Column: Consistency is underrated
Appreciate basketball's success now — it might not last forever
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 15:03
College athletics are cyclical. Programs rise and fall; coaches and players come and go. Success — no matter how permanent it may seem — has an inevitable expiration date.
Over the past seven years, head coach Gary Blair and the Texas A&M women’s basketball program have opposed the national trend, scoring a fourth-seed or higher in the NCAA tournament each year — one of only four schools to do so.
Even when faced with conference realignment to a league loaded with women’s basketball talent, the Aggies adapted. Under Blair’s direction, A&M surged in the Southeastern Conference tournament, defeating Kentucky 75-67 for the University’s first SEC title.
A decade ago, the women’s basketball program occupied the Big 12 Conference’s cellar without a winning record for seven years. Enter Blair, who immediately revamped the program, boosting attendance by 71 percent and — just one year into his tenure — snared the Aggies their first postseason berth since 1996.
Since his arrival, A&M has seen its football program falter under former head coaches Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman and has seen the rise and — more recent — fall of the men’s basketball program. The women’s consistency on the hardwood, though, has been undeniable.
Aggie fans have only seen consistency, particularly over the past few seasons. In a postseason run that captivated the A&M fan base, Blair and the 2011 squad won the NCAA tournament and the program’s first national title.
However, Aggies have begun to take Blair’s consistency for granted. Attendance has decreased and even though the NCAA tournament first and second rounds are being hosted in College Station Saturday and Monday, buzz about the women’s No. 3 seed is low.
Before the arrival of A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, Aggies dreamed of a return to the days of former head coach R. C. Slocum and the Wrecking Crew, where Big 12 championships were within reach.
Since the departure of former men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon and, before him, Billy Gillispie, A&M fans have itched for a return to the NCAA tournament. Under current head coach Billy Kennedy, the Aggies have failed to reach the National Invitational Tournament, a far cry from the NCAA invitations A&M fans took for granted under the direction of Gillispie and Turgeon.
Aggies should not allow Blair and his program’s consistent success to fall by the wayside.
Lessons should be taken from football and men’s basketball. College athletics is cyclical, and sooner than Aggies know it, the women’s basketball program may be Blair-less and right back where he left in 2003 — the cellar of the conference.