Forty Acres Insider: June 15
I know my music may date me a bit at times, but hey, I really admire uplifting and inspirational songs with powerful messages that translate to the sports we love. I feel like there’s one that suits this awesome time in Texas Athletics to a tee, it’s the 1980s Kool & the Gang hit “Celebration”! Go ahead, google it youngsters, or for my generation and beyond, hum away, belt it out and get those wonderful lyrics and that joyous beat bouncing off your tongue, and in your head … “Let’s all celebrate and have a good time!”
Well hot dang, we’re going to Omaha, and as the College World Series theme song Back Home in Omaha so aptly says, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than back home in Omaha.” Wow, What A Weekend that was! UFCU Disch-Falk was rockin’, Longhorn Nation packed the house, the juices were flowing, and we were absolutely lovin’ every minute of it. You brought it big time! And how about our Horns, bringing home two more wins and getting those engines revved up to hit the road to Omaha for our unprecedented NCAA record 37th all-time College World Series appearance. Meanwhile, Coach Flo and our Track & Field squads were turning in top-10 finishes in Eugene to extend our season tally to 13 of those across all sports in 2020-21. And, in the memorable words of those catchy informercials … but wait, there’s more! We had Longhorns achieving their Olympic dreams at the U.S. Diving Trials with more to come in Swimming, and the Track & Field trials are right around the corner later this week. Our Longhorns are the gift that keeps on giving, and y’all are the absolute best at bringing that patented Texas Fight, cheering, supporting and loving all of those that represent the greatness of the Burnt Orange and White!
Okay, before we cover some other stuff, it worth’s repeating, this will be our Longhorns’ 37th — THREE – SEVEN — trip to the CWS! That’s a dozen more than the next best total (Miami, 25), and we’ll be packing for a long stay as Coach Pierce and the squad take dead aim on our seventh National Championship. And that will all begin this Father’s Day weekend in Omaha, so stay tuned to all of our platforms for all the details on the schedule and the games. Shameless plug too, get your University of Texas at Omaha gear online now at the Texas Team Shop! How did we get here? Well, I’m glad you asked, and first, let’s go back to the scene at the Disch this weekend … or Take Me Out to the Ball Game as is so famously sung. The ESPN crew calling the game couldn’t stop gushing about it, USF was rattled and you rowdies were the talk of the college baseball world with fans back in the stands. Y’all brought it to a level of passion, unreal energy and enthusiasm we’ve missed so much, the Occupy Left Fielders were in full force, the cannon — at a distanced location per NCAA tourney rules — was firing, the food trucks were smokin’ and it was just a good ol’ time at the ballyard. I cannot wait to see what that looks like with more than 100,000 of you at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium in the fall, but I won’t get ahead of myself just yet.
Because of course, there was the performance by this team and its amazing all-in attitude, teamwork and never-ending resiliency. Game one was rolling along, and then like the Baseball Gods do, they challenged us with a USF rally to tie it up in the ninth. But there was no need to fear, Eric Kennedy is here! And E.K. came through in heroic fashion with a walk-off double and a thrilling 4-3 victory in game one! There were fewer tense moments in game two, but the action was no less exciting as our boys combined great patience at the plate with timely hits to put 12 runs on the board while Tristan Stevens brought his usual flair to the mound and Cole Quintanilla and Aaron Nixon shut the door to punch our ticket to Omaha! We’ll open up with a rematch againt the team we began the season with – Mississippi State – on Sunday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2! Let’s all send them off in style!
Good things were happening over the last week in Eugene for Coach Flo and our Track & Field program, too, with the Men finishing sixth and the Women taking seventh in the team standings. It was the first time both our squads turned in top seven performances at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since 2006, so that coupled with sweeping the Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Indoor and Outdoor titles exemplifies the progress and promise of Horns who are on the rise. And, wow, Tara Davis did it again, matching her NCAA Indoor Long Jump Championship by becoming our first-ever outdoor national champion in that event. As a matter of fact, she’s the first Longhorn (man or woman) to ever sweep the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Long Jump titles, AND she certainly does it with an exuberance, style and magnificent Longhorn flair! And for her extraordinary efforts in 2021, she was named a finalist for the prestigious Honda Sport Women’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year. Trust me, there’s nobody more deserving of that trophy, and we sure hope she gets it! When it came to all-around, versatile stars, we shined there, too, as Kristine Blazevica brought home a third-place finish in the heptathlon, and Leo Neugebauer was fourth in the decathlon. That made us the only program at the championships with a top-four finisher in both the men’s and women’s multi-events, known for recognizing arguably the best overall athletes in the nation.
