Saturday, November 18, 2017

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 12 - Winning it All

Hard for me to imagine a scenario where I go four games since last spotlighting the 1967 team, but that's how the scheduling works sometimes. I did cover them three times in five games in the first half of the This Day in UTA Football Series, but those were either big games or meant more than what the other seasons offered.




One of the notable things about this year's team was just how good they were.

The newly-named University of Texas Arlington Rebels were of a season in which they won a share of the Southland Conference Championship, but it was Lamar that owned the tie-breaker and they went to the Pecan Bowl in 1966.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 11 - Ending the Season


Since we last looked at the 1961 season, the Arlington State College Rebels had just lost to McMurray. That started a mini-slide where they would lose two of three. The following week, they rebounded to a 19-14 road win at Trinity, but lost at home to Abilene Christian, 17-15 the week later.

Those last two teams would be a staple of the Rebel schedule. Both the Tigers and Wildcats first played ASC in 1960, and would do so til the early 1970's. All three were founding members of the Southland Conference.

That always made me wonder if there were other teams invited who declined to join the SLC. Louisiana Tech appeared frequently on the Reb schedule. Northeastern Louisiana, now Louisiana-Monroe did too. We they invited and declined? I don't know that we'll ever know.  I have never been able to find any definitive answers. Those things are hard to find, even today.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 10 - Too Little...

In last week's installment of This Day in UTA Football History, the 1972 UT Arlington Mavericks started the season 0-6 before claiming their first win. 1978 is about as twin as twin could get. There are so many parallels between the to that it is hard to keep straight. Both seasons featured similar starts, ends, records and game dates. Opponents were similar and exactly the same in some games. Two of the non-conference opponents were the same and four of the five SLC games were the same. They lost a non-conference game against an opponent on the road that I'm convinced would have been a home win (see the season opener here). The offenses were run first and starred a running back with All-America potential and NFL-staying power.

And all my gripes from last week apply here as well, mostly.

For the first time since 1967, UTA played more than one September home game. Sadly, the September curse didn't lift and the Mavs lost an 18-10 affair to West Texas State and met the eventual conference champions to open the conference season, a 28-21 setback to Louisiana Tech.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 9 - Starting a 180

I've been fairly vocal in how the UT Arlington athletic department really screwed up the jump to the highest level of college football. In an effort to conserve space and not rehash old arguments, I just want to let the 1972 season to this point speak for itself.

Coming into this installment, UTA was 0-6. They started the first four games on the road, at Southern Mississippi (38-17), Oklahoma State (21-3), Toledo (38-24) and TCU (38-14). No September home games.

Then the first home game was against the pre-season conference favorites Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs showed why they were pegged number one with a 35-14 win in front of 7,300 at Arlington Stadium. While that was a number that was really good for the team during the tenure at the stadium, it would look quite empty in a baseball-shaped facility for 35,000. It would also be the highest attended game of the year (Note the attendance of today's game).

The final opponent prior to today's game was New Mexico State. It was a road loss 17-12, and was more akin to what they Mavericks were capable of doing. Had they played more even opponents, and played more in Arlington, there would have been far greater success in the 1970's.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 8 - Looking for a Streak

I'm gonna be real honest with this post. I have a hard time developing interest in the 1961 season. I'm not sure exactly why, as they were one of only five teams in the 27-year history as a University football team to record a .700 winning percentage. In reality though, the Arlington State College Rebels weren't playing for much other than pride. There were no conference championships on the line, as they were fresh up from the junior college ranks.

Perhaps it was the success of this year and the prior (9-2) that prompted the search for schools to form a new conference, but as it was, there wasn't anything in 1961. There were no bowls, postseason teams, or pride points other than the individual games.

There also was a lack of star power. You'll be hard pressed to find Allen Anz (QB), Freddie Arnold (RB) or Wayne Crowley (E) in many references to the UTA football program, but they were yearly leaders in their respective categories for this season.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 7 - Renewing an Old Rivalry

Anyone that follows the history lessons I give in This Day in UTA Football History knows that I really enjoy the rivalry games. Not that I am in a minority there, since it is a common sports saying that rivalries build sports drama. In fact, that's what I felt was a huge hit to the UTA football program, lack of rivalries.

But that wasn't the case in the later days of Arlington State College as a junior college on until the late 1960's, and both are illustrated in today's game.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 6 - Perseverance

1978 may have been the most deceptive season for the UT Arlington football program. The Mavericks entered this week 0-5, with losses to Drake, West Texas State, North Texas, Louisiana Tech and East Carolina. But, the Movin' Mavs were either one play away or had one play go wrong that contributed in every game. Every loss was by a touchdown or less. On top of it, only one loss was to Southland Conference foe, meaning every hope for an Independence Bowl bid was alive.

