Thursday, December 26, 2013

Homecourt advantage and CPC

Been thinking of posting this feature for a while, and since UTA will go a couple of weeks between events, I figured now is as good a time as any.

One consistent theme in sports is home advantage. Whether the phrase contains field, court, track or whatever else, the idea is a team gets a boost being at home than if they played in the other team's home. A cursory look at the numbers for College Park Center suggests otherwise.

Since CPC opened in February of 2012, the men's basketball team is 15-9 (.625) at home. The women's team is 5-19 (.208). The volleyball team is 15-17 (.469). A little more context is in order to get a better grasp.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Two for one, basketballs wrap up non-conference play

It was a good Saturday for UT Arlington basketball. Both teams wrapped up the non-conference schedule with wins at College Park Center. In a long overdue post, I'll give my thoughts on the first section of the season.

On the men's side, the Mavericks wrapped up one of the toughest schedules in the entire Sun Belt. While the 5-7 record looks a bit rough, but a closer look at both who they played and how they lost gives hope to the team when Sun Belt play comes around.

Excluding the two wins against Dallas Baptist and Howard Payne (they don't count in the RPI ranking) the average RPI ranking - as of this morning - of the teams UTA played is 141. Three of the teams are in the top 25. With another in the top 50 and another in the top 100. Oklahoma rests at 19 had all they could handle from the Mavs. The two point UTA loss could have been a win. Texas-Austin sits at 28 and that should have been a UTA win.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Recognizing the football past

In previous posts, I have detailed how I am a UTA athletics fan primarily, regardless of sport. While I would like a football team to resume at UTA, I want it done right and not at the expense of any other sport. If we field a cross country team, I want to win it (as our men did this year in the Sun Belt). If we field a tennis team, I want to win it. If we field a Tiddlywinks team, yes, fund it at the level where we can win.

That said, it doesn't mean I don't want a team. I just can at least recognize the situation the University is in regarding money. But one thing the Athletic Department has done since I started showing interest is to seemingly distance itself from the football issue. Our Hall of Honor had many members, but that was about it. My feeling was always one of ambivalence towards it.

UTA used to have a solid football program. It was on its way to being a solid program again when the plug was pulled. I have never understood why what we had wasn't celebrated more.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How can 2-6 feel so good?

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday basically unplugged but now that it is over, I back in the blogging swing of things. In the meantime, I want to point you to a good fan site/blog, the Rusty Maverick, that does a good job of focusing on individual games. I recommend that if you are looking for that type of insight.

The Mavs men's basketball team recently completed a four-game road swing where they dropped every game, coupled with the previous home loss, UTA is on a five-game losing streak and is 2-6 on the year. Yet, I feel good. I'll analyze why.

As of Monday, UTA had one DI win against six losses. The combined record of all six teams is 31-12. Only Boise State had the outcome in hand early. UTA trailed Kentucky only eight at half and had an unfortunate break down to start the second. Otherwise, they were close for 30 total minutes. On Friday, the Mavs played one of their better games of the year against UT-Austin and probably should have won. I might air some grievances I have about the Horns in another post, but winning on the road is always a little more difficult. But sooner or later, if the program is to go where the coaches, admin and fans want it to go, they have to win those games. Excluding Kentucky and Boise State, the average margin of defeat was six and a quarter points in this losing streak. While defense has been subpar by our recent standards, the big problems has been the cold streak to start games.

Monday, November 25, 2013

UTA Football Epilogue

Saturday I posted the last game UTA has played to date, a loss to North Texas by three points. Unknown to the players, coaches and fans was what was going to happen today.

I warn you, if you are a diehard fan or lived during this time period, this will hurt. All of my research I have done in the years prior was focused on the games and events surrounding the team and its play. After reading an emotional post on the UTA forum (15th post of the thread) and seeing a Shorthorn tweet with the front page showing the announcement, I realized I never looked through the archives of any newspaper to get the news account.

I did yesterday and the feeling of despair by the fans and Maverick Club was palpable. Kudos to Chuck Curtis for maintaining his composure during the most turbulent of times.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

UTA Football Game Twelve

In the last post of this series, I noted that 1968 was the clincher for me to do This Day in UTA Football series. Had that season not had corresponding dates, 1985 would have also enticed me to do the same.

Unlike the 1968 season, there was no game in 1985 that sticks out. While many of the games have certain characteristics of memorable games - today's game does - it is the milestone of what this season is, and this game in particular, that is the overall defining characteristic.

Today's game was the last football game UTA played.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

CPC > Rupp Arena?

From time to time, there will be posts about the men's basketball team (and occasionally other sports) from another poster who is a good buddy of mine and a die-hard Maverick. In this case though, it is the Maverick Rambler who is typing up something that will be cross posted there. More on that when it happens.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I just wanted to say thank you so much to Coach Cross and the UTA Athletic Department who supplied me and the aforementioned friend with tickets to UTA's road game at the SEC's Kentucky. They helped create a memorable road trip with a good friend to Lexington, Kentucky.

Part of the reason that I really wanted to go was there experience that I thought Rupp Arena would provide. While they don't have a well-known and named student section like the Cameron Crazies at Duke or the attentive, active group at Kansas, there is an idea floating that Rupp is a great college basketball atmosphere. There is no doubt that students make any game more intense, intimidating and  overall a better place for the home crowd.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

UTA Football Game Eleven

When I was first thinking of doing this series, I was waffling about whether to do it. UTA has a lack of football activity...obviously. While I didn't think this would be a replacement, I thought it could help raise awareness of UTA's past. Information isn't easily obtainable and what I have took long, hard work to retrieve. That said, I don't kid myself that a blog a few months old about a University's Athletic Department who is supported by a largely apathetic student body has any sway. The time I would put into it would be considerable. Finally, I thought that if I liked the seasons that correspond with this year, then I might. When I saw 1968 fit this year, I jumped on it, simply because of this game.

Picture it, Arlington, 1968. UTA is the defending Southland Conference champions. They sit 2-0 and at the top of the 5-team SLC. They host co-leader and 2-0 Arkansas State Indians (now Red Wolves). The winner would at least get a share of the SLC title. On top of that, UTA was riding a 15-game home winning streak. Both teams were highly regarded in the College Division ranks this year. For the cherry on top, UTA was consistently above 9,000 in attendance and often at the 10,000 mark. They would never consistently hit those numbers again in the '70's or '80's.