The efforts from our Track & Field squads pushed us to 13 top 10 NCAA Championship finishes in 2020-21, the most we’ve had in a single-season since 2002-03. And, with Baseball now on the road to Omaha and heading to the College World Series, they’re guaranteed of a top-seven finish. Can’t wait to see those Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup all sports standings when they’re released on July 2! The pandemic put those standings on pause last season, but we had our first top-five finish in in 11 years in 2017-18, moved up to fourth in 2018-19, and this year, we’re closing in on that top spot! The all-sport Natty! Speaking of going for the gold, up next for many of our current and former Track & Field stars is the Olympic Trials in Eugene later this week. The Olympic Diving Trials wrapped up this past weekend with three Longhorns earning Team USA bids, and now the Swimming Trials are underway with several Texas standouts past and present competing for their Olympic dreams. While we prepare to cheer them on, huge rounds of applause are in order for our diving greats Jordan Windle (10-meter platform) and Alison Gibson (synchronized 3-meter springboard), as well as incoming freshman Hailey Hernandez (3-meter springboard) who punched their tickets to Tokyo for Team USA over the past few days.
News also came out late yesterday that Governor Greg Abbott signed the state of Texas Student-Athlete NIL bill into law, and it’s set to take effect on July 1 of this year. I want to reassure and remind Longhorn Nation that we are prepared and have been actively engaging our student-athletes and staff for this new era of college athletics. With our LEVERAGE initiative, a part of the 4Ever Texas program, our student-athletes have access to first-in-class resources and education on personal branding and brand management, business information and entrepreneurship, opportunity management and financial literacy. Just as we do in training, developing and preparing our student-athletes for competitions, we’re positioning them to handle this new opportunity and flourish off the field, as well. At Texas we say, ‘What starts here changes the world,’ and with this major step in the future of college athletics, we look forward to helping our student-athletes continue to do just that. So thank you Governor Abbott for all of your efforts and helping us be a leader in this area!
It’s been such a year filled with unique and unprecedented challenges, but no matter the hurdles and obstacles they had to overcome, our student-athletes just continue to shine and perform on and off the playing fields. Every semester, the Big 12 Conference produces its Commissioner’s Honor Roll that recognizes the student-athletes who registered a 3.0 or better grade point average the previous semester. Well, this spring, we had 443 student-athletes earn a spot on that list, including 72 that posted a perfect 4.0 last semester! We couldn’t be prouder of them and the coaches who make academics such a huge priority in all of their programs. A big Texas thank you is in order on behalf of our entire athletics department, as well as for Marnie Binfield, Kat Hastings, Brett Wohlers and our student services staff for the yeoman’s effort they put in and a job done exceptionally well!
The honors continue to roll in for our National Championship Rowing squad, as well, including National Coach of the Year for our esteemed head coach “Captain Dave” O’Neill, the staff as a whole was also tabbed the nation’s best, and 13 of our rowers were named CRCA National Scholar-Athletes. We are so proud of our whole team. They exemplify everything we stand for in Texas Athletics, and talk about a team that is all rowing in the same direction, that is Texas Rowing! The pride and winning tradition of the Texas Longhorns is on full display with this group, and we are so, so proud of them. Kudos, congrats and a huge Hook ‘Em for all the well-deserved recognition!
Speaking of well-deserved honors, the Big 12 announced its candidates for the prestigious Sportsperson of the Year Award, and two outstanding Longhorns were among the nominees. Sam Ehlinger, who just finished a record-setting career and was named the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year for the 2020 football season, and Alex Watson, our Big 12 Rower of the Year who has overcome so much to become the nation’s best rower and the leader of our national championship team, are the worthy Longhorns in contention. It’s a tremendous honor to be a nominee for an award that crosses all sports and our entire league and represents so much. The winner will be announced by the Big 12 on Thursday.
But wait, there’s more … how about our Chief of Staff extraordinaire and long-time Texas Athletics guru Chris Plonsky being honored as a member of the CoSIDA Hall of Fame last week?! CP cut her teeth in college athletics as a Sports Information Director, was a preeminent member of that field and a trailblazer in that organization, going back to the early days of Women’s Athletics at Texas. Congratulations CP, you are a tremendous servant leader, incredible member of our staff and so deserving of this recognition.
Continuing in the well-deserved recognition category, on the heels of collaboration on the My Texas Tailgate initiative between marketing, creative, communications and everyone in our external group, along with other tremendous campaigns, the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) announced us as its 2021 Marketing Team of the Year Award recipient! What a tremendous honor, and it deserves a giant Hook ‘Em for finding ways to still shine a light on all the incredible things we have going on the 40 Acres despite one of the most unique and challenging years we’ve ever faced. Along with that, congrats also to Craig Westemeier and our licensing department for receiving the CLC Campus Integration Award last week! They’ve done a fantastic job engaging departments from all over campus in initiatives to elevate our great university’s brand through licensed merchandise programs, including launching the College Vault program last year, which times logo launches with both athletics and university anniversaries, celebrations, and events. We certainly have plenty of those, and they do a great job energizing our present by celebrating our tremendous past! Well done!