The year was also a very big microcosm of the the program in the 1970's save for a very big one. The team always played above its head, or at least at its level or higher. It came from an outdated philosophy from the late 1960's and early 1970's. UTA had to play harder teams to move to the higher level as the way to move up back then was to play half  the schedule against the higher level. When UTA was the first Southland Conference school to move up, the out of conference schedule had to be tougher. But by the mid-1970's, the entire SLC was playing at the highest level, so that philosophy was no longer needed.

The major difference in 1978 was that UTA played two home games in September. That accounted for 40 percent of the true home games played in the entire decade of the 1970's. It also the big reason 1978 was the best attended season in both total attendance and average in the decade. The higher attended games are always earlier in the year. In UTA's case, it also meant that by the time they played in front of the home crowd, they were out of contention or at least playing with a losing record.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Egg on my Face

So in a huge bout of user error, I have failed to post one of my favorite annual features. Today is the fifth installment of This Day in UTA Football History. Unfortunately, the first four installments didn't make it. Rather than skip them, today will be a quintuple doubleheader.

To ease confusion, I put in parenthesis the day the late installments were supposed to be posted.

Apologies to all.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 5 - Rivalry Weekend

Rivalry is the lifeblood of any sport. While there were many reasons for UT Arlington's football decline in the 1970's. There were many. I've covered it extensively here. No need to rehash them here.

I bring it up because there is one that I think gets overlooked. The lack of true rivals. Schools like UTA aren't going to attract attention like the flagship schools. They drive attendance two ways: by attracting big name schools/events or local games that attract interest.

This is evident when you look at UTA's top attended games at College Park Center. UTA has had four games top 6,000. Oklahoma University (big-name school) is number one, Cal St-Bakersfield is two (event-NIT quarterfinals), UTSA is third (event-CPC grand opening), while North Texas is fourth (rival).

Which of those is repeatable? If the Mavericks basketball team gets their wish, they won't be playing in the NIT this year. CPC can only have one grand opening. It's very apparent that big name schools won't schedule a team like UTA. But scheduling regional rivals is very repeatable. I expect this year's North Texas game to also top 6,000 and be in the top five-attended.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 4 - Continuing Excellence

It seems that the fifth volume of In This Day in UTA Football History is working backwards. I started with the 1978 season, went to the 1972 year, then last week's 1967 opener. The 1961 season is the final year that qualifies for the history series.

UT Arlington, or Arlington State College, seemed to have an upward trajectory. After winning two junior college national titles, UTA went to four-year status in 1959. That resulted in a winning 4-3 record. 1960 was even better. The Rebels finished 9-2, tied for the second best record in UTA history. One of the two losses was to a higher level school (ASC was College Division). It seemed that ASC had no limits for the football program.

ASC opened the season on the road against Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles were one of the better non-major teams. They fluttered between the University and College Division in the early 1960's, but there's no question they were a talented team.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 3 - Start of Something Special

Today is the last of three consecutive season openers I cover on This Day in UTA Football History. It came at a much different time than previous installments.

This was the first year for the University's new name. The school had been known as Arlington State College since 1949 when it was a junior college and a part of the Texas A&M system. Frustrated with the attention the "main" campus was receiving by the system. UTA was actually bigger at the time and grew restless. There was a lot behind the scenes maneuvering to get out from under the Aggie shadow. In 1965, the University joined the University of Texas system.

This year, 1967, the University debuted a new name, the University of Texas at Arlington. They were still known as the Rebels, but the newly-named UTA squad was bolstered by the optimism of the time.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 2 - Brick Wall

In the second installment of this year's UT Arlington football history lesson, we look at the 1972 season. In order to maintain the surprise, I can't relate the significance of this season. What I will do is set the table.

UTA had just made the jump to the University Division from the College Division the previous year, the equivalent of going from Division II to DI today. It is perhaps the most disastrous jump in the history of the NCAA. I have yet to see a case study worse than UTA's.

The final College Division season was winless. They just moved to a baseball stadium off campus. That meant there were very few September home games. There was no improvement in funding. The schedule got tougher while the talent was the same or even less. There was no momentum for the program in any respect. No other sport was competitive. There was zero winning culture in the Athletic Department - UTA won zero conference championships in the 1970's.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 1 - Consistent Mediocrity

As I ramp up another year of This Day in UTA Football History, I am very much looking forward to this year's offerings. We'll have a championship, a solid season, and two seasons which really emphasized what UT Arlington was all about in the 1970's, with all the challenges that entailed.

