Turnaround Year

August 24, 2004

A year that began in tragedy ended in triumph. In 2003-04, the Baylor athletic program enjoyed one of its most successful years, winning the first NCAA team championship in school history, five NCAA individual titles and a pair of Big 12 Conference crowns. The men's tennis team captured the NCAA team championship and won both the Big 12 regular-season and tournament crowns, while junior Benjamin Becker won the NCAA men's singles title. Sophomore Jeremy Wariner won both the NCAA indoor and outdoor 400 meter gold medals, and the men's 4x400-meter relay team swept the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. In mid-July, Wariner qualified for the 2004 Olympics.
In the final U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup rankings released in late June, Baylor finished 47th. That is its seventh consecutive year among the nation's top 70 programs -- one of eight Big 12 programs to accomplish that in each of the past seven years. 
Seven Baylor programs were ranked in the nation's top 25 at season's end, and in the Big 12 all-sports poll conducted by the Waco Tribune-Herald, Baylor placed sixth -- the third time in the last four years it finished in the poll's first division.
"I credit our coaches, staff and student-athletes for remaining focused and performing at a high level despite the adversity and distractions that we faced this past year," said athletic director Ian McCaw. 
"Baylor Athletics has much to celebrate, yet even more to accomplish in the years to come," he added. "I believe that this athletic program has a great deal of upside, and I look forward to many more exciting accomplishments in the years to come."
Baylor had 10 teams advance to 2003-04 NCAA postseason: women's cross country, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, women's basketball, softball, men's and women's golf and men's tennis. 
The University's women's basketball team made its first Sweet 16 trip, and the softball and women's golf teams advanced to the NCAA Championships for the first time. An 11th Baylor program, women's tennis, also had a player participate in the national championships.
Baylor performers earned 81 All-Big 12 awards in 2003-04 and 21 All-America citations. Junior men's tennis standout Benedikt Dorsch was named the 2004 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Player of the Year. Wariner was tabbed Mondo's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track Coaches Association, and men's tennis coach Matt Knoll garnered his fourth Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year honor in eight seasons at the helm.
A native of Weiden, Germany, Dorsch also was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2004 NCAA Championship as he led the Bears to their first national title. He went 34-7 in singles and finished No. 1 in the ITA rankings. He has held the No. 1 ranking on nine occasions in the past two years -- more than any other player during that time. Dorsch also has reached the singles final in four of the six national tournaments in the past two years, including the 2003 IcyHot/ITA Men's All-American Championships.
On the track, Wariner had a hand in a number of NCAA titles, capturing gold medals in both the indoor and outdoor 400 meters and running the third leg of the Bears' national championship indoor and outdoor 4x400-meter relay units. The Arlington, Texas, native ran a 44.71 at the NCAA outdoor meet in Austin and a 45.39 at the national indoor meet in Fayetteville, Ark., to become the first Bear to sweep indoor and outdoor national titles in the 400 in the same year. He also helped Baylor's 4x400-meter relay team set an NCAA indoor record of 3:03.96 and clocked the season's fastest collegiate time of 3:01.03 at the NCAA outdoor meet.
"Winning the first NCAA team championship in school history, five NCAA individual championships and seven teams finishing the year in the Top 20 nationally is impressive by any measure," McCaw said. "I believe we are building the quality of athletic program that our alumni and fans both desire and deserve."
Academically, Baylor student-athletes continue to set the bar high. In the Big 12's eight-year history, the University has led the conference four times in graduation rates, placed second three years and was fourth in the 2003 NCAA Report, with a 66 percent mark. In 2003, Baylor tied for first in the Big 12 for graduation of male student-athletes at 63 percent and was first in both football (75 percent) and men's basketball (75 percent).
The year also saw 338 Baylor student-athletes named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll for achieving a 3.0 grade point average during either the fall or spring semester. Fifty-six Baylor student-athletes earned Academic All-Big 12 honors, including 47 first-team selections, and two student-athletes were named College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American.
"Based upon'our recent success, both academically and athletically, Baylor Athletics is clearly enjoying great momentum and has generated considerable enthusiasm throughout the Baylor family and local community," McCaw said. "Now'we must build upon this success and'optimism'as we enter next year."

Joos is associate athletic director/media relations and broadcast properties for Baylor Athletics.