In closing, what an awesome weekend it was for Coach Sark and our Football program. It’s great to have on-campus recruiting up and running again, and seeing all the families, smiling faces, hugs and high fives abound is just such a joy to be a part of. And we are so blessed to have such amazing support from our letterwinners who can show these bright and talented young men what Longhorn Family is all about. And, the M.O.C. himself, Matthew McConaughey needs no introduction. I’m not sure a thousand words are enough for what this powerful collection of Longhorn Legends in this memorable photo says! Thank you all, you truly embody our school’s mantra, what starts here, changes the world!
We can’t wait to have 100,000-plus at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 4 for the biggest Longhorn Family Reunion ever! If you’ve ever wanted to become a season ticket holder, this is the time to do it as all annual seat-related gifts will be locked for years to come. Fans waiting until 2022 to purchase season tickets will be subject to periodic increases in their seat-related gift. Be a part of it all by placing your season ticket deposit today for only $199 per seat. It’s just a click (online at TexasSports.com/Renewals) or phone call (512-471-3333) away to secure your spot to celebrate alongside us and cheer on the Horns!
Well that was a lot to share, but that’s all for now as 2020-21 continues to deliver each and every week! Keep cheering on your Horns, enjoy the summer months with family and friends and get those Longhorn Football tickets so we can all be together when we kick off in the fall! Home Is Where the Horns Are My Friends!
Stay safe, be healthy and Hook ‘Em Horns,
Chris Del Conte
P.S. — Nice job Coach Sark! You’re becoming a pro at firing that cannon!!
P.S. II – Yee Haw Tara Davis indeed! What an awesome year she’s had and there’s more to come!
P.S. III – Awesome looking group. Congrats to the Curtis family and hope they had a blast with Coach Sark! All Gas, No Brakes my friends!!
Chris Del Conte
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Tara Davis named finalist for 2021 Honda Sport Award for Track & Field
Davis is the 11th Longhorn to be named a finalist for the award and first since 2016.
Outstanding Feature on our Longhorn Diving Olympic Qualifier
Fate plunged Cambodian orphan Windle into the deep end, but now Tokyo 2020 awaits “little Louganis.”
VIDEO: Baseball NCAA Super Regional Sunday postgame press conference
David Pierce addresses media after Longhorns Super Regional win on Sunday night.
Amazing Story on a Longhorn Two-Sport Letterwinner
For attorney, Texas Ex and UT Women’s Tennis and Basketball Letterwinner Sarah Lancaster, qualifying in two middle distance events is just the latest twist in her unusual athletic journey.
Men’s Track and Field ties for sixth at NCAA Outdoor Championships
The Longhorns scored 29 points to post their highest NCAA Outdoor finish since 2013.
Women’s Track and Field ties for seventh at NCAA Outdoor Championships
The Longhorns scored 28 points to post their highest NCAA Outdoor finish since 2016.
Twenty-five Longhorns set for U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Swimming
Athletes will compete in Wave II from June 13-20 for berths in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Thirteen Longhorns set for U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Women’s Swimming
Athletes will compete in Wave II from June 13-20 for berths in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Feature Story on Men’s Basketball’s Chris Beard (via cbssports.com)
Chris Beard‘s track record Shows he may make his mark on the Longhorns quickly
Baseball’s Madden named Golden Spikes Award semifinalist
The Longhorn ace is one of 25 semifinalists for the award presented to the top amateur baseball player of the year.
Baseball lands 12 on Academic All-Big 12 teams
Longhorns’ first baseman Zach Zubia is on the Academic All-Big 12 team for the fourth time.
Baseball’s Hansen named NCBWA Freshman All-American
The redshirt freshman lefthander landed on the NCBWA Freshman All-America first team.
Baseball’s Daly named Freshman All-American
The Longhorns’ freshman second baseman is second on the team in hitting with 54 games played this season.
Braswell named 2021 ITA Texas Region Rookie of the Year
Men’s Tennis freshman Micah Braswell becomes the second-straight Longhorn to claim the honor after Siem Woldeab did so last year.
Women’s Golf trio earn Golfweek All-America honors
Kaitlyn Papp was a second-team selection, while Agathe Laisne and Sara Kouskova received third-team accolades and honorable mention, respectively.
Coody, Vick earn Golfweek All-America honors
Pierceson Coody was a first-team selection while Travis Vick received honorable mention.
Men’s Golf places three on All-Big 12 Team
Pierceson Coody earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors, while Cole Hammer and Travis Vick were named to the 11-member team.