All that set-up would have meant nothing if this game wasn't fun, but it went to the last second. In short, this game had all the ingredients for a wonderful recipe, and then it exceeded expectations.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

And I am Free....Free Fallin'

Tom Petty co-wrote that song as a reminiscence of childhood past, but the title easily pertains to the Mavericks volleyball team and their place in the Sun Belt standings.

I'm not going to go into much detail about the matches as a whole, the same criticisms I have written all season still apply: no consistency on offense, defensive not quite where it needs to be, mental fortitude up and down more than a Six Flags roller coaster. Add a five-match losing streak, all in conference play, and a team that was once fighting for second place in the SBC will be fighting to finish above .500 in conference.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

UTA Football Game Ten

If you are just scanning the record books, 1974 was nothing to be excited about. In fact quite the opposite. Two years removed from a 5-6 overall record and a 4-1 conference mark, UTA was 4-6 in 1973. However, head coach John Symank left to join the pro ranks as an assistant and Bud Elliot was about to complete his first year as head coach of UTA, the first of ten.

Elliott's record is remarkably mediocre. In ten years, he had two winning records, 9-2 in 1979 and 6-5 in 1981, and four 5-6 seasons, 1976, 77, 78 and 83. However, there is a bit of context that is needed when looking at his record as a Maverick.

UTA's move from the College Division to the University was poorly done. In fact, I have never seen one worse in the history books by any other school. They moved from the on-campus stadium, Memorial Stadium, to Turnpike Stadium, where they couldn't play very many home games in September. They played five total home games in September for the entire decade.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Men's Basketball Season Preview

After a great run the last two years (no team in Texas has won more games in that time than UTA), this years team is hard to figure out. We lose four good seniors, but won 19 games with an anemic offense. A couple of junior college transfers, one P5 transfer and a redshirt could make this year's team competitive or a rebuilding one.

PG should be a strength with a two-year starter, Shaquille White-Miller, returning and the Oklahoma State transfer, Reger Dowell, ready to play, as well as forward with the Hoover-like rebounder in Brandon Edwards.

7' center Stuart Lagerson is almost guaranteed to be the key. If he can play like Jordan Reeves did the last two years, the he will bog the middle down. Then that should open up both ends of the floor. Bare minimum, I just hope he can play defense the way Reeves did.

There is a freshman, Jorge Bilbao that intrigues me. He's a 6'8" forward who averaged 30+ for the Spanish team he played for. If he can get just 1/4-1/3 of that for us, he will be a real player. He also averaged almost 14 rebounds. Another if, but if can can average seven or so, add him up with Brandon Edwards and Lagerson and we will out-rebound most teams night in and night out.

If Bilbao struggles, then it is Edwards could be on an island. Greg Gainey, a guy who can play the 2 or 3 quite well is out this year on a medical redshirt with a torn labrum. He led the team last year in FG percentage at 52.3%. He made four starts, but was behind some quality players. He averaged 6.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game. He was expected to play quite a bit. If he got more minutes, took more shots and had a similar shooting percentage, it doesn't take an imagination to figure out what could have been.

Our big question mark right now is the 2. It was a weakness last year offensively, but was made up for by Cameron Catlett's defensive game. After Catlett's graduation, Dowell may fill that role some, but the early guys are either Lonnie McClanahan or Jamel Outler. McClanahan, a juco transfer from Kilgore, was a HM AA and averaged 12.4 points a game. Outler played for us last year after transferring from Texas Tech. Two starts, averaged 6.7 points and 16.9 minutes per game, but only shot 31.6% from the field. He is only a junior this year, so he does have a lot of room for improvement. If he improve his percentage, then that would be a potential season-changer for us.

I would assume in today's college basketball, very few have any idea how their bench will perform. UTA, who doesn't know who could be the consistent starter at many positions, is certainly in that boat.

Luckily, the intangible of coaching is clearly in our favor. Not saying he is the best coach in the SBC, but there is no doubt he can hold his own

Like volleyball, I won't give my preseason predictions until the non-conference is concluded, but I will say this, top-to-bottom, this year's Sun belt will be the toughest conference lineup UTA will have played in since the mid-80's when the Billy-Tubbs-coached Lamar team and the Karl-Malone-led Louisiana Tech team were making runs in the NCAA tournament and PG named Joe Dumars was running the McNeese State offense.

I will have a better idea of what the SBC will look like come the end of December when these teams play competition. As it is now, all anyone, and I mean anyone, has to go on is what is on paper. With three new teams from two different conferences in, and four teams out from an 11-team SBC, no one really has any clue. Until then, I end with the SBC pre-season coaches poll.

1 WKU 91 points (5 1st place votes)
2 South Alabama 78 (2)
3 Arkansas State 74
4 Georgia State 73 (2)
5 UL-Lafayette 73 (1)
6 UALR 48
7 UT-Arlington 36
8 Texas State 34
9 Troy 26
10 UL-Monroe 17
Preseason Coaches Poll
(First place votes in parenthesis)

1. Western Kentucky
91 (5)
2. South Alabama
78 (2)
3. Arkansas State
T-4. Georgia State
73 (2)
T-4. UL-Lafayette
73 (1)
7. UT Arlington
8. Texas State
9. Troy
10. UL-Monroe
- See more at:            

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Will the real UTA Mavericks please stand up?

Dang you Halloween week. Had I not been as busy as I was last week, I would have posted a glowing report on how the UTA Mavericks volleyball team played up to their best potential and set themselves up for a great run at the top of the standings. After dropping two home matches to the two Arkansas squads at home in the first half of conference play, they promptly went on the road, limited errors and won two matches against the same two teams in a total of seven sets.

Instead, I am back to questioning why the team can't find consistency. Ironically, I expected the team to have a losing record after this past week. They played Texas State in San Marcos, then hosted Georgia State and Western Kentucky to wrap up the home schedule.

