July 26, 2005
The July 5, 2005 issue of The State newspaper did a review of our 2004-05 sports year. Although I don’t retract any statement that I made in the article, I also don’t feel the tone of the article accurately portrayed a balance of my true feelings about the overall present state of our department. However, I recognize more reflective statements would have provided better balance; and, as I told my staff, I rendered a disservice in this regard.
We have good coaches and staff at Clemson and I have strong confidence in their abilities. That was never more obvious than last year when a number of programs made significant improvement over the course of the season. The football team won five of its last six games for the second consecutive year, including a landmark victory at tenth ranked Miami (Florida) in the Orange Bowl.
The men’s basketball team made a strong charge at the conclusion of the season, a run that included three wins over Maryland in a six-week span, to reach post-season play for the first time in six years. The baseball team came back from a 15-13 start to record nine top-10 wins to reach the NCAA Super Regional and finish with a consensus top 15 national ranking. The women’s tennis team started 5-6 due to injuries, but they finished in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row–a first in Clemson history for a women’s program.
Fifteen of our 19 sports programs participated in post-season play in 2004-05. Six different programs recorded 34 victories over top 25 teams. So, we are certainly capable of competing against the best programs in the nation. That is one of the positives of the “new ACC”–you compete against the elite programs in the nation in all sports. The pure mathematics of taking a league from eight teams, as the ACC was in the 1980’s, to a 12-team league makes it more difficult to win conference championships. But, our overall program will be elevated so we can compete in the long run on a national basis.
Much was made in the article in The State of our #52 national ranking in the Director’s Cup standings. It will be very difficult for us to record a high final rating in that statistical poll because we have only 19 sports. Many of the programs ahead of us have more sports than us and have more opportunities to score points in that poll. As a result, Clemson has not finished in the top 20 in that poll in the last 11 years.
To illustrate, while we were #52 in that poll this year, we were #39 in points per sport. Ohio State ranked #12 overall in the Director’s Cup standing, but on a points-per-sport basis, they were #40–one spot below Clemson. I don’t see us adding or subtracting sports in the near future, so I will pay more attention to the points-per-sport ranking.
I am pleased with the performance of our department in a number of areas that are keys to the success of our overall program. Academically, we had a record 245 student-athletes named to the academic honor roll for the spring semester, including a record 121 who were named to the Dean’s List. Eight of our 15 programs had at least a 3.0 team GPA, tying a record for a single semester. Academic standards are going to rise in the future, so it is important to have a strong academic support staff in place.
Clemson never lost an overtime competition in any sport this past year, posting an 8-0-3 record. That speaks well of the coaching staff in late-game pressure situations, but it also speaks well of the program in place in our strength training facility. Our student-athletes are in good condition physically, allowing them to perform very well late in competition.
We are also making significant strides from a facility standpoint–tangible improvements that are going to help all of our programs in the future. The WestZone project is running on schedule, if not ahead of schedule. Renovations in the Jervey Athletic Center will have a positive effect on our basketball programs, as will future expansion into the McFadden Building for our Olympic sports when the WestZone project is completed.
Overall, our goals are to be consistent contenders across all sports for ACC championships, doing so with class, quality and NCAA compliance. When we become more consistent regarding these goals, we’ll have a shot nationally. Are we satisfied where we are? NO. I believe we can be as good as we want to be–but, we simply cannot let obstacles or barriers shortchange that mindset. And this mindset is paramount to improvement. Bobby Robinson left us with a good foundation that provides opportunity to improve. We have a strong plan in place, and intend/expect to improve and develop the needed consistency to be an overall class, quality and championship program. Again, within NCAA rules.
Terry Don Phillips
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