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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Woodling

KU still lagging in Big 12

The Kansas University women’s softball team practices at Arrocha Ballpark on Monday while, across campus, university and athletics officials met with the public to discuss a plan to build an “Olympic Village” sports complex at KU.

The Kansas University women’s softball team practices at Arrocha Ballpark on Monday while, across campus, university and athletics officials met with the public to discuss a plan to build an “Olympic Village” sports complex at KU.

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Clang. That’s the sound of the gate slamming shut on another Big 12 Conference sports season.

The hay is in the barn. The standings are complete. And once again Kansas University’s overall ranking is uninspiring from a competitive standpoint.

Sure, KU won the men’s basketball championship again, but Bill Self’s team was in rarefied air compared to the other sports. Take a guess about the second-highest finish by the Jayhawks against the rest of the league.

It’s fifth place.

Actually, KU rowing wound up in third place at the Big 12 Championships, but that was in a field of three. And Kansas’ women’s swimming and diving team was fourth in a field of six.

KU’s fifth-place finishers were baseball and women’s golf and, on paper anyway, the golfers were better because they competed against a full boat, whereas only 10 league schools have baseball.

It’s worth noting it hasn’t been that long that women’s golf was a league doormat, so the fifth-place finish was impressive. At the same time, I’m not bagging on baseball. This is the first time in coach Ritch Price’s seven seasons that the Jayhawks have posted a plus-.500 league record.

What about football? The Jayhawks were 8-5 overall and pummeled Minnesota, 42-21, in the Insight Bowl. No doubt the Jayhawks finished strong, stunning Missouri in the regular-season finale, but six other schools had a better conference record than KU’s 4-4.

So for record-keeping purposes, KU was first in men’s basketball, fifth in baseball and seventh in football. Kansas has only three other men’s sports, and they’re all track-related — cross country, indoor track and outdoor track — and they were, to put it euphemistically, undistinguished.

In fact, the wheels fell off in men’s track, with the Jayhawks finishing 11th at the Big 12 Indoor and 12th at the league outdoor meet last weekend in Lubbock, Texas. Men’s cross country posted an eighth place in last fall’s conference championships.

Kansas has almost twice as many women’s sports at the varsity level: 11.

As mentioned, rowing — which held its first league-sanctioned championship this spring — was third, swimming was fourth in the conference meet and golf fifth. Otherwise, no KU women’s sport earned a standing higher than the sevenths notched by basketball, soccer and tennis.

Eight-place placers were cross country and volleyball. Ninths went to softball and indoor track. Alone in 10th was outdoor track.

You could say basketball’s seventh place was deceptive because of the way coach Bonnie Henrickson’s team made that stirring run through the WNIT before falling in the championship game to South Florida. But the WNIT is not the NCAA, and KU hasn’t qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2000.

Summarizing, not a single one of the 10 KU women’s teams came close to capturing a conference championship and, except for basketball, it was the same for the Kansas men.

Still, it’s no secret the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts when it comes to the perception of Kansas University athletics. Football and men’s basketball always will be in the spotlight, and right now everyone likes what they see.

Comments

Don Everett 11 years, 2 months ago

Basketball and football are the major cash cows at almost every school, therefore, KU shouldn't be judged differently than anyone else when including all sports. Please put up the overall rankings in the same article you are attempting to somewhat "slam" KU before "hammering" them.

KU won, as far as I know, the only NCAA Championship in 08' for the Big 12. They also won a 2nd Bowl Game in as many years. That is better than OU if I remember correctly, at this current time, even taking into effect the level of bowl games.

KU is making strides in many arenas that previously were unattainable. There is no reason to bag on KU athletics Chuck. Just because you get a paycheck inside the state of KANSAS, doesn't mean you need to bring your moosouri roots into the article.

sevenyearhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

yawn

All-time and conference attendance record in women's hoops (16,113), returning all but one starter.

Baseball team has best conference record in 15 years, going to make the NCAA tourney and sets a single-game attendance record.

Men's basketball is a likely pre-season number one.

Football will be the odds on favorite to win the North, will likely play in a third bowl game ... maybe even on New Year's Day.

If men's hoops and football continue to consistently bring in the cash, and baseball and women's hoops can just break even, that'll leave more money for the other sports ...

That's right - dollar signs!