When it came to Texas State, a rare midweek conference match, I figured they would lose for a couple of reasons. I feel the Bobcats have a coaching advantage. That's not necessarily a knock in this case, as Karen Chisum has had a lot of success for a very long and sustained period of time. UTA needed five to win at CPC and I really thought Texas State would come out fired up. I didn't think we would get swept, but at least most of the sets were competitive. The 'cats just closed out exceptionally well. Our attack percentage was a little too low and theirs was a little to high. But I really didn't see that as a shock.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

UTA Football Game Nine

I am morbidly intrigued when it comes to the 1985 UTA football team. There was a lot of potential and promise, but mistakes and miscues really hurt, ultimately fatally for the program. This game is one of them.

UTA came into this game with a 4-3 record. They were on a two-game winning streak and had won four of the last five (two of which were published on this blog in the This Day In UTA Football series). More importantly, they were 2-0 in conference play and at the top of the Southland Conference standings.

This week, UTA traveled to Jonesboro to face long time conference foe Arkansas State, who had chartered the conference with UTA. Tied with Lamar, UTA had faced Arkansas State more than any other team, as this would be the 22nd meeting.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

UTA Football Game Eight

When we last checked in on the 1968 UTA Rebels, they had just beat the East Texas State Lions for their second win of the year and a 2-2 record.

The College Division Rebels, the equivalent of Division II now, went on to beat fellow College Division foe McNeese State 46-21 at home and dropped a 41-0 game on the road at University Division opponent West Texas State.

With a 3-3 record, UTA would host the Trinity Tigers at home in their SLC opener. Trinity was 0-1 in Southland Conference play going into the game, having lost to Arkansas State, 31-14.

UTA had a couple of streaks on the line in this game. Dating back to 1967, they had won four SLC games in a row. The last loss was on November 19, 1966 to Lamar, a 27-7 setback in Beaumont.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Volleyball Half Way Done

First all, my apologies for missing last weeks volleyball commentary. The whole family minus the youngest came down with a stomach bug (though not from last week's matches [/rimshot]).

The high of the Texas State match quickly came to a crash after both Arkansas teams came away with victories.

The loss to Little Rock, a 3-1 setback, wasn't terribly unexpected. I predicted they would finish 2nd in the conference. UTA winning the third set showed they could hang with them at least. However, the team once again proved they can compete if they limit the hitting errors, or more specifically, can lose if they don't. Otherwise, they struggle. In the sets they lost, they had five, six and eight hitting errors. The set they won they only hit two. The fourth set was close in part because the Trojans hit eight errors of their own.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

UTA Football Game Seven

When we last left the 1985 team, they had picked up their first win of the year, on the road against the Southwest Texas State Bobcats. They followed that with a home win over Wichita State and a road loss to Drake.

Next came Lamar, a long-time SLC rival. Riding a ten game winning streak against the Cardinals, UTA was looking to even their record to 3-3 on the season, as well as win a homecoming contest, the fifth time in the 27 years UTA played as a four-year school that LU was the homecoming opponent.

After some uncertainty at who should be the starter, David Bates had begun to solidify himself as the starting quarterback. It helped that Kieth Arbon, who had transferred from the same university as Bates, was his receiver. Junior Jarvis McKyer and freshman Tony Brown had started to have a good showing at the running back position. The offensive line also found a rhythm after a rough start. In short, this was one of the better all-around UTA offenses since the '60's. There were great rushing teams in the '70's, but passing wasn't part of that equation.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

UTA Football Game Six

On This Day in UTA Football, we look back for the second and final time in 1963. We saw how the season started, earlier. Three games into 1963, the Rebels were 0-3, coming off a home loss to Sam Houston State, where they held a 28-26 lead in the fourth quarter before falling 34-28. Arlington State College lost to East Texas State 17-8 the week before. The 0-3 mark didn't quite tell the tale as the three losses were by an average of 6.7 points.

This week, they traveled to Hammond, Louisiana to play Southeastern Louisiana University. The Lions, playing in the Gulf States Conference, were 1-1-1 on the year, with a 14-0 win over the University of Southwestern Louisiana (Louisiana-Lafayette), a 7-0 loss to Samford and a 13-13 tie to East Texas State (Texas A&M-Commerce), who had beaten ASC 17-8 in game two.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Volleyball Riding High

Sorry for the delay in getting my analysis of the latest volleyball performance out. I decided to delay it because over the weekend, UTA swept a team they should have and were swept by a team that should have beaten UTA and then they played Texas State in a mid-week match.

In a 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 25-18) win over Georgia State, UTA played well, had only ten total errors and never hit below .350. Shelby Dickinson had a double-double in kills and digs, while Charmaine Whitmore had four blocks. Consequently, they forced the Panthers into 21 errors.

The Mavs were hitting on all cylinders and if this team played in a couple of matches they lost earlier this year, they wouldn't have.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sun Belt RPI

I will break down this weekend's volleyball matches a bit later, but for now I offer a look at the Sun Belt's RPI ratings, which were just published on it's actually pretty close to what I had in my conference predictions. I still think Little Rock is better than Texas State, and may have ranked Louisiana-Lafayette a little too high. Otherwise, five of the ten slots I picked are dead on and three more are one pick off.

52 Western Ky.

90 Texas St.

127 UALR

157 Texas-Arlington

171 Arkansas St.

208 Troy

213 La.-Lafayette

235 Georgia St.

256 South Ala.

279 La.-Monroe 

As an added bones, I give some of the teams UTA has played:

34 Tulsa
88 Baylor
100 North Texas
161 A&M-Corpus Christi
173 Appalachian St.
249 East Carolina
265 Louisiana Tech

Saturday, October 5, 2013

UTA Football Game Five

The latest installment of This Day in UTA Football takes us back to the 1968 season. The expectations were still high, but after three games, they were only 1-2. However, the first loss, as you read here, was to the two-time reigning national champion. They would beat Northeast Louisiana at home 24-14. They then traveled to a University Division opponent in New Mexico State. Despite playing on the road to a higher level opponent, they only lost 21-20.

