UTA athletics has a storied history that each student-athlete has added lines and pages to, President Vistasp Karbhari told the crowd at the All-Sports Banquet on Monday in the College Park Center.
The 2014-15 academic year includes a long list of accomplishments for UTA’s sports programs, from the grand opening of new facilities for the baseball and softball teams to the women’s basketball team winning 17 games and clinching the No. 5 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
Monday night was full of praise for the student-athletes, who are setting the tone for a potential new era of sports at UTA.
“At a time when others across the United States are thinking of shrinking their programs or cutting support, we are strengthening and expanding,” Karbhari said about UTA’s growing athletics program.
Athletics director Jim Baker spoke first during the banquet and announced UTA is in first place for the Bubas Cup, the Sun Belt Conference’s annual all-sports championship trophy based on regular season finishes.
The volleyball team started the year off strong, winning 13 of its first 16 matches before ending the year with 25 wins, the most since 2006. Recently, the softball team clinched a tournament berth, and at 27-24, UTA has six more wins than its first season in the Sun Belt and still has three games remaining in the regular season.
“As you hear all these things going on in the country and all the bad news going on about college athletics, this is what it’s all about,” Baker said. “We’ve got the good story to tell. We have kids who graduate, coaches who want to be here and we don’t cheat.”
The night also featured keynote speaker George Riba, alumnus and retired award-winning WFAA Channel 8 sports reporter, anchor, producer and director.
Riba spoke about his 37-year career that included 8,000 stories he reported on before retiring in February.
“Mary Lou Retton, who was a 1984 gold gymnast, said trophies are great, but the memories are even better,” Riba said. “I hope you guys have had great memories here at UTA. I know they’re memories I’ll cherish forever and will remember forever.”
Baseball’s senior shortstop Travis Sibley said he’ll miss the memories made at the banquet every year, but this was one he’ll cherish, especially after being named the UT Arlington Athletics Alumni Chapter Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
“It’s something you work for, for four years, and, thankfully, I was fortunate enough to get it,” Sibley said. “It’s something you can hang on your office wall and be proud of.”
Hannah Nilsson, women's track and field senior, took home the Female Student-Athlete of the Year, along with many others who were recognized for their work in the community and the classroom.
The night ended with homage to the 2015 graduating class of athletes, who were presented with medals and stoles.