A look back at the year in sports

John Reecer

Well folks, that’s it. Another school year here at WKU is almost over, and the only events left are finals week and the ends of the baseball, softball and track and field teams’ seasons.

In the realm of WKU’s athletics department, it has certainly been an eventful year. There were some very bright moments and some extremely low points.

However, no matter what the lows were, it is evident that the athletic program here at WKU has grown tremendously the past several years, and this year was no exception.

Before the year officially ends, I think there are some specific individuals and teams that need to be recognized for their achievements or, in some cases, their unfortunate failures.

First, let’s acknowledge the obvious honors. The best team on campus this year was easily the football team, and there wasn’t really a close second. The track and field program and the women’s basketball program would have to fight for second place.

Head Coach Jeff Brohm’s Hilltoppers were the first Conference USA football team to go undefeated in conference play; they also won the conference championship. The team completed its season ranked in the Top 25 in the AP poll for the first time in school history.

For best athlete on campus, the honor goes to none other than Brandon Doughty. The guy broke every passing record during his time here and was the best player on the best team on campus. He even managed to earn WKU’s first Heisman vote when one sportswriter gave him a third-place vote.

While Doughty gave several brilliant performances during the season, I’m going to go with Kendall Noble’s triple-double in the C-USA tournament as the best performance of the year. Granted, it came in a loss, but the second triple-double in program history should not go unnoticed, especially since it came at such a crucial point in the season.

When it comes to the biggest surprise this year, no other team surprised me more than the women’s basketball team. After losing some of their best players from last season, many expected the program to take a step back this season.

What the Lady Toppers did, however, was go an astounding 27-7 on the season and advance to the quarterfinals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. They don’t get the credit they deserve, but this is one of the best programs on campus.

On the negative side of things, the biggest disappointment this year, unfortunately, falls to the men’s basketball team. This dishonor is not because of the Hilltoppers’ performance on the court; as they proved in the C-USA tournament, it wasn’t all that bad.

They get this award because of what happened off the court this spring. When your head coach and three of your best players leave the program for all the wrong reasons, you should expect to receive this award.

The best moment of the year goes to when the football team won the C-USA championship in fall 2015. Seeing the celebration that ensued as the student body rushed the field was a great moment for a program that has grown faster than any other in the nation.

The worst moment of the year, however, goes to the athletic department’s decision to cut the track and field team’s budget literally in half.

Now, I realize the program takes in zero revenue for the school, and I can actually understand track and field taking the biggest pay cut out of all the programs at WKU.

However, to cut the budget of one of the most decorated programs on campus by 50 percent while all other sports programs only suffer a cut of about 5 percent is in incredibly poor taste.

The best decision the athletic department made this year, however, was hiring Rick Stansbury as the basketball team’s new head coach. For a mid-major program in need of a savior, I believe Todd Stewart made the best decision possible with Stansbury.

For a personal honor, I would like to give the basketball team my most memorable moment of the year. It was a really cool moment for me while I was on a cruise to the Bahamas on spring break to hear that Nigel Snipes tore apart heavily favored UAB in the C-USA tournament with his hot shooting as the Hilltoppers got the victory.

Seeing a senior end his career like Snipes did in the tournament was really cool to see because it reminds us all of the passion collegiate sports can provide. 

That about does it. It’s been a fun semester writing this column, and I look forward to continuing it in the fall.

Peace out.