The fourth game of the year was a local rival. East Texas State, now known as Texas A&M-Commerce, was one of the, if not the, most attended game of the year for both squads. The mix of fans from both sides added a dimension not usually seen at either schools home games. The games were usually close and fun to watch. Many of the program records UTA has to this day were set against the Lions, despite 150 or so games played after they were originally set. At least three UTA-ETSU games are still in the UTA record books.

Since they first met in 1962, they played every year minus one. The Lions won the first two meetings, but the Mavericks had won the previous three coming into this one.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Another Conference Realignment Downside

I started this blog after the dust settled on the latest round of conference realignment. While there are still moves to be completed, for example Western Kentucky to Conference USA, those were announced a while ago and nothing major looks to be on the Horizon, at least until Division IV and player stipends works itself out.

UTA is entering the second year in a row of being in a new conference. I could find many of the common complaints about the loss of rivalry, tradition, search for greener pastures and, in the case of the Mavericks, loss of geographic compactness that many others have made.

It is that second point that I write about now. After playing in the WAC, which occupied (and still does) three time zones, we now play in the Sun Belt, where four teams play in an opposite time zone. There was a point this year when UTA played in the Black and Gold Challenge in Boone, North Carolina that had the wrong time.

Today, the ladies play at Georgia State. I was double checking UTA's site with the Sun Belt. said six. The SBC's site said 5 Eastern, which would be four here. The UTA media guide said six and the Panthers site said six Eastern, which is five o'clock local.

This happened last year with six teams in two different time zones. However, this never happened in the Southland, where all teams were (and still are) in the Central Time Zone.

I am not saying we should go back. I like where we are and most of the teams were have joined. But it doesn't make it any less frustrating.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Volleyball's SBC Start

After wins against Louisiana-Monroe (3-1) and Louisiana-Lafayette (3-0) over the weekend, the UTA Mavericks volleyball team is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2009, where they lost the next three en route to an 8-8 year.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't discouraged early on Friday. Monroe, as I pointed out last time, is not a good team. UTA dropped the first set 25-21, while being out hit .242 to .094. They cruised in the second set and, while not looking like a well-oiled machine, at least played solidly to stay in front by a few points the whole time and reversed the set one score, 25-21.

I almost gave in to despair when the teams returned from the locker room. After an early back and forth, Monroe turned an 11-11 score into a 17-11 Warhawk lead. Both teams began a point exchange and ULM still held a six point lead at 21-15.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

UTA Football Game Four

We enter the final season which qualifies for This Day in UTA Football. 1985 wasn't supposed to be remarkable one way or the other, other than the fact that UTA was coming off a season not coached by Harold "Bud" Elliot for the first time since 1974.

He had a remarkable run of mediocrity, going 5-6 three times in ten years and finishing 3rd in the six team SLC more than any other. To be fair, during the majority of his tenure, UTA was giving out 68 scholarships while the rest of the SLC was at 80 and the NCAA allowed 95. So the fact that he was middle of the pack may have showed he did more with less.

However, with the final two years he did operate with full scholarships and the Mavs went 3-8 in 1982, and 5-6 (2-4 in the SLC) in 1983. That final year was with a lot of talent and high expectations. His contract was not renewed.

Chuck Curtis took over the head job in 1984 and in his first year, won seven games, only the third winning season since moving to Division I in 1971. Gone was UTA's second all-time leading rusher Scotty Caldwell. Phil Blue was supposed to be the returning quarterback, but he elected to try his hand as a student coach. That allowed David Bates to become the starter for 1985. He was a BYU transfer, as was his wide receiver  Keith Arbon and the two would hook up often.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Volleyball to Start Sun Belt Play

Over the weekend, the Mavericks, along with the rest of the Sun Belt Conference, completed their out-of-conference schedule. UTA is now 7-6 and I liked what I saw out of the team when they played their last tournament in Boone, North Carolina. They beat the Denver Pioneers and East Carolina Pirates and lost to the Appalachian State Mountaineers.

While the competition at the Black and Gold Challenge won't contend for any serious titles, it was roughly on par with what they have seen so far this season. And unlike previous matches, there weren't mental lapses that cost them sets. If that keeps up, the rest of the season will be a bit better than the prognosticators thought at the beginning.

They beat Denver in five sets. While they aren't the same team as last year, neither is UTA. The Pioneers swept the Mavericks last year when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference. The two sets they lost were by six each, and only the fifth set win was by more than three, but they battled and didn't make too many mistakes. Aside from the first set loss, the attack percentage was good, and maybe the most important, steady. There was no .060 in one set followed by a .400 the next. Consistency is what I have been waiting for and they got it here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

UTA Football Game Three

The third installment of This Day in UTA Football Series takes us to 1963 season. Arlington State College moved up to the four-year ranks in time for the 1959 season. Their first three seasons saw winning records, but the 1962 campaign finished 4-6.

Quarterback Doug Wilson was returning, who led the Rebels in passing, rushing and total yards the previous season. But otherwise, the team was rebuilding.

For the opening, ASC would face the West Texas State Buffaloes. They were a University Division opponent, today's equivalent of FBS. UTA, meanwhile was a College Division, which the closest equivalent is Division II. The previous year, the Buffs destroyed ASC 49-0.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cross Country Starting Well

I won't often post about our cross country squad. They compete quite well, but it just really isn't much of a talking sport. There aren't questionable coaching maneuvers, depth issues, starting vs. bench players or other similar situations a listener to talk radio would hear. While the team can work together, similar to bicycle rallies like the Tour de France, that is generally info privy to the team and coaches. And since I mentioned I won't just report results, it will leave them off this blog more often than most other team sports.

Today is the exception as the first meet of the year can give you a lot of info you may not have had before. While the courses change, results don't differ terribly much during the season. Sometimes some runners will run and while others will sit as the coach tries to determine who the best runners are or get some runners so merace time. Sometimes there are injuries that change the lineup of a team. But, the first of the season can provide a preview of the rest of the year.

I will say it a lot in future posts, but this will be the first time. In team sports, the transitive property can never be used to determine results. UTA beat Utah State in basketball last year. Utah State beat New Mexico State. Therefore UTA should have won the WAC tournament title when they faced NMSU. We lost.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Volleyball Struggles Continue

The second UTA-hosted tournament, this one the Hilton Maverick Classic, is completed and in the books. Like the last tournament in Waco, it ends the same, UTA wins one and loses two. The win was a against a SWAC team, one of, if not the worst volleyball conferences in Division I where there is little seperation between the teams.

