The ides of June means the NCAA sports year is all but done. The only loose end is in Omaha, Neb.
Since it doesn’t concern Tennessee, it’s time to review what hits and misses were generated by a $100 million budget in 2012-13.
UT saved the best for last, softball’s runner-up finish at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Softball was one of only four sports in which Tennessee managed a presence on a national scale.
Football, of course, wasn’t one of them. The biggest news the Vols made on the gridiron was changing coaches. Again.
The women’s swimming and diving team finished third at the NCAA meet, the program’s best showing.
The men’s tennis team returned to form after a transitional year, advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals, where it lost to eventual champion Virginia.
Holly Warlick’s Lady Vols won the SEC regular-season basketball title and made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. A return to the Final Four appeared imminent, but Louisville was better that particular night.
As UT continues to feel its way into an era of a combined men’s and women’s department, I have to say that, on the bottom line, 2012-13 looked remarkably like 2011-12.
Softball played in the 2012 WCWS but went home 0-2. This team maxed out in the championship round and simply lost to a great team, Oklahoma.
The other four sports that garner the most visibility were virtually treading water. Hold your applause.
Nobody thought football would repeat 2011’s grim march to November, but that’s exactly what happened. Another 5-7, another 1-7 SEC slate, another bowl absence.
Hence, another coaching search.
Men’s basketball duplicated the close-but-no-cigar scenario of Cuonzo Martin’s maiden season. Probably one win short of the Big Dance, the Vols varied only in losing in the NIT first round rather than the second.
Baseball remained an SEC doormat in Dave Serrano’s second season, a major disappointment.
That women’s basketball stayed on form was a valid reason for anxious fans to celebrate.
The ending — one step short of the Final Four — was the same as the year before. The relief was that Warlick didn’t allow slippage in the wake of Pat Summitt’s departure despite a huge personnel turnover on the court.
Five other teams at least qualified for NCAA tournaments: women’s tennis, soccer and volleyball and men’s golf and cross-country. None made any postseason noise.
The biggest decline from 2012 was in women’s track after the departure of several quality seniors. The Lady Vols didn’t score at either the NCAA indoor or outdoor meets.
To the chagrin of proud alumni, men’s track remains adrift since the two programs were combined.
By now, UT fans have turned the page to 2013-14, anticipating more occasions to celebrate.
Hope for the coming football season is rampant, thanks to Butch Jones’ impressive first six months. Raising the bottom line in 2013, however, will be daunting.
Men’s basketball has every reason to believe a return to March Madness awaits Martin’s third team.
Women’s basketball has every reason to believe Warlick is up to the task going forward.
After 12 seasons under Ralph and Karen Weekly, UT remaining a national power in softball is a given.
While baseball remains dormant, there is still power in Serrano’s résumé. Surely progress is in the on-deck circle.
But as the past year illustrated, when you compete in the nation’s toughest conference, you have to improve just to stay even. Moving up the food chain requires something special.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.