Today (September 2) marks the opener to the 1978 season. It was the start of Harold "Bud" Elliott's fifth year at UTA. By all accounts, he had the football program moving in the right direction. He started his Mav career 1-10 in 1974 (this series covered his first game here, first win here). He finished second to last in the Southland Conference. Everyone knew it was a rebuilding year.

In 1975, the team saw an improvement to 4-7 (I covered a win over TCU here, loss to Southern Mississippi here and a win over Lamar here). No improvement in conference though, as UTA again was second to last (1-4). In some ways, this was ironic. Most years, he was known for winning more conference games then he did in non-conference.

He again increased the win column in 1976, this time to 5-6. There was great improvement in the conference standings, as UTA moved up from fifth to third and had a winning conference mark of 3-2. That was considered important know, as the Southland Conference's regular season champions would get an Independence Bowl berth. In a twist, UTA was in contention for it near the end of the season.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

First Losing Streak

I don't think anyone thought the UT Arlington Volleyball team would continue the .800 winning percentage when it entered the Lobo Classic hosted by the University of New Mexico. They were facing top teams in peer conferences to the Sun Belt as well as New Mexico, which was picked low in a very good Mountain West.

They did not win a match in the tournament. I'm not terribly surprised by that, but am disappointed that they only won one set. Aside from the Lobo match, they fought in most every set and were fairly competitive.

Speaking of the Lobo match, that is the one that I believe they really didn't show up. They scored 17, 18 and 14 respectively against a team that is likely only a little better than Houston. Yes it was a true road match, but I was expecting a better showing. At no point did I think that they were about to make a run and win a set.

They picked up their lone set win in a 3-1 loss to Northern Colorado. They stayed in the match for the most part and seemed to just have a little less than needed. The black eye that I wasn't thrilled about was the fourth and final set, where they scored 18, but the first three I thought showed a lot of grit.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Great start for a new team

I hesitated posting after the opening week to the 2017 volleyball season in an effort to temper the homer effect. After all UT Arlington opened the season 3-0 and won the opening tournament for the first time since 2013. Prior to that, you'd have to go back to 2004. In essence, it was a rare moment in the Diane Seymour era.

But under new coach J.T. Wenger, it is now an every-year phenomenon. I kid, I kid, but you see why I wanted to temper expectation. They beat Southern, a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Mavericks have never lost to a SWAC school in the previous 16 matches, so no big win. UTA swept McNeese in three sets. That match is also not a big upset as McNeese is picked ninth out of 13 Southland schools in the preseason poll.

The match that did give me cause for concern was a five-set win against Houston. If you glanced on the surface, that might seem like a tough opponent. After all, Houston came in with a 27-21 series advantage, and UTA owns series wins over two-thirds of its opponents, so that is saying something.

Friday, June 9, 2017

...Out like a Lamb

Towards the end of April, there was a feeling that the UT Arlington baseball team was on the verge of accomplishing something great.They had just come off a three-game sweep of the ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in a battle for first place, as well as a win over a ranked Texas A&M club. They followed that with a road sweep at Arkansas State. But it was all downhill after that.

The Mavericks lost seven of their last eight games, including their only game against Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, as extensive rain delays forced the tournament to go to single-elimination. The most frustrating aspect for me was how the team just wilted. Yes you could make the claim that Coastal Carolina, the defending national champions, and TCU are solid teams, but Texas State? Arkansas State (especially when it mattered the most)?

I don't want to harp on it too much, but the baseball program seems mired in mediocrity. There was hope after 2012's run to the NCAA tournament and facility upgrades that saw the addition of an indoor practice facility and dedicated locker rooms in a state-of-the-art clubhouse that UTA baseball would hit the next level. Instead, there have been repeated instances of inexplicable loses that have ruined any chances of an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May '17 Quick Hits

First, congratulations to the UT Arlington Men's track and field team, which claimed its 11th outdoor conference championship this past weekend. In doing so, they also claimed a triple crown by winning the cross country, indoor and outdoor conference championships in the same year. This is the second time the program has accomplished the feat, doing it last in 2013-14. The Mavericks also hosted the conference meet, their first instance of doing so as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

UTA claimed 151 points in the three-day meet, besting second place Texas State by 35 points. They did it the way they have done recently, by dominating the track performance, and getting supporting roles in other events, like Christian Schiemann winning the decathlon. One of the great highlights was the Mavericks placing 1-2-3 in the 5,000 meter run as Michael Guerrero, Craig Lautenslager and Justin Domangue were the top three in the Sun Belt. That garnered UTA 24 points alone. Guerrero was also a multi-event winner.