Its the two losses and how they happened that are a little hard to take.

UTSA is expected to be a contender for the Conference USA championship. They received first place votes in the preseason poll. Losing to them, (25-16, 25-23, 25-25, 25-20) a really good team, not elite, but solid, isn't that bad. UTA won a set versus the 'Runners. But here's my problem, and its one I keep going back to when talking Mav volleyball results: There are too many mental lapses, mistakes that a seasoned team shouldn't make. Sometimes a good opponent can make you make mistakes. However, all the losses and some sets in wins have had the same trend.

UTA Football Game Two

The second game of my This Day in UTA Football Series is the season opener of the 1968 season. UTA was fresh of their first, and currently only, bowl appearance and win, a 13-0 win over North Dakota State. Expectations were high for 1968, where many of the notable names of a high-powered offense were returning. The quarterback position saw Senior Mike Baylor return. He threw for 1,384 yards in 1967, which is still currently 5th in one season for the Mavericks. Baylor is considered UTA's most successful all-time quarterback. I put an asterisk here because I am certain that David Bates senior year in 1986 would have passed him. As it was, 1985 was still a record setting year for Bates in his own right, but sadly it was only a one-hit wonder. Baylor was the reigning Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and also an Honorable Mention All-American.

Wide receiver Jimmy Thomas and end Dick Hill returned and they were the two biggest recipients of Baylor's passing. Both caught 35 passes in '67, currently ranked fourth on the single-season charts. Thomas had big play capabilities, as his 35 catches resulted in 721 yards. Like Baylor, he was an HM All-American in '67.

Fullback Danny Griffin could run or catch. He would retire as UTA's all-time leading rusher, and is still third all-time. He was also a first-team all-SLC selection.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Remedy for Lonely Fall

I posted this to the UTA forum a while back, so if you go to both, it will seem familiar.

For many UTA fans, support for adding a women's soccer program is purely as a way to be compliant with Title IX while the Athletic Department adds football. I have a different view about the reasons for adding the sport.

I'd like to UTA to add women's soccer, independent of any football decision for the following reasons:

1) UTA is increasingly becoming one of the few D1 schools to not offer the sport. As of the 2012/13 academic year, there were 323 DI women's soccer programs (There are 327, not counting those schools transitioning from DII). Comparatively, there were 347 men's basketball teams and 345 women's basketball programs. So UTA was one of only 24 DI teams without it, a percentage of 7 percent. That disparity is even smaller now. For example, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi debuted their program this year, while UT-Pan American will begin theirs next year.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sun Belt Conference Volleyball

Something I miss about the WAC was their weekly sports releases. In every sport, they would contain the conference record of the WAC versus all the other DI conferences and group the non-DI together. The Sun Belt doesn't do that, so I thought I would put that here. Unlike the WAC, I will only include conferences that we have played, and avoid the 0-0 listing for those we haven't. The parenthesis is UTA's mark.

Atlantic 10 - 0-1
Atlantic Coast - 0-2
American Athletic - 2-1
Atlantic Sun 4-1
Big 10 - 1-3
Big 12 1-0 (1-0)
Big Sky 1-1
Big South 0-1
C-USA 2-4 (1-2)
Horizon 0-1
Metro Atlantic Athletic - 1-0
Mid-Eastern Athletic 1-0
Ohio Valley 2-1
Pac 12 - 0-2
Southeastern - 1-7 (0-1)
Southern 1-4
Southland - 5-5 (1-0)
Southwestern Athletic - 7-1 (1-0)
Summit - 1-1
Western Athletic 1-1

Saturday, September 7, 2013

UTA Game One

Today is the first installment of my This Day in UTA Football Series.

On this day in 1974, UTA traveled to Waldo Stadium on the campus of Western Michigan. It was the first game of the Harold "Bud " Elliot coaching tenure, which would last ten years, the longest of any coach at UTA as a four-year U.

Mavs Stumble

Western Wins Opener, 33-6

Kalamazoo, Mich.- Western Michigan jumped on a jittery University of Texas at Arlington club for 21 first-quarter points and rolled to a 33-6 victory Saturday in the college football opener.

Spoiling the debut of new coach Bud Elliott, the Mavericks gave the Broncos an easy touchdown on the first series of plays. Punter Gary Briscoe fumbled the snap and Western recovered on the UTA 4-yard line. Fullback Jim White bucked over from the one for the score.

Western drove 62 yards on eight plays on its next possesion, with tailback Wesley Cates scoring from the one. Moments later, Bronco Duncan McKerracher hit UTA quarterback Vic Morriss, forced a fumble and recovered it on the Mavs' 28. Cates swept end from the 24 to make it 21-0.

Eugene Ayers returned the next kickoff 40 yards to the UTA 48, and on the first play Morriss passed 52 yards to Ron Barnett for the Mavericks' only touchdown.

In the second quarter, UTA gambled on fourth and four at the Western 9, and Morriss was stopped one yard short of a first down on a keeper. UTA was still pressing in the third quarter, when Elmo Simmons carried the ball on fourth and two from the Western 44, he was stopped a yard short.

From there, Western pushed 57 yards in 10 plays, with quarterback Pepper Powers scoring on a 20-yard keeper.

The Broncos' Tom Baetens blocked a Briscoe out of the UTA end zone for a safety, also in the third quarter, and after aCates returned the ensuing free kick 51 yards,  Bruce Bendix booted a 31-yard field goal.

Western ground out 222 yards rushing and recovered two Maverick fumbles to control the game-and the Broncos did not commit a turnover.

Taken from the Dallas Morning News, 9-8-74.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Volleyball Expectations Met

I waited until after today's match to post my current thoughts on the current status of the Maverick volleyball team. UNT was one match, which they lost 3-1. I wasn't happy, because it seems they have the same issue, they aren't able to maintain composure throughout the whole match.

