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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tait

Opinion: Track title sets tone for other KU sports

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When Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger arrived at KU in 2011, he took over an athletic department in desperate need of a makeover.

Ticket scandals, federal indictments, controversial coaching resignations and fights between the men’s basketball and football teams, all during an 18-month period that preceded him, made national news and put a sour spin on a place Zenger had always believed was better than Disney World.

All of that nonsense made the dream job one that required a rolling up of one’s sleeves as opposed to turning up one’s nose, and Zenger, a native Kansan and blue-collar athletic boss at Illinois State, was more than willing to oblige.

From the moment he arrived, Zenger emphasized that KU’s coaches and athletes would correct the things that they could control. They would be humble. They would work hard. They would compete harder. And they would not be satisfied until they began making phone calls to order new banners.

During his first two-and-a-half years in town, perhaps no team better illustrated both how this was possible and what could happen than the women’s track and field team that was crowned the 2013 NCAA outdoor champions last weekend in Eugene, Ore.

Just a few months ago, the very same team finished second at the national indoor meet. For many programs, such a feat would have been enough of a reason to spend the next 12 months celebrating. For this program, second simply wasn’t good enough. Similarly, after making a big deal of its run to the Sweet 16 in 2012, the KU women’s basketball team followed it up with another Sweet 16 appearance in 2013. It wasn’t a title. But it was progress. And it was exactly the kind of movement Zenger both expected and demanded upon taking over as KU’s AD.

For the track and field athletes and coaches who made it happen, winning the 11th national title in KU history was the product of years of hard work, heavy dreams and career performances. For Zenger, it represented the beginning of what he believed was possible all along.

“At Kansas, you know that you’re going to be in the hunt for these national championships,” Zenger said. “That’s one of the reasons you come to a place like this. I credit coach (Stanley) Redwine, his staff and all of the young women on that team who had been working toward this for years. What this championship does is it sets the tone to show all of our other sports what is possible at the University of Kansas, and not just for the men’s basketball team.”

Winning one national track title does not serve as a magic potion to cure all that ails the KU athletic department. Coaches have been fired, there are other programs, coaches and athletes who are underachieving, and there are areas — most notably the money-making monster that football could become — where major work still is needed. Zenger knows this. And he uses it to sharpen KU’s edge.

“This is a great accomplishment, and I want those girls to celebrate this and remember it for the rest of their lives,” he said of the track team’s national title. “But, as a department, we’re not there yet.”

And whether the Jayhawks get there 11 more times under Zenger or not at all, the methodology won’t change. One day. One practice. One game. When it all adds up to something like they experienced last weekend in Oregon, then they’ll celebrate. Then and only then.

Comments

JHWKDW 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Like I said before, Congrats to the LAdies Track tEAM.

I agree we need to bring back Mens Swimming and Tennis.

But you know KU has to stop being the 1 trick Pony. I Think Zenger is trying and will change that here.But it also comes down to boosters, and the rest of the fans realizing we can be more than being just the "Basketball School"It takes people caring and getting involved with the other sports.

Hey look at KSU Men's sports and the news of a triple crown they won. Hey they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

You know if you look overall at how the rest of KU sports besides the Men's Basketball it does well always,minus football overall was a pretty good season. Baseball Winning Record,Softball Winning Record, Volleyball got to the Tournament,Women'College B-Ball got to the tournament.Ladies track already said it NC way to go.Hey Guys Track step it up dudes.

Football well it is going to take a bit more time, it was in a mess when HCCW took it over, give it time.Zenger is trying to improve it.

Finally you got to give Zenger props for getting a new Track, Softball, and Soccer field. Hopefully 1 day a new Hoglund Field, and big upgrades to Memorial Field hope they keep it.Like to see that stadium stay like Stanford's Stadium which is almost as old as ours.

IN ZENGER I TRUST!

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JayhawkFan1985 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Bring back the men's swimming and tennis programs!

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jhawkrulz 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not sure I see the connection between Zenger and the championships. I'm so far a fan of Zenger, but the jury is still out. And the foundation for these were a long time in the making.

The citations made are of Redwine and Bonnie. These are two coaches hired under the previous administration.

