whacking the ball over the net to conclude the sweep, which launched an explosion of applause and cheers from fans who longed to see the senior finish it up the right way.

Her team experience has left much deeper memories than squeaky gym floors, knee pads and plenty of airplane rides.

“It’s [been about] maturing as a person,” McNeal said. “Being around girls that are becoming my sisters. I like the closeness of our team. We all just mesh really well together, and it’s a joy practicing and playing with them.”

The No. 3 Longhorns dashed through the season with one conference loss, earning a lauded 23-4 record and a Big 12 championship trophy to commemorate their success.

As they head into this week’s NCAA Tournament, beginning Thursday, McNeal said the team is ready for the challenge new opponents and more pressure will provide.

“I feel really confident,” she said. “We’ve had really good practices leading up to it. It’s really exciting for us. A national championship has been the team goal for the past four years since I’ve been here.”

Titles, tournaments and trophies set aside, McNeal is sentimental about her last year competing for the Longhorns.

“I’ll miss everything,” she said. “The practices, the games. Everything.” 

Printed on Thursday, November 29, 2012 as: McNeal manages calm leadership

Jaylen Bond and the Longhorns fell to Division II Chaminade, 86-73. Texas committed 18 turnovers in the loss, falling to 2-1 on the year.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

In what could be deemed the worst loss in the Rick Barnes era, Texas turned the ball over 18 times and never looked to be in-sync on either end of the court in a 86-73 loss to Division II Chaminade. Until Monday’s win, Chaminade had won just six games against 76 losses in the Maui Invitational since the tournament’s inception in 1984. The Silverswords, who compete in the Pac West Conference, had previously won just four games over Division I opponents in school history. 

“We had guys that were scared,” Barnes said. “Standing around, you’ve got to take your shots, you’ve got to take them. Am I surprised? No, I’m not surprised. They’ve got some Division I transfers that have been around. It goes back to, I think players sometimes that play basketball have no clue what really goes on.”

With a bounty of blue-chip freshmen and a strong returning cast, Barnes and the Longhorns were expected to turn over a new leaf for the Texas program this season. Instead, Texas has turned over the ball an average of 13 times through three games and has left little room for praise with its sloppy early-season play.

Still without the services of point guard Myck Kabongo, the Longhorns struggled to keep possession and couldn’t maintain an advantage on the boards over a sizably smaller Silverswords squad. Kabongo’s backup, freshman Javan Felix led Texas with 17 points and five assists, but was once again plagued by mistakes and the lack of reliable support from his teammates. Sophomore forward Jaylen Bond had been cleared by the Texas medical staff to play, but was rendered ineffective after re-injuring the ankle that has kept him sidelined for most of the past month.

Chaminade’s fifth-year senior point guard DeAndre Haskins led all scorers with 32 points while connecting on 14 of his 15 free throw attempts. Haskins nearly recorded a double-double against the Longhorns. The Silverswords were able to outrebound Texas and shot 87 percent from the charity stripe, sealing their surprising win.

Moving forward, Texas has a gaggle of issues to tend to before it can even think about being competitive against any of its upcoming opponents. The remodeling starts with limiting turnovers and ends with improvement in almost every aspect of its game. With their season aspirations quickly trending southward, the Longhorns need to take a long look at themselves in their Maui hotel room mirrors in order to turn things around before their next game against either USC or Illinois, two teams that are more than capable of walloping the Longhorns at this stage in the season.

Printed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 as: Silverswords dice Longhorns

Powerlifting

Linguistics graduate student Jörn Klinger powerlifts at Gregory Gym Tuesday evening. The Longhorn Powerlifting team includes two world record holders who performed at the 2012 IPF Junior World Championship in Poland.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

At the back of the public weight room at Gregory Gym is a small, windowless room with a small sign that reads “Powerlifting.” The Longhorn Powerlifting team, while not a Division I athletic team, stays active and lifting through the efforts of volunteer coaches and motivated students.

Texas boasts superb powerlifting talent, especially in the muscles of psychology sophomore Ian Bell and exercise science junior Preston Turner. The two are roommates, and Texas knows how good roommates can be: Both hold several state, national and international titles, plus a couple of world records in their respective weight classes.

