Texas crushed it in almost every single sport — even basketball had a good regular season. The Longhorns won three national championships for the first time in 21 years. Summer’s here, and one more Texas athletic year is in the books, save for the Longhorns baseball team, which is […]
- Texas crushed it in almost every single sport -- even basketball had a good regular season.
- The Longhorns won three national championships for the first time in 21 years.
Summer’s here, and one more Texas athletic year is in the books, save for the Longhorns baseball team, which is playing so well it might actually be the last team standing in the country.
Needless to say, it’s been a banner season for the burnt orange.
I mean, like really fly some banners.
I’d say three national championships — in women’s tennis, rowing, and men’s swimming and diving — qualify as an insanely crazy-good year, the most in a single season in 21 years. Furthermore, as many as 12 UT teams finished with top-10 rankings, the most since the same number in 2004-05, and seven of those had lofty top-five finishes.
It's a wonder Texas can afford the light bill for all the times the Tower has been lit up in celebration.
So that brings us to our annual sports quiz, if you care to play along. No real homework necessary.
1. Which team had the absolute best season?
(a) Men’s swimming and diving.
(b) Women’s tennis.
Answer: (b) You might have to check back at the end of the month on David Pierce’s baseball team because it entered the weekend just two wins away from a College World Series berth. For now I’ll take Howard Joffe’s female netters, who won 24 straight matches to claim the school’s fourth national title, but Eddie Reese's bunch in the short suits pulled it off for a staggering 15th time.
2. Who was the Longhorns' coach of the year?
(a) Eddie Reese, as always.
(b) Howard Joffe.
(c) David O'Neill.
(d) David Pierce.
(e) Jerritt Elliott.
(f) Vic Schaefer.
Answer: (c) I’m tired of giving it to Eddie every year. Besides, he’s retired, I think. Let’s spread the wealth and give it to O’Neill, the four-time national rowing coach of the year. Oars up, everybody. He barely edges out Schaefer, who had an unlikely run to the Elite Eight in his first season.
3. Name the athlete of the year.
(a) Sam Ehlinger.
(b) Peyton Sterns.
(c) Pierceson Coody.
(d) Tara Davis.
(e) Logan Eggleston.
(f) Ty Madden.
(g) Charli Collier.
(h) Drew Kibler.
Answer: (c). I have a soft spot for golf, so I’ll give it to Coody, who rose to be the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world for a bit and joined Cole Hammer on the U.S. Walker Cup-winning team. There were so many stellar candidates we really could have expanded this to the whole alphabet.
4. Which athlete overcame the most?
(a) Pitcher Tristan Stevens for persisting in a subordinate role to become No. 1 co-ace with Ty Madden.
(b) Guard Andrew Jones for whipping cancer’s butt.
(c) Lineman Derek Kerstetter for starting his comeback after his gruesome ankle injury against Kansas State.
(d) Middle blocker Asjia O’Neal for battling back after not one but two open heart surgeries in her life to become a star middle blocker.
Answer (b). AJ can fill up a basket, occasionally plays defense when a teammate isn't yelling at him and continues his all-time fight back from leukemia.
5. Who was the freshman athlete of the year?
(a) Forward Greg Brown III.
(b) Running back Bijan Robinson.
(c) Third baseman Camille Corona.
(d) Pinch-hitter Jordyn Whitaker.
(e) Backstroker Carson Foster.
(f) Second sacker Mitchell Daly.
Answer: (b) Has Robinson sewn up the 2021 Heisman yet? Give him time. The man is a stud.
6. Which team was the biggest underachiever this year?
(a) Football, which lost three games and gave away the TCU game.
(b) Men’s basketball, which still didn't win an NCAA Tournament game.
(c) Soccer, which went 7-5.
(d) Men’s golf, which didn't reach the final 15 or contend for individual honors.
(e) Football. Yeah, it should be mentioned twice. Just beat OU, already.
Answer: No peeking. OK, it’s (a). And (e). If your coach gets fired, you didn't have a good year. The elation over winning Alamo Bowls comes with an expiration date.
7. Who was Texas’ best transfer athlete?
(a) Wideout Brendan Schooler (Oregon, Arizona), who's now a safety.
(b) Center fielder Mike Antico (St. John's), who will run a pitcher ragged.
(d) Point guard Kyra Lambert (Duke), who really stabilized the team.
(e) Designated hitter Ivan Melendez (Odessa College), whose muscles have muscles.
(f) Pitcher Molly Jacobsen (Ole Miss), who shut out Oregon to capture the Austin. Regional.
Answer: (b). Tough, tough choice. Melendez had deep fly balls out of the Disch in a record six straight games, the softball team wouldn’t have reached the super regional against Oklahoma State without Jacobsen's heroics, and Lambert shored up a troublesome spot that the Longhorns needed to reach the Elite Eight. But Antico makes fantastic plays in center and makes the baseball team’s offense go. He's the spark.
8. What was the biggest story of the year?
(a) Furor — and I do mean furor — over “The Eyes of Texas.”
(b) Decision to fire, keep and eventually fire Tom Herman, who I think is still fired.