The lone hire mentioned in the article by Zenger so far has finished last in the conference and not too better overall - football. I know he has hired additional coaches, but the Golf coach is the one that come to mind.

It is interesting with the previous administration the AD worked to get KU in the Orange Bowl, I wonder how much Zenger did to get the Baseball team in the CWS. We beat a lot of teams that were in that tournament, had a good record, both in and out of conference.

Zenger I'll give credit for getting Jayhawk Park headed in the right direction, but he better keep his nose really close to that construction project, if he doesn't want a fraud case to pop out again.

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akgjenkintown 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Congratulations to the women's track team. It gave KU sports fans something to relish for 2013. The number of national championships over KU's history are not that impressive. From a National perspective, the revenue generating sports have been true underachievers. Although we indicate KU is a basketball school, only 3 NCAA championships in 74 years (1939 to 2013) are a disappointment given how many times in the Williams and now the Self era KU had the best team in the country and failed to win more than one NCAA tournament. Football will be difficult to turn into a perennial winner. I have been following for a lifetime and one can only hope that good things lie ahead. The goal each year is national championships, but I am afraid I will not be around to see that happen in football. The "other" sports are improving and Zenger has had a hand in changing the culture (and will follow in Perkin's footsteps to increase revenue). As a donor and lifelong KU sports fan you wish for much more. In reality KU sports fan should appreciate the effort student/athletes dedicate to KU and take pride in how they represent our alma mater. We should support all athletes equally, not just in two sports. They all make huge levels of commitment on and off the field of play.

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Displayhawk 10 months, 2 weeks ago

You're high rocky! .... and I don't mean from the altitude! How much money would the Kansas Relays bring in??? I would be willing to bet that it would be less than one football game against a non-conference opponent. Coach Weis is making strides forward with the football team, and Coach Redwine will have premier facilities to recruit with in a couple of years, so the future looks bright IMHO.

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Ross Cargo 10 months, 2 weeks ago

3 in men's basketball, 3 in men's indoor track, 3 in men's outdoor track, 1 in men's cross country and now 1 for the ladies. Two of the national titles we claim in bb are not NCAA titles.

Track and field and cross country, have given us 8 NCAA titles! Perhaps we should rip out that crappy stadium from around the track and rebuild it out in bumf@&k Kansas. Then we could fix up the track only facility which has produced national titles, dozens of conference championships and hundreds of All Americans at the foot of Campanile. Then when the hundreds of prospective students, the collegiate and pro athletes that come in for the Kansas relays can compete on campus.

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RCJay 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I wonder what the 11 national championships are in? 5 in men's basketball. 1 in women's track. What are the other 5? Men's track perhaps.

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BringBackMark 10 months, 2 weeks ago

It seems like Zenger is getting a little more praise here than he deserves. Yes, the NCAA outdoor championship is wonderful and congratulations to coach Redwine and those young women that made it happen. The building blocks for this were in place long before Zenger took over as AD. Now let's look at the other sports.......

Bonnie continues to underachieve with women's basketball. This has been a problem ever since Lew brought her in. Yes, back to back sweet 16 appearances looks good but this past years team should've accomplished more. Look for a major drop off next year.

Softball continues to improve from recruiting and hard work. The problem is a pathetic non-conference schedule that requires a top two or three finish in the Big 12 to make the NCAA tournament. Seems like scheduling would be partly controlled by the AD.

Baseball....ditto softball. Biggest problem here is that they lost to a bunch of cupcakes.

Then there's football. I surmise that in two years Mr. Zenger will be seen as having flubbed his first big hire. I certainly hope I'm wrong and we're all dancing in the streets competing for a Big 12 championship. One thing's for sure, the juco experiment will make this hire easy to assess after 3 years.

Quite honestly there doesn't seem to be much out of Mr. Zenger publicly. Ticket prices and athletic budgets continue to increase as expected. I think a little more visibility would be good.

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Clarence Haynes 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Now if only ljw had a track and field section in its kusports app!

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MinnesotaJay 10 months, 2 weeks ago

From Perkins' Athletic Department to Zenger's feels like a transition from sleazy to scintillating.

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