Award mania. First up: DJ Augustin, selected unanimously both by the Associated Press and Big 12 coaches as First Team All-Big 12. Joining him on the awards podium is Rick Barnes, voted by his peers as Big 12 Coach of the Year. Also receiving recognition were AJ Abrams and Damion James, each voted Second Team All Big 12 by the conference's coaches, and Justin Mason, elected to the All Defensive Team.
Though DJ Augustin's award-winning season is not at all unexpected (he was voted preseason player of the year, after all), the success of this Texas team in 2007-08 has been. Among many others, Andrew and I thought this year's team would work its way through a difficult non-conference season, perhaps struggling at times, and - with some luck and development - round into a good team by the final weeks of the season.
Instead, Texas won a school record number of games during the regular season, knocked off UCLA, Tennessee, and Kansas in the process, and won the Big 12 title. Coach of the year, indeed. Whatever happens this postseason, I'm enormously pleased with this season. The results speak for themselves, but the greatness of the season following the departure of a player of Kevin Durant's caliber continues the momentum that started with TJ Ford. If that momentum peaked during the KD Show, the outstanding 2007-08 season has kept Texas in the national spotlight, further confirmed the greatness of Rick Barnes, and, equally important, positioned Texas perfectly for a monster 2009 recruiting class.
I went to every single Texas home hoops game with my father growing up, and I gotta say, I never, ever thought I'd see this day in Austin: Texas is a Destination Program for big time recruits. It's for that reason that if anyone wants to make a bar argument that Rick Barnes might be the best coach at Texas, I won't get in their way.
Speaking of hitting your peak... Fans of the ladies basketball program have to be pleased with the late season surge from the Lady Longhorns, who swept Kansas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to close out the regular season. With the surge, Texas enters this week's Big 12 tournament the 7th seed and is right in the thick of the at-large discussion for the NCAA tournament. As the DMN's Brian Davis writes, Gail Goestenkors has her team hitting its stride at the right time. With an RPI of 28 and five wins against TOp 25 teams, the prize is there for the taking.
Does this lock us into the Cotton Bowl? Officials of Texas A&M and Arkansas' athletic departments agreed to a 10-year deal with Jerry World, with four 5-year options that could extend the deal to 30 years from now. There's no announcement on when the game will be played, but presumably it'll be a September affair, at least leaving open the possibility of Texas and Oklahoma moving their annual contest should the situation at the Cotton Bowl prove unattractive. Dallas officials probably need to take seriously a commitment to maintaining/upgrading that stadium to avoid losing the Red River Shootout to Jerryworld. Assuming they do, I think most fans of both schools would prefer the game stay at the state fair grounds.
Blogging at its best. I love when fellow bloggers put together indespensable posts, which happens with greater and greater frequency these days as the number of quality sports bloggers continues to climb. TB over at Bring on the Cats has done just that with his Guide to Kansas City and the Big 12 Tournament piece. If you're going to the games this weekend, this is a must read. I recommend it for everyone, though - whether you're going or not.
Big 12 Baseball Headquarters. The 40AS boys are doing a terrific job with Texas baseball coverage here, but for those interested in Big 12 baseball coverage beyond Austin, make sure to check in regularly at both Corn Nation and Rock Chalk Talk, both of whom do outstanding jobs covering the entire conference.
Housekeeping, Part the First. You've probably noticed new front page content from our friends at 40 Acre Sports (the aforementioned terrific baseball coverage), as well as frequent contributors 54b, billyzane, and Horn Brain. The working theory is that six brains are better than two, and six contributors can provide more Texas content than two. Sound theories, we think. Mostly, Andrew and I are just like everyone else: we can't get enough Texas sports talk and saw no reason why we shouldn't put as much front page material together as possible. As always, we continue to depend on the outstanding content you guys provide in the Diaries, as well. We hope those contributions continue to grow and grow, as they have.
Relatedly, if you have interest in writing front page content for the site, we're committed to making this site the very best it can be, which we believe is in large part due to reader contributions. Keep writing those thoughtful, eloquent diaries; at the very least, some of them will wind up bumped onto the front page by the moderators.
Housekeeping, Part the Second. I've always been curious how many attorneys/law students we have reading this blog. It's my impression that a sizable chunk of the readership/commentariat is studying or practicing law. For my own interest: if you feel inclined, let me know in the comment section if you're involved with the law at all.
More generally, I'm going to be launching (as time permits) a semi-regular series on the intersection of law and sports, especially in areas that are relevant to Texas athletics. Billyzane, a practicing attorney in New York City, will no doubt have some contributions in this area as well. Additionally, if anyone out there does any work with (or has any thoughts on) sports law as it relates to universities that they'd like to contribute to the site, never hesitate to email me.
If that sets off any alarm bells with anyone, I wouldn't worry much. These will be occasional pieces, limited to areas of the law that are especially relevant to collegiate sports. And the articles will always strive to be accessible; I wouldn't worry about this becoming an academic sports law blog.
If you're wondering, my main motivation for wanting to do this is not out of law dork wonkery, but because I've become increasingly aware of how little the athletic department can do without the work of/stamp of approval from attorneys. From recruiting to TV deals to scholarship limitations, there's an overwhelming amount of law impacting Texas Longhorns athletics. It's worth talking about.