Five Southland Conference championships and three NCAA tournament appearances highlight arguably the best sports year in ACU history.
This school year was highlighted by two basketball NCAA tournaments, two tennis conference championships and a soccer NCAA tournament in 2018.
Athletic director Allen Ward said he has been more than impressed with athletics in his time here thus far.
“I would have never imagined that we would have won five championships and be sitting here in the top three of the commissioners cup,” he said. “It’s been a remarkable year, but all that credit goes to our head coaches and student athletes. They’ve represented the university incredibly well.”
Ward became the ninth director of athletics in July of 2018 after 13 years in the role at Murray State.
Soccer grabbed ACU’s first conference championship of the school year, upsetting the top-seeded Central Arkansas Bears 1-0 in the conference semifinals and taking down Stephen F. Austin 3-1 in the championship.
The soccer team was the first program to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament at the Div. I level. Its historic season ended six days later against the No. 11 Baylor Lady Bears in Waco, 2-0.
Despite their first-round exit, the Wildcats set high expectations for the rest of the year, finishing 15-6-1 on the season.
As one sports’ season came to a close, Wildcat football kicked off its second season at Anthony Field. After a lackluster first season on campus going 2-9, ACU posted its first winning record since moving up to the Div. I level in 2014.
They also faced their first Power Five conference team in program history in their season debut, taking on Baylor at McLane Stadium. The Wildcats ultimately fell 55-27 in the matchup but played far better than most expected.
Ward said that as the athletic director, he’s always looking to improve the overall quality of sports facilities on campus.
“I’m always making sure that our facilities are at a level that we can recruit to. It all comes down to recruiting and our ability to bring quality athletes in and that’s why facilities are so important,” Ward said. “I have to admit, we’ve been looking at a few facilities. We’ve been looking at Moody to see if there’s different things we can do there. I think that facility needs the most attention.”
Moody Coliseum is one of the oldest structures on campus, opened in 1968. It also seems fitting of renovation as well after a historic season for both the men and women basketball teams.
The Wildcats were put on a national stage on multiple occasions this season. However, none were greater than the men’s basketball team playing the Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The men finished second in the Southland Conference regular season standings but defied odds winning the Southland Conference championship.
They finished the season 27-7, the winningest season in program history. Head coach Joe Golding was also named Southland Conference coach of the year after the successful season.
The women finished the regular season ranked fourth in the conference, but upset the overall No. 1 seed in the conference, Lamar, 88-79, in route to becoming the 2019 Southland Conference champions.
The Wildcats were selected to take on the country’s top overall seed, the Baylor Lady Bears. Having lost only one game all year, the game was never in doubt as Baylor cruised to a 95-38 victory, and it marked the beginning of Baylor’s run to grab its third national championship in program history.
Despite the loss, history was once again made for ACU. On an even higher note, the Wildcats only had one senior on the roster solidifying a promising 2019-20 season.
Both Golding and the women’s basketball head coach, Julie Goodenough were awarded with five-year contract extensions after leading their teams to the NCAA tournament.
“The basketball season showed ACU fans, alums and donors exactly what a successful Div. I athletic program can do for an institution,” Ward said. “Being able to win and have national media attention on you is priceless.”
After the Southland Conference championships, USA Today featured the Wildcats’ basketball teams’ success on the front page.
Ward went on to say the basketball team created a level of exposure that he doesn’t believe ACU has ever been able to have in the past.
After the conclusion of the 2019 basketball season, tennis started making noise on its own.
The men’s tennis team finished the season undefeated in regular season conference play clinching the No. 1 overall spot in the Southland Conference tournament. Meanwhile the women also grabbed the top spot.
However, both teams failed to win the tournament leaving them out of the NCAA tournament. The men finished the year 22-5 while ACU women went 15-10.
Much can be said about the success of this past year at ACU, but next year has much more in store as well.
After some heavy recruiting from the football team and Head coach Adam Dorrel, the Wildcats are set to improve once again this year.
The 2019 season shows off a challenging non-conference schedule featuring the Mean Green of North Texas for the season opener Aug. 31. Then wrapping up the season, ACU travels out east to face Mississippi State Thanksgiving weekend.
Meanwhile, soccer and basketball will look to defend their conference title in next season to repeat and return to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.