UT Arlington athletic director Jim Baker doesn’t try to act like UTA wants to be in the same tier as the other big-name schools in the region.
Instead, he’s loving the fact that UTA keeps churning out scholar athletes year after year and continues its expansion.
“We’ve got kids graduating and coaches who want to be here. And we don’t cheat,” he told an audience of hundreds at Monday night’s UTA All Sports Banquet in the College Park Center.
“That’s not something that gets a lot of press, but we’re more than happy doing things the right way,” he boasted.
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Since taking over as athletic director in 2012, Baker has gotten new clubhouses and updated both the softball and baseball complexes. He’s managed to increase attendance across the higher-tier sports, and this past month announced the introduction of a women’s golf program beginning in 2017-18.
And while those things are bolstering UTA’s athletic status, Baker spoke with more pride about the 3.0 grade-point average that UTA’s student-athletes posted in the fall.
They worked to hand out awards to the top student-athletes at UTA. The top awards, the Athletics Alumni Student-Athletes of the Year went to Hannah Nilsson and Travis Sibley. Nilsson helped guide the cross-country team to a conference title, and Sibley leads the baseball team in hits and RBIs.
Longtime WFAA sports reporter and anchor, and a UTA alum, George Riba delivered a keynote speech to the audience, focusing on the 29 marathons he’s run and how he worked his way up from the ground floor.
He told stories aimed at inspiring the audience to keep searching for the next opportunity, which perfectly summarized the state of UT Arlington athletics. With an athletic director focused first and foremost on making sure his student-athletes graduate, UTA still finds a way to expand and lead the Sun Belt in program success.
With just baseball, softball and track left to be decided for the Bubas Cup — the Sun Belt’s all-sports trophy — UTA is in first place despite not having a football or soccer program. As school president Vistasp Karbhari summed up, “when a lot of programs are struggling and cutting support, we’re expanding.”
2014-15 Bubas Cup Standings
Texas St. 75.5
South Alabama 75
Appalachian State 70.5