2006-07 season in review: Men's Athletics
A third consecutive bowl victory and ninth straight trip to a bowl game under head coach Mack Brown got the 2006-07 men's athletics season off to a grand start.
That was UT's 46th bowl game overall, ranking the Horns No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the Big 12 in that category. Texas recorded a seventh straight top-15 finish and made it 10 or more victories in a season for six years in a row.
Redshirt freshman Colt McCoy was brilliant in his first season as a starter, becoming the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Big 12 Co-Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the Alamo Bowl triumph against Iowa in San Antonio in December.
Freshman Kevin Durant guided Coach Rick Barnes' hoops squad into the NCAA playoffs while rewriting the Big 12 Conference record books. Durant, the National Player of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year (first freshman ever so honored) became the Big 12 single-season scoring leader.
Coach Augie Garrido's baseball team won their second consecutive outright Big 12 Conference regular season title. In route, the Longhorns gave Garrido his 1,600th career victory, making him the second college baseball coach ever to reach that plateau and the only Division I coach to do so.
In tennis, the Longhorns, without a senior on the active roster, won 20 games and made their 25th NCAA tournament appearance for coach Michael Center, while Texas' track and field men wound up third in the indoor national championships -- their best finish ever in that event. Leo Manzano was No. 2 in the 1,500 in the national outdoor meet where UT was 14th. Coach Bubba Thornton was named head coach of Team USA for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
In golf, coach John Fields led Texas to its best NCAA finish in three years, while UT's swimmers claimed their 11th straight Big 12 title and 28th straight conference crown for coach Eddie Reese, who begins his 30th year as UT coach in 2007-08. Eleven swimmers and one diver earned All-America honors. Garrett Weber-Gale's third-place finish in the 100 freestyle in the NCAA Championship was the top individual performance for UT in that event.
The Longhorns own a nation-leading 93 victories in the last nine years and a Big 12 Conference-leading 60 victories in the last nine years.
"And we reminded our guys that the Alamodome is the home for this year's Big 12 Conference championship game," coach Mack Brown said.
"We've had 10 or more wins in six straight years and nobody else in the country ever has done that," said Brown of the 10-3 mark in 2006.
That was Texas' ninth straight bowl game under Brown, matching the Longhorns' longest streak of consecutive bowl games dating back to 1977 when UT went to bowl games through 1985. It also was the 46th bowl bid overall, ranking the Longhorns tied for second all-time in the NCAA record book -- first among Big 12 Conference schools.
Redshirt freshman Colt McCoy began his life as starting quarterback by winning the opener against North Texas, becoming the first freshman to accomplish that feat since Hall of Famer Bobby Layne did it in 1944.
That was only the beginning for McCoy, who would be the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Big 12 Co-Offensive Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year and a Davey O'Brien Award semifinalist. He also was offensive MVP in the Alamo Bowl.
UT recorded victories against the teams that competed in the Big 12 Conference championship game in Kansas City -- Oklahoma and Nebraska. McCoy threw for a school-record 27 touchdown passes, only three shy of breaking the NCAA mark by a freshman. McCoy also engineered four come-from-behind victories.
"Our biggest question mark was at quarterback," Brown said of the Longhorns' state of mind coming into 2006. "Colt McCoy more than answered that question."
"Every year is different," says the Longhorns' Zenmaster, who acknowledges that 2007 was quite different compared to his other seasons since arriving in Austin in 1996.
"The offense performed well," Garrido continued. "It (the offense) has been consistent and productive so sometimes you just have to adjust."
The Longhorns hit well enough to claim their second consecutive outright Big 12 regular-season title, but fell in the NCAA Regionals at Dell Diamond, losing to UC Irvine to end the season as UT finished 46-17.
Yet, it was shy of the goal of going to Omaha for the College World Series, where the Longhorns have been more than any other college baseball team (32 times.
"I'm speechless because I thought this team really did have it," said Kyle Russell, who hit a Division I-leading 28 home runs in 2007.
The sophomore also eclipsed the all-time Texas seasonal home run mark of 20 barely two weeks into April.
Bradley Suttle and Chance Wheeless played well, with Wheeless pacing the team in sacrifices.
Adrian Alaniz, James Russell, Randy Boone and Joseph Krebs were a formidable pitching staff.
"There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm with this team," Garrido said. "But then (in the postseason), we never got the edge that makes this game look easy."
A highlight of 2007 came in March when the Horns opened the Big 12 season against Baylor and Garrido won his 1,600th game. That victory made Garrido one of two men in college baseball history to reach -- and now eclipse -- that mark. Only he reached this milestone in NCAA Division I.
"Please understand, 1,600 means something to me," Garrido said. "I would be remiss not to thank all of the players and all of the people who helped me reach that point. This record is a tribute to a lot of people. I am thankful for all of those people."
The most talented basketball player in UT history guided the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to USC, 87-68, and ending the season for coach Rick Barnes at 27-10.
But it was a season to remember for Longhorns' patrons thanks to the 6-9 Durant, who was the National Player of the Year and who wound up being the No. 2 pick overall in the NBA Draft last month.