Turner hails from Victoria, Texas, where he excelled in many different sports in high school, including baseball and football. As a freshman, he began powerlifting and was hooked. According to Turner, lifting is big in Texas high schools, because it is a way to stay in shape during the football offseason. As a senior he was recruited to play football by several smaller schools but decided to come to Texas and focus on lifting.

“It is really for the love of the sport,” Turner said. “It’s highly addicting.”

Turner and Bell have both been around the world for powerlifting, including to the Czech Republic, Canada and Poland.

At the 2012 IPF Junior World Championships in Szczyrk, Poland, both Turner and Bell set world records. Turner set a record on the bench press with a lift on 684 lbs, which is not his personal best. His personal best of around 700 lbs came at a bench press-only competition rather than a full meet.

“It’s definitely a lot of dedication, because you can’t get back the days you missed,” Turner said. “It’s not about coming in and maxing out everyday; it’s about working through a plan.”

Bell comes from a powerlifting background. His father, Gene Bell, who has a couple of world titles under his belt, was a huge motivating force in Bell’s career as both a trainer and a role model. Bell started when he was 13, wanting to follow in the family footsteps.

Like Turner, Bell holds a couple of world records, including one in deadlift for his weight class, a record he set when he traveled with Turner to Poland earlier this year. His personal best is a deadlift of 810 lbs achieved at the GNC International PRO Deadlift Competition.

Despite everyone competing individually, powerlifting in college is not like it is in high school.

“We focus on team here because powerlifting in college is a team sport,” Bell said. “We are always encouraging each other, trying to make each other better.”

Since it’s not a Division I sport, most of the lifters have lives outside of the weight room, including demanding majors that require a lot of time management.

“School always comes first,” Turner said. “But I think it’s healthy to come in here and throw around some big weights, especially during a stressful week.”

Even if some are not at the top of the class or into the intense competitions like Turner and Bell, some people find advantages to participating in powerlifting.

“I think being strong is a really sexy trait, whether it be mentally or physically,” psychology junior Ploy Buraparate said.

Several women have found a home among the Texas powerlifting team, denying the stigma that weightlifting is only for men.

“It is kind of intimidating, but at the same time there is just a lot of camaraderie,” Natalie Escareno, an English and communication science and disorders senior, said. “It is fun. The one thing I love about this sport is that it is about how much you train, how much effort you put into it.”

Escareno said powerlifting is 100 percent different compared to bodybuilding, and women should not be afraid of joining.

“We are always looking for girls,” Escareno said. “There is always this misconception that this is bodybuilding, but it’s not. We are as girly as can be.”

The team is led by Turner and Bell, along with economics senior Austin DeShane, who is the president of the group. Their current unofficial coach is stepping down as he completes his schooling to join the workforce.

“We are working together to coach the team and all the new guys,” DeShane said. “It’s a team dynamic where everybody’s got your back, everybody’s looking out for each other.”

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Athletes working for love of lifting

Head baseball coach Augie Garrido instructs sophomore Mark Payton. Garrido’s two-year contract extension has him signed through 2015.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has its fair share of great coaches.

Head football coach Mack Brown brought the Longhorns their first national title in more than three decades and, until a brief hiccup in 2010, made them a perennial powerhouse once again. Men’s swimming coach Eddie Reese, who will lead the American swimming team in this summer’s Olympics, has made winning conference titles and top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships. Longtime coaches Connie Clark and John Fields have the softball and men’s golf squads ranked No. 5 and No. 1, respectively.

But Texas head baseball coach Augie Garrido, the winningest skipper in Division I history, is arguably the best coach on the 40 Acres. He’s won two of his five national championships and 686 of his record 1,837 games since taking over at Texas in 1997. Garrido, the only Divison I baseball coach in history to win 600 games and win national titles at two different schools (Cal State Fullerton and Texas), recently received a two-year contract extension through 2015. The 73 year old currently earns a salary of $935,000 and will get an annual raise of $50,000.

After his Longhorns dropped their series opener against Oklahoma State, 3-1, in 11 innings at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Friday, Garrido claimed to be unaware of the extension.