$ $ $ $ $ $ $

KirkwoodHawk 11 years, 2 months ago

Don't forget the facilities upgrade that is currently ongoing that will greatly benefit the "non-revenue" sports.. Lets see where we are in 5 years.

bradh 11 years, 2 months ago

The women have twice as many sports as the men? Sounds like there may need to be a Title X to make it even for the men's sports :-).

I believe Title IX should be rewritten to exclude those sports that make money. As previously stated, football brings in the money that allows all the other sports to exist at most schools. At KU, mens basketball also more than pays its own way, but that isn't common. Football also takes the most scholarships of any sport to produce the revenue that pays for the other sports.

As female sports gain more followers and begin to break even, you'd need to find more sports to take their place. It seems like that would provide more opportunities for men and women's sports, while not penalizing the men for the large football contingent that pays for all the sports on most campuses.

jayhawkinATL 11 years, 2 months ago

It costs as little as $100 a year to be a member of the Williams Fund.

A little bit from lots of Jayhawkers would go a loooooooong way!!!

KUPROUD 11 years, 2 months ago

Good article. We need to be reminded that there is more than basketball and football. We have some glory days in the past in other sports, and I for one would like a return to those day.

yates33333 11 years, 2 months ago

So What? KU is still number one academically.

Dyrk Dugan 11 years, 2 months ago

i don't know, i think KU is doing pretty darn good. Yes, year in and year out we have average teams, as do a lot of schools.

in this regard, i compare ourselves mainly to our brother peer schools...and that is MU, KSU and Iowa St. Yes, Nebraska is in the same category, but they dwarf us in tradition for an overall athletics standpoint, due to their long success in football. I love to beat Nebraska, but mainly they're going to beat us in the non revenues.

but vs the other three, we do just fine. we have Big 12 titles in the last 5 years in soccer, baseball and softball....and 10 years ago we did win the golf title. This year, Moo did win softball and won the soccer tourney title (regular season is much tougher, IMO). KSU won womens bball a couple of years ago, but really nothng else since the Kendra Wecker days of several years ago ...(and she was a tremendous athlete, that doesn't come along too often). Iowa St. still has wrestling of course, and we don't. Our volleyball team has struggled the last few years, but did make the NCAA tourney 3 years in a row.

bottom line? we ain't bad. sure it's not great across the board every year, but very few schools can say that. Plus, it's the Big 12! this is a tough gig, with UT, A&M, OU and NU in the same league. those 4 schools compete amongst each other for the vast majority of our sports...and there are some pretty big budgets there.

we have 10 national title covering muliple sports....we're doing fine.

hawksince51 11 years, 2 months ago

I suppose it is only natural that the emphasis is on the money sports--men's basketball and football. And, I have no complaint about that. However, I do miss the days when KU was one of the top track powers in the country with several NCAA indoor and outdoor NC's as well as strong cross-country teams. The state of Kansas used to produce milers on a regular basis (Cunningham, Santee, and Ryun) and KU was able to recruit other specialties on a national scale (Nieder, Oerter,) And watching Wilt high jump was a special treat. As a kid growing up in KS, I loved the KU relays and following the efforts of Santee to break the 4-minute mile barrier. He came close with at least 3 times below 4:01 but the need for him to compete in other events and the AAU prevented him from reaching his full potential. Being a realist, I understand those days are long gone and am quite content with our success in the two major sports.

Aligned 11 years, 2 months ago

I don't normally even read Woodling's column, but it is nice to see an unvarnished account of how the athletic programs are performing with a $50 million budget. Not all that well, it appears.

Gene Jackson 11 years, 2 months ago

Like hawksince51, I also miss the days when track was a national power at KU. But unlike him, I am not content with our success in the two major sports. Why can't KU excel once again in track? Don't we have the facilities? Our sucess with basketball and recently with football should help us bring top talent to the other sports.

63Jayhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

Interesting article about John Wall on ESPN, seems Wall has committed to Kentucky. The interesting comment in the article is:

"The Wildcats have 16 players on scholarship now, three over the NCAA maximum of 13. Adding Meeks will put the Wildcats at 17. Calipari has said recently he expects the scholarship situation to work its way out this summer."

Sounds like some scholarships are not going to be renewed at Kentucky.

jayhawkinATL 11 years, 2 months ago

Wouldn't surprise me, 63Jayhawk, that things will "work themselves out over the summer" for UK.

Calipari is just showing his sleeze-factor once again!!!

jayhawkinATL 11 years, 2 months ago

No worries here...Calipari can load up on the one-and-dones all he wants. The last two national champions have shown that it takes an experienced crew to win it all. As long as he relies on one-and-dones, he will NEVER win a national crown.

