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.