From the Desk of Athletics Director Jeff Long
Greetings and Rock Chalk!
So many exciting things are happening here, and before we turn the page from winter sports to spring sports, I’d like to reflect with appreciation on some tremendous accomplishments by our winter sports as they competed throughout the winter.
Let’s start with men’s basketball. Coach Bill Self and his staff took their quest for a 15th-straight Big 12 Conference regular-season title down to the last two games of the season. That in itself was an amazing feat by our coaching staff, considering that for a myriad of reasons the roster barely resembled the one they started with in preseason. Jayhawks everywhere can take great pride in the fact that, with a starting lineup of four freshmen and a transfer, this team earned a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament and was in the hunt for a 15th-straight conference title right up until the end of the regular season.
And while we’re at it, let’s celebrate the accomplishments of our coaches and student-athletes who contributed to the record-setting, unprecedented achievement of 14-straight Big 12 regular-season championships. This season I had the opportunity to watch first-hand as this young team went on the road with a big target on its back – the target that comes with playing for the Kansas Jayhawks. They got every team’s best shot because of our incredible tradition of success. Opposing arenas were full with frenzied fans urging their team to break the Jayhawks’ Championship streak. That same scenario has been playing out for decades, and yet our coaches and student-athletes have thrived in those atmospheres, and in that pressure, and became champions.
Fourteen straight. An incredible standard of excellence, and I can see another streak starting next season. We have a terrific coaching staff that consistently puts players in the NBA. And that same staff ensures that, while these young men are here at KU, education remains paramount. Our basketball team’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) and Graduation Success Rate (GSR) consistently rank among the nation’s best.
Our fans and students make Allen Fieldhouse the best arena in the nation. And we have the iconic Kansas brand, built on generations of consistent, championship-level success. I can’t wait for next season!
Speaking of champions, KU junior Bryce Hoppel recently added his name to the list of KU national champions. He won the 800-meter run at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March, leading our men’s team to a 12th-place finish. Freshman Zach Bradford and senior Hussain Al Hazam also earned first-team All-America honors, both in the pole vault.
On the women’s side, senior Sharon Lokedi earned second-team All-America honors in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Championships; she finished her great KU career as a 10-time All-American. Our distance medley team earned second-team all-America honors, as did freshman Rylee Anderson in the high jump.
In swimming and diving, senior diver Vicky Xu won All-America honors at the NCAA Championship in both the one-meter and three-meter competitions. Prior to the NCAA’s, swimming and diving had a hugely successful Big 12 Championship meet, finishing second behind Texas with a program-record score of 754.5 points, 71 points more than the previous program best. At the Big 12 meet the Jayhawks set eight school records, and Xu became Kansas’ first-ever Big 12 diving champion, winning on the three-meter board. Freshman Kate Steward won the 200-yard breaststroke, breaking the school record in the process. KU head coach Clark Campbell was named the Coach of the Meet, the only non-Texas award-winner at the event. In addition, Steward qualified for the 2020 Olympic Trials in the 200-meter breaststroke with a second-place finish in the “B” final at the USA Swimming Winter National Championships.
Another KU program that is achieving at a Top-20 level this year is tennis, which in March earned a No. 7 national ranking, the highest in program history. Already this year tennis has beaten 10 teams that are either currently ranked or have appeared in the poll this season: Northwestern, Illinois, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, Arkansas, Air Force, Tulsa, Rice and Wichita State. KU has not lost to any team outside the current top 13: Texas (No. 6), Oklahoma State twice (No. 9) and Washington (No. 13). Three of those four losses were by the score of 4-3. And our first doubles team was just ranked the No. 1 doubles team in the nation.
Men’s golf is ranked No. 32 in the nation after its recent second-place finish at a tournament in South Carolina, beating such schools as Duke, Kentucky, Purdue, Virginia, Wisconsin and N.C. State. The team was led by senior Charlie Hillier, who won the individual title at that tournament with a score of 13 under par.
Success like this cannot happen without your help. Thank you very much for your support of our student-athletes and coaches. We’re looking forward to even more success as the spring season progresses, and hope to see you cheering on your Jayhawks at a Kansas Athletics event soon.
Director of Athletics