(c) Softball hitting machine Janae Jefferson actually striking out once or twice.
(e) Wild pursuit of Urban Meyer, who had his eyes on a bigger prize.
(g) Firing of Shaka Smart.
Answer: (a). The ongoing controversy over Texas' alma mater continues to overshadow the entire athletic program and, in many ways, dealt a death blow to Herman’s job because it was such a polarizing issue within the team and remains so.
9. What was the worst loss of the year?
(a) Abilene Christian.
(b) Abilene Christian.
(c) Abilene Christian.
(d) Abilene Christian.
(e) Abilene Christian.
(f) TCU football.
Answer: You’re kidding, right? There is no second choice. Some might say it was the best loss in history because it began the toppling of the dominoes that led to Chris Beard’s hiring by Texas, much as Charlie Strong’s unthinkable loss to Kansas in 2016 led to his exit because it made it obvious he wasn’t the guy.
10. What will you remember most about Shaka Smart?
(a) The Maui Invitational not in Maui.
(b) The string of NBA lottery picks he had.
(c) HIs cool hair in 2021.
(d) His integrity.
(e) Abilene Christian (sorry, that one really hurt) and some really bad inbounds mess-ups.
Answer: (d) You remember what you want to remember (or forget), and I’ll remember what I want to. Smart and Strong are two really cool dudes I’d love to have beers with, and I'm tremendously sorry they didn’t get it done. I’ll always appreciate Smart's integrity and total class. Standup guy. Never pointed fingers. Kill it at Marquette, Shaka.
11. Which coach had the most impressive season that didn’t bring a title?
(a) Men’s tennis coach Bruce Berque.
(b) Defensive coordinator Chris Ash.
(c) Kim Mulkey tormentor Vic Schaefer.
(d) Volleyball’s stone-faced Jerritt Elliott.
(e) Softball’s Mike White.
Answer: In a very close call, I’ll take Schaefer’s improbable run to the Elite Eight in women’s basketball over White’s string of victories that fell one win shy of the Women’s College World Series despite a woeful defense and the loss of opted-out ace Miranda Elish.
12. What got Tom Herman fired?
(a) Four losses to Oklahoma in five tries.
(b) The constant "Eyes" saga.
(c) Two losses to Maryland.
(d) His unstable relationships with his players and administration.
(e) That damn binder.
(f) Never winning the Big 12.
A: I’d say (d) because he burned one too many bridges — not to mention the bacon or soggy pancakes as fake motivation — in his relationships, and that ultimately cost him his job. But those four losses to the Sooners sure didn't help.
13. Who was Texas' biggest hire this year?
(a) Chris Beard.
(b) Steve Sarkisian.
(c) Whoever advised Sark not to let his assistants talk to the media — ever.
(d) UT President Jay Hartzell’s tennis instructor.
(e) New band director.
A: It ain’t (c). Or (e). Beard wins this in a landslide since he’s already had runaway success as a head coach on his own while Sark’s still riding shotgun on Nick Saban’s coattails. And Beard is gobbling up recruits and transfers as if they're jelly beans.
14. Who is the best recruit for next year?
(a) Forward Aaliyah Moore.
(b) Pitcher Sophia Simpson.
(c) Wide receiver/safety Ja’Tavion Sanders.
(d) Wing Timmy Allen.
(e) Midfielder Lexi Missimo.
A: It had better be Sanders because he’s the face of the incoming football class and can play wide receiver, safety, linebacker or wherever he wants to line up.
15. Who is the athlete or coach you’ll miss the most?
(a) Exuberant Zach Zubia.
(b) Stand-up Charli Collier.
(c) Joyful Matt Coleman III.
(d) Comedian Eddie Reese.
(e) Team leader Sam Ehlinger.
A: No wrong answer here, but I’m going to smile Coleman’s electric smile. Didn’t always play great, but played with relentless joy and passion and wore his heart on his sleeve.
16. Who’s Texas' next star — if he or she isn’t already?
(a) Pitcher Tanner Witt.
(b) Sprinter Kynnedy Flannel.
(c) Guard Rori Harmon.
(d) Wing Christian Bishop.
(e) Quarterback Casey Thompson.
Answer: (a) Witt has tremendous mechanics and unbelievable poise and is set to emerge as Texas’ Friday night starter next spring. (In truth, Flannel's already a star.)
17. Which team has the best chance to win it all next year?
(c) Men’s golf.
(d) Women’s basketball.
(e) Either track team.
Answer: (a) I think I might always go with volleyball because Elliott’s crews are in the hunt each and every year with little or no drop-off.
18. What year will Texas will its next football national championship?
(b) Whenever Lincoln Riley goes to the NFL.
Answer: I’ll go with (e) since there’s no (f). Some might say there’s no way the Longhorns will win it again as long as Oklahoma rules the Big 12 roost and Riley stays put. Sarkisian has a long way to go to stockpile the beef up front and the kind of talent necessary to unseat an Alabama or a Clemson. But he seems more organized and committed and focused than Herman, and a new 12-team CFP format allows for more entry spots in the playoff. It'll happen, orangebloods.