Bears Climbing In Sears Directors' Cup, Big 12 Standings

July 17, 2002

College athletics has been called the window to a university. If so, people who peeked into Baylor's window in 2001-2002 got a good look at success. 
Seven teams -- volleyball, women's basketball, track, men's and women's golf, men's tennis and baseball -- participated in NCAA postseason play. Two other teams, softball and cross country, barely missed out on invitations to extend their seasons. Men's tennis won its second conference title and the conference tournament.
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics recognized these achievements when it ranked Baylor No. 40 out of 239 Division I schools in the annual Sears Directors' Cup standings, which determine a school's ranking based on its postseason play in 20 sports. Of Big 12 universities, Baylor finished in the top half and was in the top three among schools from the former Southwest Conference.
"We have made tremendous strides in some sports in our program," said Tom Stanton, Baylor athletic director. "Anyone who would say that Baylor can't compete in the Big 12 hasn't been presented with the facts of the development of our athletic program. We can't judge the outstanding job that many of our coaches have done and the quality performances both academically and athletically of all our student-athletes simply because we have struggled in one sport."
Various newspaper sports departments, which use different sets of criteria from the Sears Cup to rank Big 12 schools' sports programs, have placed Baylor third (Kansas City Star), fourth (Waco Tribune-Herald) and fifth (Dallas Morning News) in the league.
"There was nothing flukish about Baylor's fourth straight finish in the top half of the Big 12," wrote Waco Tribune-Herald sports editor Kim Gorum in ranking Baylor fourth in his Big 12 all-sports standings. "In mid-April, in fact, when it appeared the women's tennis and softball teams were NCAA shoo-ins and the baseball squad was challenging for the title, BU was neck-and-neck with Nebraska for second place. The Bears actually slumped to fourth."
Stanton concurred and said finishing in the top half of the Big 12 signals two achievements: that the University's teams are ranked in the top 25 and that they are participating in NCAA playoffs. This year's statistics prove that. Men's golf, track and baseball and women's softball, golf and volleyball teams were ranked in the top 30, while women's basketball and men's tennis received lofty top 10 rankings.
"Our goal is for every sport to get into the upper tier of the Big 12," Stanton said. "College athletics is not about football or basketball or baseball. It is about utilization of athletics for the visibility and marketing of Baylor University. The reason our sports programs must attain a level of success is so that when people see Baylor, they think about excellence, about winning."
Stanton emphasized, however that academics will not be sacrificed on the altar of athletics. The University has led graduation rates among student athletes in the Big 12 three out of the last five years. Several Baylor athletes have been named academic All-Americans, and long-distance runner Lanie Millar and outfielder Tim Hartshorn were among 13 Big 12 athletes to receive postgraduate scholarships from the league this year.
"We are not compromising academics for athletic success. They are not mutually exclusive," Stanton said. "We should be very proud of that fact." 

Carlson, BA '86, is senior staff writer in media relations in the Baylor Office of Public Relations.