But the way Texas bounced back from that heartbreaking defeat, sweeping the Cowboys in a doubleheader the following day showed why Garrido deserved it.

“Last year’s team and this year’s team are the same way. There’s just something inside of us that just lets us battle. We hate to lose,” said sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, who has reached base in all 33 of the Longhorns’ games this season and who hit a go-ahead home run in Texas’ most recent victory Saturday afternoon. “There’s an instinct inside us that just says to pick it up another notch.”

As Garrido is well aware, the bottom line at Texas is simple — get to Omaha. In more than 40 years as a college baseball head coach, Garrido has taken his team to the College World Series 12 times, including seven times in 14 seasons. The five-time National Coach of the Year is also the only Division I coach to win national titles in Omaha in four different decades. He led Cal State Fullerton to national titles in 1979, 1984 and 1995 while bringing championships to Texas in 2002 and 2005.

Longhorns head men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes hasn’t quite struggled the past few years, but his squads haven’t excelled, either. Barnes signed the nation’s fourth-best recruiting class, according to ESPN, the fourth straight year he brought in a top-five class. Texas will welcome the likes of ESPNU 100 members Cameron Ridley (No. 8 on the ESPNU100), Prince Ibeh (No. 59), Javan Felix (No. 72) and Connor Lammert (No. 93). But, despite the annual haul of top-notch prospects, the Longhorns have just one NCAA Tournament in the last three years to show for it, not winning multiple postseason contests since a trip to the Elite Eight in 2008.

At least Barnes still has his job. Gail Goestenkors became the former Texas head women’s basketball coach after resigning a month ago. Like Barnes, Goestnekors took the Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament each of the five seasons she was in charge, winning only one game at the Big Dance and ending her tenure with four straight first-round exits.

Texas’ chances to return to Omaha aren’t as good as they were when it made a NCAA record 33rd College World Series appearance last season. The Longhorns began this year 2-5, the worst seven-game start in school history since 1944. But they’re 18-8 since then and have won all four of their conference series so far with a three-game set against Kansas on the horizon. Texas has yet to play top-10 teams Baylor and Texas A&M as it saves its best Big 12 opponents for last.
But, as long as Garrido is in the dugout, don’t count the Longhorns out. They’ll always have a chance to get to Omaha.

Printed on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: One of best at Texas, Garrido deserving of two-year extension

Roadrunner’s head football coach Larry Coker watches a drill before the team’s first-ever scrimmage. Coker is the former head coach at the University of Miami and has not been questioned by the NCAA about allegations that his players in Miami received gifts from boosters.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Welcome to big-time college football, Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners.

Sort of.

“It’s kind of like going from a Cadillac to an economy car,” said former Oklahoma State offensive lineman Patrick Hoog, who transferred to UTSA this fall. “But it’s still going to get me where I want to go.”

The fifth new Division I team in the last three years, UTSA will officially join the recent bonanza of college football startups when the Roadrunners play their first game Saturday. They stand alone as this season’s sole newcomer to the championship subdivision the highest level the NCAA allows for first-year programs.

But by next year, UTSA and coach Larry Coker will already begin the process of moving to the bowl teams — a transition that appears to be the fastest climb ever into college football’s top tier. The pace is so swift that the Roadrunners still won’t have their own football fields when they join the newly realigned WAC in 2012.

The timing of last summer’s WAC invite caught UTSA a little by surprise.

But far worse timing — and blindsiding UTSA even more — were allegations this month that some of Coker’s former players at Miami were treated to improper benefits by a Hurricanes booster who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence

Coker has denied any knowledge of the scandal that convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro laid out to Yahoo! Sports. But the allegations again put UTSA in the uncomfortable position of again answering questions about Coker’s past, and this time on the eve of celebrating its historic opener.

“It’s really very hurtful. It really is. I’ll be quite honest about that,” Coker said. “As I told our team, it can’t be a distraction. I’m here, it’s where I want to be.”

Coker won the BCS championship at Miami in 2001, but he struggled to find another job after being fired in 2006 following a season marred by an infamous sideline-clearing brawl and off-the-field violence. UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey said the school spent six months exhaustively vetting Coker before hiring him in 2009.

