In sports, winning is cyclical — not just for teams, but entire athletic departments.
Maybe, just maybe, Texas is on the way back to the top.
Our weekend review of the past school year revealed that the 20 varsity programs on campus all made it to the postseason, which has to give hope to Longhorn Nation that greatness will soon return to campus among the major team sports.
Back in 2002, a Sports Illustrated cover story ranking the 324 Division I athletic programs at the time had Texas and Stanford ranked at the top. In Texas’ case, the ranking came as the Horns were in the middle of what we can now clearly see was a golden age. The baseball team had just won its first of two College World Series titles under Augie Garrido and the men’s and women’s basketball teams would make it to respective Final Fours the following spring. Two years later, another CWS title was in the books before Vince Young, Mack Brown and Co. delivered a long-awaited football national championship.
Spring forward to present day. While the Horns are competitive in every sport and elite in swimming/diving and volleyball, the bigger challenge is to achieve elite status in the major team sports.
Kudos to baseball, which took a step forward in David Pierce’s second year with a CWS appearance. But we all know the athletic department’s national relevance will ultimately come down to what happens in football and, to a lesser degree, men’s basketball. Tom Herman broke a five-year winless drought in bowl games but the expectations are exponentially higher given his pedigree and salary. Shaka Smart has to disassociate himself from that 50-50 record through his first 100 games here and show that winning burst that made him the ideal candidate to replace Rick Barnes.
Could a new winning era be upon us? Perhaps, or it could be simply having too many conversations with ultra inspiring athletic director Chris Del Conte.
A tale of two superstars headed in opposite directions. The Cleveland Cavaliers will shout to the high heavens if LeBron James decides not to opt out of the final year of his contract and return for a final year at a clip of $35.6 million. James could better compete for a championship in a place like Philadelphia, Boston or even with the Lakers and boss Magic Johnson, who is undoubtedly scheming how to convince the San Antonio Spurs to part with Kawhi Leonard for a superstar pairing with LBJ.
Then there’s Carmelo Anthony, the only player in league history to average over 20 points per game for 14 or more seasons and not win a league MVP. He just informed the Oklahoma City Thunder that he plans to exercise his player option for $27.9 million. Shocker.
It’s funny how the Cavs are dying to give LeBron whatever he wants if he stays while the Thunder are left holding a very expensive bag of Franklins for a player who is clearly in decline.
Speaking of Kawhi, Spurs legend Bruce Bowen blasted him for his role in what could be the end of what was a very successful partnership over the the last seven seasons. Leonard clearly wants to play in Los Angeles and the Spurs are left with the choice of trading him or risk getting nothing for him if they hold on to him for the final year of his contract.
Bowen didn’t hold back in an interview with Sirius XM NBA Radio on Thursday night.
“There’s nothing but excuses going on,” Bowen said. “First, it was, ‘Well I was misdiagnosed.’ Look here: You got $18 million this year, and you think that they’re trying to rush you? You didn’t play for the most part a full season this year. And you’re the go-to guy, you’re the franchise and you want to say that they didn’t have your best interest at heart? Are you kidding me?”
Bowen is a Spur through and through. He still lives in the Alamo City and showed his loyalty three years ago when he allowed coveted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to wear his No. 12, which had been retired by the organization.
With that said, Leonard has the right to pursue a trade, despite any mistakes he may have made during this entire episode. San Antonio may be the best fit for him, but he clearly doesn’t agree.