But today's opener in the Baylor Classic against Mississippi State followed the same script. It was enough for me to feel this team is what we saw on Tuesday and will see most of the season. They will do fine against low-level competition, which is an improvement over last year, but will fall just short against the mid-level. Miss. St. only won four matches last year, but they are a bit better, and certainly aren't at the level of a Southwestern Athletic Conference school and with today's win are already at three for the year.

But, we used to measure our program's success in conference championships and NCAA appearances. Now it is, we did okay against the last place SEC team that is improving.

In the last two matches, the Mavs started hot, are able to match the opponent and win the first set. Then, they can't maintain it, drop the next two by sizable margins, then can't keep the focus by just enough to lose the fourth set and the match.

This will give me great consternation to say, but I think clearly UTA needs a coaching change. The reason I don't like saying that is because Coach Seymour was an assistant when I was a student broadcaster giving play-by-play of the volleyball team. Look at the UTA Volleyball Wikipedia page and compare her stats to every other coach. Something to consider, not only is she the only Maverick Coach with a losing career record, we are in the longest stretch between 20-win seasons in program history, currently at six, and what I have seen this year will be seven.

Through five games, I feel I can adequately say, this will be a 12-15 win team. The good news is that we will beat several SBC teams. The bad, we are no where near the top-level teams of the conference.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Volleyball Start

While the 3-0 start looks great at first glance, I have a hard time feeling accomplished winning the Hilton Invitational. They went 3-0 in their three matches, but did drop two sets to Abilene Christian and a set to Louisiana Tech.

The five-set match against Abilene Christian is a little troubling since ACU is a University that has just began its first year of transitioning to Division I. ACU generally competed well in the Lone Star Conference in DII, but UTA Volleyball should be above competing with DI transitional schools.

The final win was against Louisiana Tech. That was a four-set match that is a bit frustrating too. Since they were a conference mate last year, they played twice last year and UTA won six out of seven sets. La Tech didn't win a WAC conference match last year. UTA finished two spots up in the standings with only five conference wins. C-USA thinks they haven't improved much since then, as they were voted to finish 14th out 15 schools. The first two sets were closer than they should been, including the one dropped set. The last two are what we really should expect, a 10+ win.

I hope there are two things at play here. One, the team had to shake off the rust coming out of the gate. They do return a lot of players from last year's 9-22 squad. Every year almost always introduces new players. This was their first match in roughly nine months, so maybe. The other is nerves. I would think ACU would be a bit more nervous, since they are transitioning. Against both ACU and La Tech, though, UTA started slow and then would win the final two sets. If they can play at or above the level of those final two sets, I think we could be alright.

I didn't want to mention the Grambling St sweep, because there are two things generally at play here. The first is that Southwestern Athletic Conference volleyball teams are generally terrible, with wins usually coming against other SWAC teams, and Louisiana volleyball teams as a whole are usually terrible. This was the equivalent to a top level college football team playing the bottom team in the next lowest division. It was a warm up. I hope this helps with the confidence level of the team. But I don't think it did much else.

We will know more about this team come tonight when they face North Texas in Denton. UTA lost last year in five sets at CPC. UNT would go on to win 26 matches and was the top team in the SBC West Division. They return five starters and their Libero, so they should be experienced. The C-USA poll has the Mean Green in a jumble among the top four teams, as well as two on the preseason All-Conference 1st team. The only question mark is the coach, who is in his first year at the helm. His previous season was a six win campaign at Washington State. The Pac-12 is no joke in volleyball, so that doesn't mean anything.

UNT is 1-2 on the young season. They lost the first match of the Loyola Marymount Tournament to Loyola, 3-0. Not quite like the Pac-12, but the West Coast Conference is a really solid volleyball conference. They were then swept by #12 UCLA on day two, and then they swept Albany to wrap it up. BTW, Loyola lost to UCLA 3-1. Albany was the equivalent to Grambling in that tournament, they didn't win a set.

UTA at UNT tonight at 7.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Upcoming Feature

This week, college football season began. I'm not sure if you may have noticed, but UTA does not field a team. As such, every Saturday, beginning in less than a week, I will begin This Day in UTA Football Series and pull a historic game from UTA's history as a four-year University that coincides with that date. UTA never played in August, so I couldn't start two days ago, but will coming up.

Addendum to the Last Post

In the last post, I chronicled what I thought were many of the reasons that led to the football programs demise. There is another reason I thought attendance was a little suppressed, but it came after Maverick Stadium was opened, and really didn't seem to fit the flow of the post.

I think the location is poor. I received  a Masters Degree from UTA in City Planning. One of the fields of planning is how we lay out the built environment, things like cities, urban areas, shopping centers, subdivisions, etc. There are so many factors that come into play, and many are unique with the project.

Most of the athletic venues are labeled on this map...and isolated from the rest of campus.

In the case of Maverick Stadium, it is obvious that the location was chosen because it was either the cheapest option or the easiest, maybe both. Somewhere more visible, like Cooper, Abrams or Division Street would have been better but I have suspect there was an feeling that we couldn't get rid of a parking lot on the major streets because we need those for students as a commuter school.

UTA had a tendency to put athletic facilities wherever they could fit. Clay Gould was put where it was because that's what UTA acquired in the late '60's to early '70's. They purchased the land at the edge of campus (and even edge is used a bit loosely), demoed the homes that were there and put up a field. It is well over a mile away from the edge of the heart of campus, and completely invisible from it. Alan Saxe was put next to it using the same thinking. The intramural fields were added there as well.

But look at the map above and see just how non-contiguous Maverick Stadium, Clay Gould Ballpark and Alan Saxe Field are from the rest of UTA. East of Davis Street, there is a large section that seems to be one big, contiguous section of the UTA campus. East of Nederman, it is a virtual square. Moving west and it becomes obvious that Maverick Stadium and the Clay Gould/Alan Saxe section are basically square parcels that touch the adjacent part of campus at the corner.

UTA built Maverick Stadium on the old football practice fields. It was the easiest location. At that time, most of the campus-owned land between Nederman and the stadium were not part of the everyday use that students would take a part in at UTA. It was virtually invisible.

When comparing UTA to other Universities and the lack of planning the location of athletic facilities
becomes even more noticeable. Most often, all the athletic venues are at the same place.