In the video posted on UTAmavs.com, Coach John Sauerhage said something that really stuck out to me. As I was keeping updated on the meet (I had surgery the previous Friday and couldn't go), I was mildly put out at the number of sixth, seventh and eighth placings I was seeing. Yet, he was saying how much that meant to him and the team. I'll paraphrase, but not everyone can win or even medal. So the fifth-year player who finishes in the top eight and gets points for the team as a whole is very rewarding for the participant, and it helps the team out. Very well put by a very classy coach.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Softballs Ends the Season, Eyes the Conference Tournament

Another team that was neglected during the last few months hiatus was the 2017 UT Arlington softball team. While it wasn't a banner year like what men's basketball experienced, or what the baseball team is currently doing, it was an improvement over last year. And right now, considering both where the UTA program is coming from and how nationally competitive the Sun Belt Conference is, I want to see improvement and I was not disappointed this year.


While they didn't start the year like they did last year, 19-0, they did actually field an team that was vying for top seeding in the SBC. This year, with a 14-13 record and a fifth place finish in the ten team SBC, the Mavericks had their best conference record since 2011. It was also the first time the team was in the top half of the standings since 2011. Should the Mavs win their first game in the conference tournament, they would hit the 30-win mark, which will also be a first since 2011.


And that's what I mean about improvements. In 2012, UTA was tied for tenth in the 11 team Southland Conference (a tie for last). In 2013, the team tied for sixth in the eight team Western Athletic Conference. In the first year in the SBC, the team was last of eight. In 2015, the team was a game below .500 overall, but still was seventh out of nine conference teams.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Baseball on a Roll

For the first time since I started this blog back in 2013, the UT-Arlington baseball team has looked more consistent and is playing up to the potential the program has the ability to do.They are currently 26-18 and 16-5 in the Sun Belt Conference. That SBC record is good enough for first overall, beating South Alabama by a full game and first in the SBC West over Louisiana by 2.5 games (The Cajuns had an unstable tie with Coastal Carolina on a travel day).

There's a lot to go over, and had I not had the personal issues, I certainly would have broken these down into different posts. So if the flow here is a little disjointed, just bear with me.

In shades of 2014, UTA is doing quite well in the conference. They are currently first, whereas the team finished second out of ten that year. Like 2014, UTA has performed poorly in non-conference play, at least poorly enough to virtually destroy any chance for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. In chronological order, UTA has lost to the following teams outside of Sun Belt play, with the number in parenthesis being the team's RPI rank as of May 3:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Greatest Team Ever




Notice there is no question mark in the title. The 2016/17 UT Arlington men's basketball team was the most talented and accomplished in the history of the program. Yes, all UTA fans are sad that the team could not get into the NCAA tournament, but that by no means is the sole headline of the season.

There were several things that stick out about the year, not the least of which was the first time UTA won multiple games in the postseason, as well as won a game in the NIT. Not to take anything away from the CIT win last year, but the NIT is a more prestigious tournament, against supposedly-tougher competition. There’ll be more on that in a minute.

As a refresher, I consider the 1980/1981 team to have been the best at UTA. My list is subjective of course, as there is no way to actually quantify it, but I have received mild backlash on my pick. Many say the 2008 team that made the NCAA tournament should be included. I’ve also heard the 2004 and 2012 teams that won conference championships should be ahead.

But I don’t rank them higher for one simple reason, the level of competition. In the early 1980’s, the Southland Conference was one of the premier “mid-major” (I hate that term, since it is all Division I), as the league boasted sweet sixteen runs and nationally competitive teams. For UTA to finish second, tied with Louisiana Tech and a game behind Lamar, was a greater accomplishment than beating the teams UTA did in a watered-down Southland in the 2000’s. On top of it, that team received an at-large invitation to the NIT. While we could debate the merits of UTA receiving an NCAA tournament at-large invitation, no UTA team has received an at-large to either tournament except in 1981.

This year’s team added some solid credentials that no team at UTA can lay claim to, cementing the 2016/17 team as the best Rebel/Maverick squad. They beat the number 12 team in the country with a convincing 65-51 win over Saint Mary’s on December 8. Beating a ranked team was a first. They won a regular season title in the Sun Belt Conference for the first time in four tries. The Sun Belt now is closer to that the SLC was in the early ‘80’s than what the SLC had turned into. They sported an undefeated record at home during the regular season, a first at UTA. The regular season attendance was second highest in UTA history, and didn’t have the benefit of a marquee team like North Texas or a power-5 conference school. Then there’s also the matter of 27 wins, three wins better than any previous team had earned.

