Archive for Sunday, May 12, 2002

KU near rear in mythical all-sports race

May 12, 2002


It has been a gigantic men's basketball tree standing in the woods of Kansas University athletics during the 2001-2002 school year.

Now it's time to look at the forest instead of the tree.

Once again, this hasn't been a memorable year for KU athletics against Big 12 Conference competition. But at least the results have been slightly better than last year.

In 2000-2001, KU had only two first-division finishes in league standings a second place in men's basketball and a tie for third in softball. This year the Jayhawks can boast of the men's basketball championship, a tie for second place in women's tennis and a fourth in soccer.

Still to be completed are men's and women's outdoor track and field and baseball. KU doesn't figure to do much in women's outdoor track, but the men's track team with a raft of fifth-year seniors who didn't compete indoors the Jayhawks were 11th in the Big 12 Indoor should finish strong.

Baseball, however, is all but doomed to wind up in the conference basement which means the Jayhawks will have at least three cellar-dwellers in '01-02. Women's basketball and women's golf are the others.

Another last place for baseball all but assures coach Bobby Randall's seven-year tenure will end after next weekend's Kansas State series. First-year KU athletic director Al Bohl axed a nice guy last fall when he disposed of football coach Terry Allen and Randall will almost certainly be Nice Guy II to go during the Bohl regime.

After dropping men's tennis and men's swimming for financial reasons last year, KU now fields only seven men's sports and, except for basketball, the others fashioned forgettable seasons unless the men's track team makes a big splash at the Big 12 Outdoor.

To go with the last-place baseball finish, Kansas wound up 11th in both football and men's indoor track, a stunning 10th in golf and seventh in cross country. Prior to this year, no KU men's golf team had ever finished lower than seventh in a conference championship meet. The Jayhawks were Big 12 champions in 1999.

Kansas has 11 women's sports with varsity status, but rowing doesn't fit into the mix because the Big 12 does not conduct a championship meet in that sport. KU sponsors rowing because it enables the school to meet Title IX participatory guidelines.

Over the years, Kansas has struggled in women's golf, track and volleyball and, to be honest, no light appears at the end of those tunnels. Meanwhile, women's basketball has declined to rock bottom in just two years after decades of competitiveness under Marian Washington who is counting on a strong recruiting class to pump some buoyancy back into her reeling program next season.

Softball was a disappointment in 2002. With eight seniors, coach Tracy Bunge had hoped to challenge for the league championship. However, inconsistent hitting and pitching doomed the Jayhawks to a seventh place finish in league standings. All in all, though, Bunge has done a noteworthy job considering Kansas has the worst softball facility in the Big 12. Did you know that KU and ISU are the only Big 12 schools with softball programs that don't have stadiums?

Women's swimming was fifth in the league meet, but that's deceptive because only six Big 12 schools finance that sport at the varsity level. In fact, swimming is dying in the Big 12. Only three league schools still sponsor men's swimming.

If I had to pick a KU coach of the year for 2001-2002, it would have to be sorry, Roy women's tennis coach Kilmeny Waterman who brought the Jayhawks from an eighth-place league finish in her first year as coach to that surprising tie for second this year.

Each year, a few media outlets crunch numbers and try to come up with a Big 12 Conference all-sports champion. This year it will no doubt be Texas which has already won seven league titles. At the same time, if Kansas isn't last in that compilation the Jayhawks will be close to the bottom.

Texas has twice as many students as Kansas. In fact, with more than 50,000 enrollees, Texas is the largest university in the U.S. Still, based on its middle-of-the-12-pack expenditures for athletics, Kansas' bang for the buck isn't loud enough.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.