New Mexico Athletics – 2013-14 Season Review
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Same old, same old? Pretty much. However, there is nothing boring about what’s going on over in the University of New Mexico’s Athletic Department.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then maybe what Paul Krebs is doing with his University of New Mexico athletic program should be called sanity.
In a way, the Lobos are applying the same principles over and over and finding similar results. It's called success. It's called achievement. These results make the Lobos one of the top all-around athletic programs in the nation and a dominant program in the Mountain West Conference.
Krebs always has sought out balance in his department and there is lots of Lobo excellence in the various arenas of competition and in both men and women sports.
There also is excellence in the classroom – an aspect of the student-athlete experience that should never be discounted or overlooked. The University of New Mexico topped the Mountain West in the number of student-athletes named to the Academic All-MW Spring Team with 124. UNM also led the MW with 117 MW Scholars for the 2013-14 school term – 25 more than the No. 2 MW program.
UNM set an athletic program record with a 3.25 cumulative GPA for the 2013-14 season and continues to produce a higher GPA than what is produced by the UNM student body.
“The University of New Mexico, our coaches, our administration send a strong message to our student-athletes and to the community that academics and a degree have value and are an integral part of our department,” said Henry Villegas, an associate athletics director in charge of academic services.
“There is no question that a degree is still the most important thing we can offer to a student-athlete.”
The college degree is something student-athletes can shoulder and use throughout their lives and throughout their careers. However, the nature of sports always turns heads toward the scoreboard. UNM has success there, too.
The Lobos opened the 2013-14 season in dramatic fashion as Coach Jeremy Fishbein’s men’s soccer team roared into the College Cup to finish tied for the No. 3 spot in the nation. Fish’s Lobos also produced a Conference USA title which was matched in the fall of 2013 by Coach Joe Franklin’s cross country teams which for the fifth consecutive year swept the team titles at the Mountain West Championships.
Franklin’s runners went on to finish 10th (women) and 11th (men) at the NCAA Championships. It’s the first time in program history that both teams placed in the Top 12 at an NCAA Cross Country Championship.
The conference championship trophies brought home by Fishbein and Franklin were to be joined by seven more: men’s basketball, men’s indoor track, women’s indoor track, women’s golf, men’s golf, and men’s outdoor track and baseball. UNM also produced one national champion in Eva Sever Rus in women’s skiing.
The Lobos’ athletic balance was reflected in the final 2013-14 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup Division I standings where UNM placed 51st – the top finish by a Mountain West program and above schools such as Syracuse, Kansas, Ole Miss, UConn, Miami, West Virginia, Oregon State, Wake Forest, TCU, St. John’s.
The message reflected by Lobo accomplishment in athletics and in the classroom is an obvious one and an compelling one: Lobos find success.
"At UNM, it is expected that our student-athletes show dedication and hard work in competition and in their pursuit of a degree,” said Krebs, UNM's Vice President for Athletics. “The core values of an athletic department often are best reflected by student-athletes, who excel at a high level in the classroom and in their respective fields of competition.”
The Lobos had their share of conference champions, but there also was high achievement from a lot of Lobo teams that did not bring home championship trophies.
The surge in the women’s tennis program under Coach Erica Perkins Jasper was dramatic. The team’s 17 wins were the most in ten seasons and a confident and young Lobo team pulled somewhat of a shocker by finishing runner-up in the MW Championships. Jasper had inherited a UNM program that went 17-49 under the previous staff.
Bob Davie’s football program continued its offensive success averaging 308.8 yards rushing and 32.8 points per game which was only 1.2 points off the school record of 34.0 points set in 1982. Jeff Nelson’s youth-filled volleyball team spiked out a glistening 24-7 record, the most wins by the program since 1988, and finished second to 28-2 Colorado State. The UNM men’s tennis team also was No. 2 in the MW Tournament with the biggest loss the retirement of Coach Alan Dils, who put in 29 years as a UNM coach/player.
Coach Craig Neal’s men’s basketball program just missed out on a regular-season title, but his Lobos produced a record-setting third straight MW Tournament title. Coach Fredrik Landstedt’s ski team got an NCAA win from Sever Rus which helped return the Lobos to the NCAA podium with a third-place finish. Landstedt’s team produced five First Team All-Americans.
Here's a quick summary of New Mexico teams that won 2013-14 conference titles:
Men's Soccer: Jeremy Fishbein’s Lobos won a Conference USA title and pushed their way into the 2013 College Cup where they became (for the second time) the only UNM program to reach a Final Four in a tournament format. UNM lost to eventual national champion, Notre Dame, in the national semis. New Mexico took home 13 All-Conference USA awards including Fishbein as Coach of the Year and Kyle Venter as MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Christopher Wehan was named as the league’s Freshman of the Year
Cross Country: Joe Franklin's cross country teams pulled off their fifth consecutive "combined" sweep in men's and women's Mountain West finals. The Lobo women went on to finish No. 10 at nationals and the men finished in the No. 11 spot. U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) named UNM’s Sammy Silva as the NCAA Division I Mountain Region Women's Athlete of the Year. Franklin was MW Coach of the Year in both the men’s and women’s division.
Men's Basketball: The Coach Craig Neal said his No. 1 goal as a Lobo rookie coach was to get his Lobos into the NCAA Tournament. The Lobos obviously were an NCAA at-large lock heading into the MW tourney in Vegas, but officially sealed a postseason berth by winning that tourney title for UNM’s 27th win. Cameron Bairstow led the MW in scoring and was the tournament MVP. He was joined on the All-MW First Team by Kendall Williams.
Indoor Track: The Lobo women won their first ever indoor title and combined with Joe Franklin’s men to produce the school’s first indoor sweep. Franklin became the first MW coach to ever sweep both Coach of Year awards. He went on to sweep both awards in the NCAA Mountain Region. The Lobos had a program-tying 15 All-MW picks on the men’s side and a program-record 14 on the women’s side.
Outdoor track: Franklin’s men conquered the Triple Crown by winning the program’s first outdoor league title since 1967. The Lobos got a huge push to the title from Luke Caldwell, Adam Bitchell and Patrick Zacharias, who went 1-2-3 in the 5,000 and 10,000. UNM also got wins from Peter Callahan (1,500), Gabe Aragon (800), Reneilwe Aphane (triple jump) and Richard York (javelin).
Baseball: Ray Birmingham’s program picked up its third straight Mountain West regular-season title (tie with UNLV) and recorded 37 wins (37-20-1) for the third straight season. The Lobos are one of five schools to have won a league title in three straight years and, including MW tournament crowns, have five titles in four years. Chase Harris led UNM in most offensive categories and was named Fourth Team All-American by College Sports Madness.
Men’s Golf: Glenn Millican’s Lobos had a heartbreak ending missing the NCAA finals by a single stroke, but UNM rolled out a super season including a defense of their 2013 Mountain West title. UNM lost a nine-stroke lead, fell behind by four shots, but rallied to win the 2014 MW crown by three shots. Gavin Green was the individual champion winning that title on the first hole of sudden death. Green was the MW Player of the Year and Millican took Coach of the Year honors.
Women’s Golf: Jill Trujillo challenged her young Lobos in 2014 bring home another MW Championship ring. They did that by one shot beating out San Jose State 902 to 903. It was a pivotal win for UNM as they needed the league’s automatic bid to return to NCAA play. UNM was paced by super freshman Manon Molle (5th) and seniors Manon De Roey and Sammi Stevens. Trujillo was named MW Coach of the Year. Trujillo's Lobos were No. 2 in the women'n golf with a 3.839 GPA.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.