By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
Expectations. They seem to be the focus before any beginning. But as the 2008-09 school year comes to a close, I find it funny to look back at the expectations I had as sports editor entering the year. “Simple” and “routine” would be the two best words to describe my expectations, but I could not have been more wrong.
I have followed ACU sports throughout my college career, so I had general expectations for each sport and the way things might turn out during each semester. But after a long year of ups and downs, I was pleasantly surprised at the results for Abilene Christian University athletics. I might even go out on a limb and say I was the sports editor for the busiest, most public and most successful year for ACU athletics-take a look at a few highlights and see if you agree.
The football team grabbed the most headlines and set the standard for ACU athletics for the entire year, and deservingly so. The team finished the regular season undefeated to claim its first outright Lone Star Conference championship since 1973, before being knocked out of the Division II quarterfinals against Northwest Missouri State. Along the way, the team was honored with a record 16 first-team all-LSC selections and 25 total all-LSC selections, featured the Harlon Hill winner in running back Bernard Scott, and graduated one of the best offensive trios in school history, which included Scott, wide receiver Johnny Knox and quarterback Billy Malone.
The team grabbed national attention after Knox was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Bears in the NFL draft, and Scott was taken in the sixth round by the Cincinnati Bengals; three others (Joseph Thompson, Kendrick Holloway and Malone) earned invites to team tryouts after the draft. And who could forget the 93-68 win over West Texas A&M in the playoffs that broke numerous college football records and
was featured on ESPN?
However, the football team was not the only one to grab headlines throughout the year. The women’s basketball team grabbed national attention after a 147-143 quadruple overtime win over Texas Woman’s; the game broke numerous ACU, LSC and NCAA records and set an NCAA record for combined points. The team went on to earn an at-large bid to the regional tournament.
Men and women’s tennis teams won their LSC championships and earned the right to host the regional tournament. The men’s cross country team won its 18th-straight LSC title, won the regional meet and placed fourth at nationals. The soccer team finished 9-7-2 and advanced to the LSC postseason tournament in just its second year of existence. The softball team won the LSC South regular-season title and advanced to the regional tournament; the baseball team won its first LSC title since 2002, earning an invite to the regional tournament.
The track and field team featured two national champions at the Indoor Track and Field Championships, Camille Vandendriessche and Andrew McDowell.
McDowell won the 60-meter hurdles and Vandendriessche became the first male athlete to place more than once at an indoor championship meet, as he won the heptathlon and the men placed third overall. Vandendriessche also became the first Wildcat to win the decathlon at the Texas Relays, while Linda Brivule had the best javelin throw ever by a female athlete in Division II. The Wildcats will compete in the LSC Championships May 7 and nationals May 21-23.
Perhaps one of the biggest headlines of the year was when the track and field and football programs were penalized for committing several NCAA violations. The football program was forced to vacate all of its wins from the 2007 season as well as all statistics during those wins. The program will be limited to no more than 60 official paid visits during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years; the total number of track and field scholarships awarded were reduced to 10.5 from 12.6 during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years, and the roster of any athletic team was limited to five international studentathletes during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic school years, both self-imposed sanctions. The university is in the process of appealing the ruling that would vacate the football program’s wins and records from the 2007 season.
I could continue and rattle off numerous statistics and records, but it is easy to see the impact ACU athletics had on the university this year. I had the privilege of witnessing many great accomplishments in just one year, but I would hope this year’s performances carry over to next year and do what they did for me. Raise expectations.