Texas Tech’s non-revenue sports were wholly unaffected by the failures of the four flagship programs during the last school year.
In fact, nearly every other Tech sport experienced its best season in more than a decade, if not its best season ever. This spring was a particularly fruitful time for the school.
Seventeen Red Raiders earned all-America honors in track and field, tennis and golf. Tech made the postseason for the third year in a row in softball, sixth year in a row in men’s tennis and for the first time in women’s tennis.
“I don’t think people took the success this spring for granted,” Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said. “I believe the fans will respond to that, and I also believe our other student-athletes and programs will respond to that. It’s competition from within as well.”
An influx of new head coaches during the last five years has certainly contributed to Tech’s success.
Don Flora took over a perennially poor volleyball program last season and put together a turnaround. The Red Raiders went 15-17 in his first year, 11 more wins than the Red Raiders had in 2010-11.
Tom Stone, in his fifth year as soccer coach, led the Red Raiders to a 10-8-2 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big 12 in 2011, a program best.
The list goes on, too. JoJo Robertson has led the women’s golf team to an NCAA regional in each of her three seasons at Tech, and Todd Petty has won back-to-back Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year honors in women’s tennis. His Lady Raiders won the university’s only Big 12 title this season in his fourth year at Tech.
“We’ve always wanted good coaches,” said senior associate athletics director Judi Henry, who is also the senior women’s administrator. “But it takes some time departmentally to be able to reach a point where you have the revenue and the money to be able to do that.”
The success of the non-revenue sports made for a best-of-times, worst-of-times year for Tech athletics. The Red Raiders missed the postseason in football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball — the first time that’s happened in the same school year since 1988-89.
The Tech softball team went 41-17, reaching 40 wins for the second year in a row. The team also had a winning Big 12 record for the first time since 2001.
The men’s tennis team finished in the top 25 for the fifth year in a row. Raony Carvalho and Gonzalo Escobar were all-Americans and, despite being unseeded, reached the finals of the NCAA doubles championships.
The men’s track team finished in the top 20 and, coupled with the women’s team, had 13 all-Americans. Though not actually competing for the Red Raiders at the time, senior Gil Roberts won the 400 meters at the U.S. indoor championships, then a gold medal at the World Championships on the U.S. men’s 1,600-meter relay.
In the fall, senior Caroline Jepleting won the Big 12 women’s cross-country title.
Greg Sands’ men’s golf team advanced to an NCAA regional for the 11th consecutive year, the longest such streak on campus. Women’s golfers Kim Kaufman and Gabby Dominguez were named all-Americans after placing in the top 10 — Tech’s highest finishes all-time — at the NCAA championships.
Hocutt and Henry hope the last few months provide a springboard for Tech athletics when the fall season begins.
“We’re at a great place to build and be where we want to be,” Henry said.
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