Thursday, March 11, 2010

Yes, UVA is Good at Sports

The old saying goes, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound. Well the same can apply to UVa’s spring sports. Currently, Virginia’s baseball, men’s lacrosse, and men’s tennis teams are all ranked #1 in the nation, but since they are not the popular money makers, like football and basketball, does anyone even notice?

Due to last year’s run to the College World Series last year, UVA’s baseball team started the season ranked #2 in the nation. After a 10-2 start, they are now the #1 ranked team for the first time in the team’s history. The program has also recently produced two Major League stars, Mark Reynolds, who hit 44 homeruns last year (4th in the league), and Ryan Zimmerman, who is the face of the Nationals, and was an All-Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glover last season.

On Sunday, the men’s tennis team defeated #4 Texas 9-4 to maintain it’s #1 ranking and move its record to 17-1. Regular season losses are rare to the program in recent years. In the past three seasons, they have a 81-3 combined record, including a 63 regular season game winning streak. The program’s best player, Somdev Devvarman won two individual national titles and made the 2nd round of the US Open last year. Despite their success, the team lost in the national championship tournament each year.

Also on Sunday, the men’s lacrosse team defeated #1 Syracuse to take over the #1 spot in a 11-10 nail biter. The program has had a winning tradition for many years with four national titles, including three in the past decade. They’ve made seven of the past ten final fours, and had a perfect season in 2006.

Unfortunately for UVA, these successful programs and sports do not get the recognition they deserve compared to the big money making sports, basketball and football. Virginia’s football and basketball programs could be called mediocre at best recently. The football team has only made one bowl game in the past four seasons while the basketball team has only made the big dance once in the past nine seasons. The football team has not even finished a season ranked in the top #25 since 2004. Both programs made coaching changes with Mike London is starting his first season at the helm of the football team this fall, while Tony Bennett just finished his first season as the basketball coach after Dave Leitao’s brief four year stint.

Meanwhile these two losing programs are the money makers, garnering the negative attention. Looking at the average attendance of each stadium, average tickets prices and average number of home games, basketball and football rake in $15-20 million a season even with falling attendance, while the max the successful spring sports can do is barely a million. In addition, the television coverage is greatly skewed contributing to the lack of pub. All of the football and two-thirds of the basketball regular season games are televised, while only half of the lacrosse, 5% of the baseball and zero tennis games make the airwaves.

Hopefully fans will learn to appreciate the national championship caliber spring teams that keep getting honored during the commercial breaks during football game blowouts.

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