Coach Ron McBride retiring, men’s basketball having a 25-7 record and sending Damian Lillard to the NBA, volleyball and women’s basketball rebuilding their programs, and the softball team’s great improvement are all a part of the 2011-’12 season of Weber State University athletics.
Football kicked off its 50th season in 2011. The season started out like the last, mediocre, but it did not end like it. The team won three out of its first six games. It wasn’t until the end of the season that things heated up for the Wildcats.
Ron McBride, head football coach, announced his retirement. McBride had been a Wildcat since 2005 and had been coaching football for the last 50 years. McBride’s retirement meant the football program needed a new leader. John L. Smith quickly stepped up to try and fill McBride’s shoes.
“With the changes in the coaching staff, we’ve been able to move the football program along,” said Jerry Bovee, athletic director. “We are excited to see where it goes in the future.”
The team had one athlete step up and perform in the final games of the season, CJ Tuckett. Tuckett was named co-offensive player of the week two weeks in a row. Tuckett had 47 carries for 465 yards and eight touchdowns, an average of 232.5 yards per game and 9.9 yards per carries in two weeks.
Volleyball had a rough season, only winning three games. This was head coach Tom Peterson’s first year as a Wildcat.
The lady Wildcat’s only won two games this year. It was Head Coach Bethann Ord’s first year at WSU.
“We are rebuilding women’s volleyball and basketball, and it’s taken some effort,” Bovee said. “We are working towards competing in the Big Sky with the work the new coaches are doing.”
The women’s cross country team won the Big Sky Championship. The men’s team took second place. Head Coach Paul Pilkington was named Big Sky coach of the year.
Indoor Track and Field
WSU women’s track and field team took first in the Big Sky Indoor championships. Coach Jim Blaisdell was named 2012 Big Sky Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year.
“Our women’s track program right now has some solid athletes competing at high levels, especially on the distance side,” Bovee said. “With the cross country and indoor track champions, I am excited to see how outdoor will end.”
The Wildcat’s had one of the best season’s in history, recording a 25-7 record and 14-2 record in the Big Sky. Lillard raked in honor after honor for WSU. After time to contemplate, Lillard announced he was foregoing his senior year of NCAA eligibility and going to the NBA draft.
“It was special to see how the season began for Lillard and our team,” Bovee said. “It ended disappointing, but in retrospect, it was one of the best seasons we had in Weber State history.”
He went on to say that he is excited that a man of Lillard’s stature is going to the NBA.
“To have that capped off with a young man of Damian going on and representing Weber State at the next level is a special story,” Bovee said.
WSU is in its third season as a sanctioned NCAA sport. In its first two seasons, WSU raked up a total of 14 wins. WSU is currently at a 16-21 record with a 5-3 record in conference play. This is the first season WSU has ever had more wins than losses in conference play.
“It’s very difficult to start a program from scratch and they are continuing to build,” Bovee said. “We are seeing some improvement. I am happy with where we are at. I am hoping we can make a run at a conference championship. We have started conference play in a good way and hope we can continue to push.”
Golf and Tennis
Both men’s and women’s golf have been battling this season. The men’s team took eighth out of 15 teams in an invitational earlier this season. Women’s have placed in the top half of every single one of its matches. It also took first Saturday in a Big Sky Conference quad match.
Men’s tennis has been scraping to stay afloat as they have 8-12 record. The team’s last match is April 17 against Utah State University. Women’s tennis has also had a struggling season only having one win. Women’s have three more matches against University of Portland, Portland State University and Idaho State University.
Not only are the teams and sports prospering but the non-athletic side of the program as well.
“On the inside we are changing our programs, and we have adapted and are building our vision,” Bovee said. “The staff has worked hard on the non-athletic side.”
Bovee has high hopes and big goals for next year.
“A big goal for me is to continue to build facilities up,” Bovee said. “ I really believe that as we continue to build the facilities up the programs will match those facilities. It helps with recruiting. We get high quality of athletes.”
Even though athletics had a successful year, there is still room for growth.
“We never want to settle with where we are at,” Bovee said. “We are looking for better things.”