Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Kansas suffered bad year again


Somebody asked me if I was surprised by any of the names on Chancellor Robert Hemenway's athletics director search committee.

My reply was no. Then I thought for a moment and said, "Well, maybe Tracy Bunge. I know Hemenway wanted a coach on his panel, but I thought he might go for someone with more experience."

Much later, I realized Bunge, who just completed her fifth season in charge of the softball team, IS one of KU's most experienced coaches. Only a handful have been around Mount Oread longer than she has.

Then again, why not pick one from that handful? Maybe because Hemenway felt it was important to have a coach who had a winning record this season on his panel. If so, then he had two candidates Bunge or men's basketball coach Roy Williams to choose from.

In a nutshell, that tells you what kind of a year 2000-2001 was for sports at Kansas University.

Bunge and Williams were the only coaches who produced a first-division finish in Big 12 Conference standings that involved at least 10 schools. Men's tennis tied for fourth in a nine-participant league.

I should point out that the Big 12 Outdoor track and field meet won't be conducted until this weekend in College Station, Texas, but the KU men's and women's teams both finished ninth indoors and it would be unrealistic to expect first-year coach Stanley Redwine to produce upper-division finishes especially on the men's side because he has red-shirted several of his best seniors in hopes of making a splash in 2002.

Kansas competes in 10 women's and nine men's sports in the Big 12 Conference. KU also has a women's rowing team, but the Big 12 hasn't adopted that sport yet. As you know, KU will have only seven men's sports next year after dropping swimming and tennis.

Last year was a dreadful one for women's sports. Kansas finished 12th in three sports and 11th in another, prompting athletics director Bob Frederick to understate: "We just didn't have a very good year."

Frederick, now a lame duck, will find this year's women's performance improved, but not much.

KU has had only one 12th place (golf) and one 11th place (cross country). But KU was sixth out of six teams in swimming, and softball (tie for third) was the only sport with 10 or more participating league schools to finish higher than seventh.

Tennis posted that seventh place while soccer was eighth and basketball, volleyball and indoor track all were stuck in ninth place in league standings.

When all is said and done, Kansas could very well rank last in the league in overall women's performance again. And they very well could be joined by the men.

It sure didn't help when KU's perennially strong men's golf team slipped to seventh at this year's league championships. That left men's basketball, which tied for second, as the Jayhawks' only first-division finisher. Tennis, as noted, deserves an asterisk, tying for fourth among nine teams.

Cross country was sixth, football and indoor track ninth while swimming (sixth among six teams) and baseball (11th among 11 teams) were cellar-dwellers.

Bottom line: Kansas won no league championships and managed just two first-division finishes in 17 league sports in 2000-2001 while ranking somewhere in the middle of the pack in funding. In other words, the bang did not equal the buck.

Since the Big 12 was formed in 1996, Kansas has won a grand total of four league championships two men's basketball, one men's golf and one women's basketball.

Still, KU fans can take refuge in the fact Missouri and Kansas State have captured just one Big 12 championship apiece. Meanwhile, Nebraska has won 28 titles and Texas 27. Oklahoma State is a distant third with 10.

Do you call that un-parity, non-parity or parity-less?

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