Hickey said her trust in Coker hasn’t wavered. The NCAA said it has been investigating Miami for five months, and Hickey said she’s reassured that never in time has Coker been contacted.

“I would surmise that [the NCAA] doesn’t see his time there as a major factor or his relationship with [Shapiro],” Hickey said. “Or through months of investigation, I would think there would have been a phone call to Larry Coker, and that hasn’t happened.”

The NCAA has added 19 new football programs since 2009, and nearly as many more could launch by 2014. Many are small universities in college football’s lower tiers — such as NAIA or Division III — but UTSA had no interest in starting off slow.

Future games with Oklahoma State and Arizona State have already been brokered.

Hickey defends UTSA’s plunge into football as sensible. Chief was vaulting the prestige of the 28,000-student campus, which for a decade has fought to shed the dismissive label of being a commuter school. Money, at least for now, isn’t a major motivator: Hickey said the program will break even, and expects the novelty of the first game to attract a crowd big enough to hit ticket revenue goals for the entire season.

Around 10,000 season tickets have been sold. For Saturday’s opener against Northeastern State, $6 tickets could be had through coupon discounter Living Social. UTSA believes a crowd of 50,000 is in reach, with attendance expected to fall around half that the remainder of the season.

Also opening the season Saturday are the Texas Longhorns — the football heavyweights with their own $300 million network are just an hour’s drive north in Austin with no shortage of San Antonio fans or alumni. It’s one of four times this season that UTSA and Texas play at home on the same weekend, and Hickey concedes the Roadrunners may adjust kickoffs to avoid conflicts.

Otherwise, Hickey said, UTSA can’t worry about being in the shadow of Texas, or slightly farther away, Texas A&M.

“(Texas) can seat maybe 100,000, and you got to be a pretty big donor to get any kind of good seat,” Hickey said. “So we’re fine. My daughter grew up in Boerne, which is a middle class, upper-middle class area, and very few of those kids or families ever go to a game at Texas or A&M. We’re the answer to that. We’re the team for this community.”

It’s also a team that, quite literally, plays throughout the community. The Alamodome is a 20-minute drive from the UTSA campus and practice is on a high school field. The Roadrunners hope to have their own practice field by spring 2013, but for now, track and soccer are ahead in line for new facilities.

Printed on Monday, August 29, 2011 as: UTSA entering Division I this season despite controversy.

Women's Swimming

Although her season ended almost three months ago, junior Karlee Bispo is still reaping the rewards of her performances both in the pool and in the classroom.

Last week, Bispo was named to the 2011 Capital One Academic All-America Team. Only nine women’s NCAA Division I swimmers and divers were selected for this year’s team. Bispo earned a spot on the third team, which consists of eight athletes from a variety of different sports. She will go down in record books as the 11th Texas swimmer to be named an Academic All-American and was the only Big 12 female swimmer selected this year.

A student athlete must have a cumulative 3.20 GPA or higher and be designated as a starter to qualify for a nomination. Bispo, an exercise science major, was also named to the Big 12 Academic first team each of the last two seasons.

In the pool, Bispo was crowned the Big 12 Women’s Swimmer of the Year and was named Outstanding Swimmer at the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championship meet this past February. She led the Longhorns to a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in March, qualifying for seven events.

Rowing

This season has been one to remember for the Longhorns, and a strong finish could land Texas in a position it has never been in since going Division I in 1998. Since Texas sent its top varsity boat to the NCAA Championships in back-to-back seasons in 2003-2004, the qualifications for the championships have changed to allow only complete teams, and not at-large individual boats, to be sent to the annual May event.


“As a team, it’s been our most successful season,” said head coach Carie Graves. “They’re doing extremely well and really owning it. That’s absolutely what you want as a coach.”


The changed rules have allowed for the very best and deepest programs to compete on a yearly basis but has also required teams to compete in all three events: first varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four, events that require different rowers in each event.


Since the rule change in 2009, Texas has never sent a team to the spring championships, but this year could be its first.


“The whole team is full of very competitive women who are really taking responsibility for what they’re doing on and off the water,” Graves said.


After winning their third straight Big 12 Championship in dominant fashion, the Longhorns have one very crucial regatta remaining, the inaugural Conference USA Championships.