"Our basketball team did a lot of good things last year," said Barnes, whose club reached the finals of the Big 12 Tournament before being nudged by Kansas.
Durant caused sportswriters across the country to turn to their thesaurus to invent new ways to portray his indescribable game that allowed him to lead the Longhorns in scoring, rebounds, blocked shots and double-doubles during the Big 12 regular season.
He also re-wrote the Big 12 record book by becoming the conference's single-season scoring champ en route to capturing the Big 12 Player of the Year award. He also became the first freshman ever to win Big 12 Player of the Year honors and the second Texas player to be so recognized.
Three other freshmen -- D.J. Augustin, who made the All-Big 12 Second Team, Damion James and Justin Mason -- joined Durant in the starting lineup for Barnes, who lost every starter from last year's team.
Certainly, Barnes' 2006-07 edition of the Longhorns disproves the bromide 'Youth is wasted on the young'. Barnes' babies improved steadily throughout the year, thanks also to sophomore A.J. Abrams, the graybeard of the starting lineup, as well as sophomore sub Connor Atchley.
"If you are not getting better, you're getting worse," said Barnes, who in his ninth season at Texas became the 25th active Division I coach to record 400 career victories. "But it is a never-ending process."
Redshirt freshman Charlie Holland's one-under-par 69 paced the Horns on the final day.
"We had nothing to lose," Fields said after the NCAAs. "We're going to build on this."
Texas had failed to make the NCAAs a year ago.
"It was an up and down year for sure," said Fields, who has been at the helm of the men's team for eight seasons. "We finished fourth in the Big 12 Championship and by no means is that what we wanted."
Fields mentioned his reaction when he was congratulated for the fourth-place finish in the Big 12.
"I said, 'Excuse me?'" Fields began. "I accept congratulations on how hard my guys worked. But we're Texas and we're spoiled. We won the Big 12 in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Finishing fourth in the Big 12 is not where we want to be.
"Please understand, I was disappointed for my guys, but not disappointed in their effort. They have given the effort all the time this year."
Fields described his team as inexperienced, having a redshirt freshman, a true freshman and a junior as the top three UT finishers in the NCAAs.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
The Horns were fifth in the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis. That wasn't exactly what Reese had in mind, considering that his nine national titles at UT are the most for any Longhorns' coach.
"We knew we could have been better than that," said Reese, whose men have finished in the top 10 nationally for 28 straight seasons.
"We just have to go back to the drawing board on a couple of things," said Reese, who has developed 40 NCAA individual champions and who will guide the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Eleven UT swimmers and one diver earned All-America honors. Garrett Weber-Gale's (the Big 12 Conference's Men's Swimmer of the Year) third-place finish in the 100 freestyle was the top individual finish at the NCAAs for UT.
The relay team of Weber-Gale, Tommy Sacco, Tyler O'Halloran and Ricky Berens was second in the 400.
"At the beginning of the year, I had to look around and remind myself who was playing for us," Center said, with a laugh.
By the end of the year, Center -- as well as tennis fans across the country -- knew.
The UT men reached their 25th NCAA tournament and advanced to the round of 16 for a second consecutive year before losing to North Carolina State, 4-3, in Athens, Ga.
Under Center, the Horns tied for third in 2006 in the NCAAs, losing to eventual national champ Pepperdine in the semifinals. The men wound up this season at 20-9.
"It was disappointing to not be at our best (in the N.C. State match)," Center said. "But give N.C. State credit. They had a nice team and they played well."
Center had freshman standout Dimitar Kutrovsky from Bulgaria at No. 1 and also got strong play from freshman Josh Zavala of Amarillo, sophomore transfer Jonah Kane-West (who left Tulane after Hurricane Katrina), and junior Luis Diaz Barriga. Sophomore Miguel Reyes Varela missed almost half the season because of a knee injury.
"I'm really happy overall," said Center of his seventh season as head coach. "The guys competed well all year long. I can tell you that I really enjoyed this group. It was fun to watch them grow during the season. I'm disappointed we lost when we did in the NCAAs.
"I liked our attitude from the start. This was one of the most enjoyable seasons for me as a coach because this was a group of young men who were fun to be around all the time. I know they gave me all they had each time they were on the court."
TRACK AND FIELD
Thornton's Longhorns enjoyed their highest finish ever in the NCAA Indoor Championships -- third place -- and their second-highest point total ever in the event (34 points).
The third place in the national indoors marked the fifth straight top-10 finish in that event by UT. The Horns have been in the top five in four of the last five NCAA Indoor Championships.
UT, which captured the Big 12 Indoors with 93 points, wound up third in the Big 12 Outdoor Championships behind Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Along with Manzano's successes in 2007, Jamaal Charles (100m), Jacob Hernandez (800m), Erik Stanley (1,500m) and triple jumpers Elliott O'Hare, Samyr Laine and Joseph Davis were among the Longhorns with good performances this year. Thornton could bask in some individual glory in 2007 as the United States Olympic Committee and USA Track and Field (USAFT) selected the UT coach as head man for Team USA men's track and field for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
"I'm humbled and honored to be a part of a very elite group of coaches to represent our country in the Olympics," he said.