This is TCU. Notice how every athletic venue is clustered around Stadium Drive and then to the west. The campus also is quite contiguous. Most of the venues are visible from the portion of campus the students use and occupy everyday.

College Park Center works, even though it too is on the edge of campus. However, it is on the eastern side, integrated into the campus, visible and was part of a bigger plan to build residences, retail and other amenities. If you look back at the UTA map, you'll clearly see the eastern edge of Arlington is a line that ends on Center Street. There are multiple ways to get there, it can be seen, is on one of the more well used streets. It fits nicely into the campus and is the best integrated athletic facility at UTA.

Basketball attendance has increased from a rough average of 800, to 2,000 during the first full year. A proper venue, which Texas Hall really wasn't helps, but so does the location.

In 1985, when football was disbanded, UTA averaged 5,600 the last year of the program. Counting all the students dorms, campus-owned apartments and nearby non-University apartments, there were more students on and near campus than football attendees. Much of the reasons were detailed in the previous post, but a better location, say on the South 40 parking lot which is located on the southeast corner of Cooper Street, would have increased the attendance.

I'm not saying the program would have been saved or attendance would have shot through the roof if the stadium was on Cooper, but it would have been better than in a stadium no one sees when they are on campus. Memorial Stadium was in a prominent, visible place on campus and UTA commonly had standing room only for the games. Knowing and seeing the stadium are two different things.

This leads to other considerations. For the existing sports, increased signage, getting rid of dead ends to increase connectivity on the western part of campus to the main section and a marketing effort increase awareness of the far flung sports.

In the football revival effort, a serious question could be raised over whether Maverick Stadium, which will need some renovations, is the proper venue. I ultimately think it should be renovated, for reasons other than location. But it will need help for the mainstream student to know it is there.

Some have suggested that that a new stadium be built for football and Maverick Stadium be renovated for track and field as well as soccer. That could easily be done too, but I think it is more expensive and land gobbling.

Either way, something would have to change from the current for the sport to gain visibility on its own campus.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

UTA and Football

Might as well get the big topic out of the way...UTA football. It is simultaneously the 800 pound gorilla and the elephant in the room.

If you know UTA, then the next part is merely a history refresher. UTA began organized football play in 1919, when it was a junior college. They won numerous conference titles as well as two national championships in the '50's. I have heard speculation, but nothing to confirm, that the NC's were the reason UTA moved to four-year status in 1959. I suspect it had more to do with academic aspirations, but to each their own.

They founded the Southland Conference with four other schools in the mid '60's and won two consecutive championships starting in 1966. The 1967 team went to the Pecan Bowl and beat North Dakota State, 13-0. They were one win away from three in a row the following year. In 1969, they were still competitive and popular on campus.

That all changed, starting in 1970.

There were many events that individually would have only had a small effect at worst, but taken together, really spelled trouble for the team. The events, given in no particular order, all worked together to both kill support and hinder the teams competitiveness (some would say that is one and the same).

1) UTA began a transition from a more traditional campus to a commuter school. This killed local, student support, as those attending UTA showed for class and left. The school built no residential housing, instead only focusing on academic buildings. Several historical buildings were destroyed, including Memorial Stadium (more on that next), and several were replaced with parking lots.

2) At the behest of the City of Arlington, UTA moved out of their on campus facility, Memorial Stadium, and moved to Turnpike Stadium, which was located very near where the current Rangers Ballpark is today. Memorial Stadium was then demoed. My understanding is that the stadium was old, showing its age and was in need of repair. Some I have interviewed even went as far as to say it was unsalvageable. I can't say it was or wasn't, but I do know that many stadiums that are currently as old or older than Memorial would have been are fine football facilities.

It was replaced with the current Maverick Activities Center and a parking lot. Moving off campus further disengaged students from the program. The last year UTA played at Memorial, they averaged 8,460 fans, a large total for that time period and not much less than total enrollment. The first year at Turnpike, they drew 4,580 per game.

3) UTA had many mascots for its sports teams, but they had been using Rebels for two decades. It had become very controversial and in a move that was less than democratic, the Administration spearheaded a change to its current Mavericks name. Regardless of where you stand, it did further alienate supporters, creating a divide between fans and the program.

4) An ill-advised and poorly planned move from the College Division (today's Division II) to the University level made the program a laughing stock. They won two games in two years, including an 0-10 mark to start. They program operated on a shoestring budget. Several news articles I retrieved from the Dallas Morning News archives reported that UTA funded 68 scholarships, while the NCAA limit was 95. Moving up and hoping to win is not a good strategy for success. Winning breeds fan support. Losing kills it. UTA wouldn't have a winning season again until 1979. From 1970 to 1985, only three of 16 seasons finished with more wins than losses. The silver lining is that five of those 13 seasons were 5-6 marks.

5) A popular coach was forced out. I don't know all the details, but Burley Bearden was an assistant for Chena Gilstrap when UTA won the Junior Rose Bowls for the JuCo Championships. Gilstrap was the coach until 1966. He was instrumental in the formation of the Southland and was the Athletic Director after that. By every single account I have read, he was very popular. Bearden coached the two conference championship teams and is still the only coach at the four-year level with a postseason win. He was well-liked by players and staff. It is possible that he was a good coach but a poor recruiter, though, as he went 18-9 in his first three years and 5-15 his last two. I don't know how much stock I put into that. The five losses in 1969 and ten losses in 1970 came against very tough opponents. It was the price they paid for moving up.

6) Funding was less than ideal as well. As I mentioned earlier, UTA underfunded the amount of scholarships for most of the 1970's. Coaching salaries were lower than peer schools.  I can't imagine what the recruiting budget looked like either, though I do know it was poor for every other program at UTA.

There have been other things folks have mentioned, like the acrimony over the funding sources of the football program, but I don't think those had much as much impact on the winning tradition and fan support they had enjoyed in the '60's. It was a common sight for UTA to draw over 10,000 for a game in the late '60's. They did it once in the last 16 years of the program.

There were two chances for redemption, but as was the case in the '70's, UTA fumbled the ball, both literally and figuratively.