KU in 2010!!!

jayhawkinATL 11 years, 2 months ago

...make that the last 3 national champions.

billrogg 11 years, 2 months ago

Want to be more competitive in all sports? Add wrestling! Kansas high school wrestling is among the best in the nation, but our kids have to go out of state to wrestle Div.1. Saw the gym at shawnee heights high school packed last year for Ft. Hays State vs Stanford. They wrestled in Topeka so a Stanford kid could get a chance to perform in front of his hometown fans. If kansas wrestling fans will turn out for an event like that they will turn out for wrestling at KU! It wont take a huge budget and will provide kansas kids an opportunity to wrestle and get an education near home.

Rick Arnoldy 11 years, 2 months ago

You won't see wrestling or any other men's sports added as long as Title IX exists. Football tips the scales on scholarships.

RockChalkGuy 11 years, 2 months ago

I think this is a great article. I applaud Chuck for calling out the rest of the program. If we don't question the other programs results, then complacency will allow for mediocre results. This is the same reason sports need fair-weather fans. Without them, there's no motivation to strive for excellence.

I love the basketball program. I'm starting to become a fan of the football program. Heck, I even considered going to the WNIT Championship at AFH, if it weren't for lackluster interest from the rest of my family. As these sports improve the pride of Jayhawk nation improves and that's when the money really starts to roll in for non-football and non-basketball purposes.

Overall body of work IS important and shouldn't be underestimated.

Rock Chalk!

nrebne 11 years, 2 months ago

KU has a Men's Golf team which is certainly not track related unless you refer to Alvamar as a dog track.

bwhacker 11 years, 2 months ago

"KirkwoodHawk (anonymous) says...

Don't forget the facilities upgrade that is currently ongoing that will greatly benefit the "non-revenue" sports.. Lets see where we are in 5 years."

Volleyball had a new facility in 1999, and hasn't really made significant progress since. They've made 3 NCAA tournaments since then (only ones in history), and finished with at least a 0.500 record 7 times. However, that's a little misleading, since the conference record over that time is 62-98. In fact, only two seasons since then have been 0.500 or better. The overall record of the program is still below 0.500, and Coach Bechard, despite his tremendous record overall, is only 175-160 over 11 seasons.

Conversely, KU's soccer program was 13-8-2 this season, and finished 7th. This is their lowest finish in the last 7 years, in which they've been 4th or higher 5 times. (There are 11 teams, KSU doesn't field a soccer team.) The soccer program is 20 years younger than the VB team, yet it still has 3 NCAA tournament appearances and a conference championship to its name. It is also routinely in the top 25 rankings over the past several seasons.

My point being, facilities aren't the only thing that mean success. The soccer program doesn't currently have locker rooms on site, or even a "permanent" sort of stadium. (The bleachers are like you'd find at a high school football game, and the concessions are just trailers.) But I'd say the level of success of the soccer team has been more encouraging than that of the VB team. Similarly, the softball team has a brand new stadium (though they are missing a permanent clubhouse), but this season was a huge disappointment, as evidenced by the retirement of the coach immediately following the season.

Joe Ross 11 years, 2 months ago

Hey Chuck. Maybe you should investigate how much revenue all Big 12 schools generate from athletics, and then compare that to their performance. Maybe Kansas understands that only a handful of sports bring in the sheaves. Maybe other schools perform better but bring in less money.

cxb19 11 years, 2 months ago

one has to really admire the "ku shuffle" from all of these readers! such "spin" bottomline...this article is based on FACTS not hype or perception! all of the readers offering excuses or explainations to FACTS are extremely pathetic! let's come to grips with the FACT that ku is lagging far behind many of their big 12 coounterparts, including missouri! now let's have school officials & alumni step up & do something about it...not try & tear down the writer who is simply stating FACTS to the readers in hope that it inspire someone to call on ku leaders to do something to change the FACTS!

Jbird5590 11 years, 1 month ago

All the other sports are getting out recruited by other schools. The other coaches don't work as hard becasue they think that kids will want to come there because of the basketball tradition. Take women's soccer - Coach Francis continue to get beaten out by other coaches in the Big 12 as well as other leagues. He has whiffed on the best players in the KC area for the last couple years and so far the same is true for 2009 and 2010. The best players are not going there, in my mind, because he thinks he can get them to walk on or play for "books" and use his scholarship money for players from other states.

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