Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Sun Belt Volleyball Season is Nye!

After the summer break that seemed a bit longer than normal to me, UT Arlington is set kick its athletic year with the volleyball team competing in its first match of the year on Friday, concluding a tough first week of classes that begin on Thursday (phew).

The Sun Belt Conference released its preseason poll on Monday, so that's as good a place as any to start this entry. the 2016 season marks the first time the Sun Belt will go to divisional play since the Mavs joined the conference in 2013. Parenthesis is first place votes.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

High School Football Facility Arms Race

In my last post, I mentioned how many folks in the UT Arlington Athletic Department consider Maverick Stadium a sub-par NCAA DI stadium as a lead in to what I think is possible to help make Maverick Stadium a quality FBS venue. Today, I want to look at a bit why Maverick Stadium has gone from a modern college football venue to needing renovations to become one again.

I don't think anyone but the most casual observers would be shocked if I said there was a facility-arms race in college athletics. Everyone has plans and/or has recently brought something to state-of-the art. Since 2010, UTA built a brand new indoor arena with College Park Center, completed several major renovations to Clay Gould Ballpark as well as Allan Saxe Field and have more on the drawing board (sign me up for the petition to get a shaded grandstand at ASF).

No sport has seen more in the last decade to decade-and-a-half than football. Locally, SMU has built Gerald J. Ford Stadium, which opened in 2000 and has since seen renovations twice since 2010. TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium has almost been a constant construction zone, seeing renovations in 1985, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2008. All that was then dwarfed by a $164 million rebuild of the stadium coinciding with TCU's entrance into the Big XII in 2012. North Texas opened Apogee Stadium in 2011, a very nice venue built primarily with student fees (I used to be able to comeback against my UNT associate's when they let me be know UTA didn't have a football team that at least the Mavs stadium was still better).

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Is Maverick Stadium FBS Worthy?

I'm the Maverick Rambler, so prepare for some rambling. It's the doldrums of the summer, so be glad I'm talking about anything UT Arlington-related.

One of the biggest challenges (maybe THE biggest) facing the return of a UTA football program is facilities. That point was made clear in the Nienas Report from over a decade ago-more on that in a moment. Those that I have talked to about the subject believe Maverick Stadium would need a lot of work and that the biggest obstacle to the return of football is a playing venue.

To some degree, I agree. Maverick Stadium was built in 1980 and as far as stadiums go from that era for schools our level, it was nice, but not state of the art. College Park Center is better than any other college basketball venue in Texas, but Maverick Stadium was nice for what it was. It hasn't aged well and the fact that U hasn't played a down in 30 years has meant only minor renovations to the stadium.

But one athletic official described Maverick Stadium to me as a dump. And that's where I disagree. I toured several Southland Conference venues when I was the sports director for UTA Radio back in the day. Texas State, who joined us in moving to the Western Athletic Conference and then the Sun Belt Conference had a worse stadium then than UTA does now. They have spent money and all of a sudden, it is one of the nicer venues in the Group of 5 conferences.

I see no reason why Maverick Stadium can't go through something similar. So with that set-up, here's a list, in order of priority, of the expansion/renovations I think needs to happen in order for Maverick Stadium to be the home of a Sun Belt football team.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Next New Sport?

I've been hearing some interesting rumors and wanted to wait until the summer to begin the discussion out of respect for the sports in play, as well as give me some fodder for the summertime lull.

The UT Arlington Athletic Department will begin women's golf intercollegiate play following this coming academic year. The sport will be the first addition since 1983. By all accounts, that will not be the last sport as the department is in the very preliminary stages of looking at another sport.

I thought about creating a tease indicating something else, but thought that just might be a bit cruel, so I'll just come out and say it. It is not football. But before the reveal, let me give some context to the thinking in UTA land.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Attendance Keeps Upward Trajectory

It is starting to become a point of pride in the UTA Athletic Department. The attendance in Maverick country has done nothing but rise again this year. In fact, there has not been a year-over-year decrease since the 2013/2014 academic year in any of the team sports, volleyball, men's and women's basketball, softball and baseball.

Let me get into some dry numbers that are the backbone of this post.

In 2012, volleyball averaged 322 fans per game. That moved to 458 in 2013, 551 in 2014 and 783 this past year. The team finished this year 19-10 and in finished fourth in the Sun Belt Conference.

The men's basketball team drew 1,872 fans per game in the 2013/14 season. That number grew to 2,051 in 2014/15 and set a program record of 2,888 this past season. This year, the Mavs had a promising year with marquee wins en route to a 24-11 record and a third place SBC finish.

Monday, June 6, 2016

May '16 Quick Hits

The UT Arlington baseball season ended with two consecutive losses in the conference tournament. The Mavericks upset regular season co-champion South Alabama in the opening round, 4-2, behind 6.1 innings from starting pitcher Kadon Simmons. Jacob Moreland pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in relief for the save. That set up a second round match up with Georgia Southern, a team that beat UTA 2-1 at Clay Gould ballpark during the regular season.

UTA's Joel Kuhnel, part of a powerful 1-2 punch with Simmons, was injured during that regular-season series. He was in good health for the conference tournament and was slated to start. His performance looked good early, giving up 1 run in 2.2 innings on one hit and no walks. However, the UTA offense was listless and couldn't do anything themselves.

I've commented on how it seemed this team was one hit or pitch away from big things. In a very unsurprising way, even mother nature seemed to confine this team to mediocrity as a lightening delay called the game for the day. Despite pitching only 29 pitches, Kuhnel was done and with it, so were UTA's chances.

The blueprint would have been similar to the conference series' at the end of the year, Simmons and Kuhnel to pitch deep, then hope the offense can get one more run in game three. As soon as a I saw that Kuhnel was not going to pitch the next day, I just knew UTA's chances were done. Sure enough, Georgia Southern claimed a 6-0 win, thanks to five runs in the eighth inning to blow the game open.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Out Recorded on Baseball's Season

Going to the final series of the season, UTA had a chance to really make a play and advance to the top of the standings. They could have advanced as high as the third seed with major help or finished as low as seventh. Had they won the series versus Texas State, they would have at least been tied for fifth.

As it was, the season ended much like it has been all year, full of promise yet ultimately disappointing. In the first two  against the Bobcats, UTA either led or were tied in 20 of the 21 innings. The one inning they ended trailing was the last one of game one, meaning they thoroughly dominated the first two games but ended with a split.

The third game, with the series on the line and a minimum of the sixth seed, UTA promptly gives up at least a run in the first three innings on the way to a 5-0 deficit. The Sun Belt Conference's second leading offense by batting average (and RBI, total bases, at-bats, while #1 in hits and triples) put zeroes up until the eighth. They had left three runners in scoring position and hit in a double play during the seven shut out innings. The eighth saw an RBI single. However, an unfortunate double-play ended the inning with another runner in scoring position. In the ninth, UTA scored another run with one out, got two runners on base. Yet, two straight outs ended the Mavs season with a whimper.

So if you were scoring at home, UTA could have shot as high as third (with a lot of help), could have finished fourth with a sweep at home and the other results staying the same and as low as seventh, finished seventh.