UTA built a solid, competitive team for the 1979 season. They were two points away from an Independence Bowl berth (sealed by a fumble in the McNeese State game). They still finished 9-2 that year and one game behind McNeese State for the Conference title. That would rank as the second best year for UTA in terms of winning percentage.

That alone wouldn't have been as big a deal. Teams will consistently have roller coaster results from year to year. But the following year, UTA opened Maverick Stadium, the first on-campus stadium in a decade. The buzz surrounding that AND following up a 9-2 season was a golden opportunity. Had they sustained the winning into the 1980 season, there might have been a revival of fortunes and UTA would be playing football today. However, they dropped the first game 31-14, and it wasn't as close as the score indicated. Expectedly, the stadium sold out (18,033) and is still the record for highest attended home game. That happens all the time when a program unveils a new stadium. But by losing that game, followed by a 3-8 season, including an 0-5 start at home, signaled that the 1979 team was an apparition, not a new Maverick norm. From there on out, 4-7,000 was the attendance average at Maverick Stadium and UTA would never see 10,000 at home again.

The second chance for UTA may have been the season that wasn't. UTA set several offensive records in 1985, even though they finished 4-6-1. They would have been in a tie for firstt if they had found a way to score a total of seven more points against three teams.

19 starters were set to return for the 1986 season. Arkansas State's Head Coach Larry Lacewell stated the Mavericks would have been the team to beat in 1986. Instead, his team went 12-2-1 en route to the 1-AA national championship game. Some of UTA's players were on his roster. Another six transferred to Southwest Conference schools. I admit this is pure conjecture, but I firmly believe UTA would have been in the 1-AA playoffs that year, and played in more than one game. Would that have been enough to change the Mavericks fortunes?

However, from the moment the football program was disbanded, conversation shifted to when will UTA bring back football.

My position: it will be sooner rather than later. Reading the tea leaves, interpreting quotes from the various actors, moves made by the Athletic Department and trying to sense the community at large, I see a real change that didn't exist even less than a decade ago.

In my opinion, if UTA restarts football, several conditions have to be met.

1) The existing sports can't be negatively impacted. Back when UTA had football, no other men's sport had full scholarships. They did immediately after the program disbanded. The current offerings have been successful in both the SLC (three Commissioner Cups for the best overall athletic department) and the WAC (second highest finish per sport of the ten Universities). I see no reason the Sun Belt will be any different. They have been given the resources to compete and should maintain that.

2) Similarly, the existing sports should have the best venues and facilities they can. College Park Center, the new basketball and volleyball home, satisfies a lot of that. Softball and baseball are next. After that, I think the UTA Tennis Center should provide locker rooms and offices and then we are set in that realm. Maverick Stadium is still a top notch track and field venue.

3) The funds needed to restart the program should be raised externally. I don't care where it comes from. In the case of CPC, funds came from the system, donors and indirectly from the gas wells near campus. Existing sources should not sacrifice anything for start up costs.

The good news, I think all of this is quite doable. Since football's demise, UTA has proven it can run a quality, competitive athletic department. I see no reason they can't do it with football if the above conditions are met.

Volleyball Season Begins Friday

I post a lot on the UTA Maverick board, a small but loyal group of posters contributing to the discussion of UTA athletics. Especially early on, many of my posts will be duplicated either on or from there. This post will be the same.

UTA begins their first year in the Sun Belt conference this year and the first sport to begin play will be the volleyball team, the only fall team sport. That will be at 7 pm at the College Park Center against Abilene Christian, a transitional DI program.

The Sun Belt released their preseason poll and it is about what I expected. From the post:

Summer doldrums are over. Volleyball begins play this week with the first matches at CPC.

Here's the SBC preseason poll with the parenthesis indicating last years record and, if applicable, the SBC record, bold is a non-SBC conference record:

1. Western Kentucky (33-4, 15-0) – 100 points
2. UALR (13-14, 9-5) – 77 points
Troy (21-12, 10-5) – 77 points
4. Arkansas State (19-14, 8-6)– 64 points
Texas State (14-16, 9-9) – 64 points
6. UT Arlington (9-22, 5-13) – 47 points
7. Louisiana-Lafayette (16-16, 6-8) – 46 points
8. South Alabama (13-17, 6-9) – 39 points
9. Georgia State (4-20, 2-10)– 24 points
10. Louisiana-Monroe (5-18, 1-13) – 13 points

This is about where I would put them. WKU is in the preseason top 25, so that is no shock. I think I would have Troy as outright 2. The Arkansas teams are even and round out the top four, in either order for me. And until we beat them on the court, you have to give the nod to Texas State.

As for the teams below us, historically, we are better than the Louisiana's, and as last year showed, that is the case even when we struggle. You'd have to go back to 1995 to find South Alabama's last winning season, both overall and conference. Didn't follow the Colonial, but past records indicate that Georgia State isn't that good, so that fits.

We have experience this year, something we didn't have last year, so hopefully that will translate into something better than what is listed here, but as it stands now, this seems to be pretty accurate with what we know about the conference. 

Further, let me add the all-time records against our new conference mates.

Arkansas State, 7-1
Georgia State, 1-0
Lousiana-Lafayette, 8-0
Louisiana-Monroe, 38-2
South Alabama, 1-0
Texas State, 40-24
Troy, 0-0
UALR, 8-5 
Western Kentucky, 1-0

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

UTA Mavericks blog

Greetings. I am a UTA Maverick. Graduated with a bachelor's in 2003, Masters in 2010. Began my love affair with the athletic department in 2000, shortly after I transferred to UTA. During that time, I was fortunate to be a sports broadcaster for much of the athletic department's team sports and witnessed many historical moments. My favorite is a tie: the 2001 NCAA Baseball Tournament, in which Craig Martin hit a late inning homer to win their first NCAA tourney game, and the 2003 NCAA softball team that beat Florida and Florida State in the tournament, behind the pitching of the staff ace, Katy Cox.

I intend for this blog to about commentary only. If you want game stories, that is what and are for. I will not compete with those, but I do want to add something that is missing, Maverick discussion that goes beyond the games.

I've had the desire to write a UTA-focused blog for a while, and no time like the start of the athletic year.

So with that, I give you...The Maverick Rambler.