And as mentioned, they won their first NIT game, en route to another. They also hosted an NIT game, and showed that UTA fans can turn out for big games at College Park Center. Against Akron, a season high 5,390 showed up as UTA won. That followed with a second-highest on-campus attendance ever of 6,336 against Cal State-Bakersfield, the first loss at College Park Center all year. You can’t convince me that had Jalen Jones not been injured, that the Mavericks wouldn’t have advanced to New York City.

The first inkling of disappointment came in the conference tournament. Jones had inured his hand in the opening game and his absence was notable. Many times this year when UTA looked flat, Jones was able to provide the spark needed to fuel a run. But Texas State, for the second time in three years, ended UTA’s run in the SBC tournament.

By the way, I want no one to claim again that there isn’t a real rivalry between the Mavs and ‘cats. Games that mean something build a rivalry and last year, UTA ended their season. The geographical closeness and the fact that each team is the other’s longest, continuous conference opponent only furthers that rivalry.

Despite the exit from the SBC tourney, UTA was guaranteed a spot in the NIT by virtue of its regular season title. UTA was seeded sixth, (really…?) and had to travel on the road to face the BYU Cougars.

It is hard to tell when a school like UTA plays a "name" team like BYU just what opponent the “smaller” school will get. A P5 conference team that plays in the NIT has had a disappointing year, as they aren't in the top 6-10 schools in their conference that made the NCAA Tournament. While BYU is not a P5 school, they have a name, following and expectations that put them near the same category. UTA dominated almost from the start and put the thing on cruise control. In all the Maverick games I have watched in almost two decades, it was single-handed the most dominating game ever. I say that because they never looked threatened, it was against a good 20+ win team and it was in the postseason.

The NIT was full of upsets (I don’t believe they were upsets, but just a general trend of overrating the P5 schools with a higher seed), and one of those upsets allowed UTA to host the Akron Zips, a seventh seeded team that beat the Houston Cougars in Houston.

The game was a similar storyline that I saw against BYU as the Zips never really challenged UTA. That win set-up a similar scenario where the eighth-seeded Bakersfield team came to Arlington.
Even in a loss to Bakersfield loss, there were positive signs, particularly in the second half. After a close start to the game, Bakersfield took the lead and never looked back, building as much as a 20-point lead early in the second, but then UTA began chipping away, but never seemed in control. Erick Neal made two quick three-point shots to bring UTA within two points with just under half a minute remaining in the game, but that would be as close as the Mavs got.

It was a bummer of a way to finish the year, but the foundation is set for 2017/18. There are some seniors that will need to be replaced, and there are question marks on who can man the interior with Jorge Bilbao now a UTA alum. But Kevin Hervey said after the game that he will be back for his senior season. Combined with the prowess of point guard Neal, UTA has a solid foundation to build on.

I also believe that the loss to Bakersfield will build fuel to the fire for UTA’s drive into next season. If Mav fan dreams come true, this team’s reign as the greatest ever will be short-lived.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Leave of Absence

All,


I apologize for the lack of content over the past few months. Won't go into details, but there was a lot of stuff going on in the personal life that prevented me from doing a lot.


The good news is that has seemed to settle down and I should be able to devote both the time, and more importantly, attention, to the covering of the Mavs.


I feel I owe the basketball team at least a quality recap, regardless of how late. The baseball team is performing well in the conference portion and UTA is in the running for the all-sports trophy. All those topics and more to come as I get back into the swing of things.


I apologize for the inconvenience.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Costly Turnover

I don't know that I would have believed anyone that said the UT Arlington men's basketball team would be a game above .500 after the first five games of the Sun Belt season, but sure enough, that's where the Mavericks sat. I'm not necessarily upset with the loss as anyone outright expecting a perfect conference season is not living in reality, especially in how competitive this year's Sun Belt Conference appears to be. What frustrates me is how they lost, and maybe a little bit of who the losses were against.

I'll just get it out of the way now. I don't like losing to Texas State in any sport at any time. They can be world-beaters and we can be rebuilding and I still dislike the loss. But when it is the opposite and UTA lost...

UTA came in with an RPI rating of about 30 out of 351 Division I teams. The Bobcats, meanwhile, were ranked in the 300's. Yet if you watched, read about or in any way followed the 81-73 victory by the bad guys in San Marcos, you would have sworn the Bobcats were the preseason favorites.