Bjork says confidence must be restored in Lady Topper program

Brad Stephens

WKU’s 77-62 loss to Middle Tennessee on Sunday marked a program low in several areas.

The loss was the Lady Toppers’ 20th of the season, the most ever for WKU.

It also brought the team’s record this year in Diddle to 6-7, making the 2011-2012 the first year since 1974-1975 that the Lady Toppers have had a losing record at home.

Finally, the team’s 8-20 regular season record is the program’s worst since 1974-1975.

With the subpar season have come grumblings from some WKU fans about the job status of Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles.

Cowles has gone 198-118 in 10 years at the helm of the Lady Toppers, but has led the team to back-to-back losing seasons and hasn’t qualified for an NCAA Tournament since the 2007-2008 season.

On Sunday, Athletics Director Ross Bjork addressed the status of the program, one that has been to three Final Fours and won nine Sun Belt Conference Tournaments.

“Anytime that you have a record like we have, people are asking questions about the program,” Bjork said. ” Our job is to restore confidence back in the program, and we have to find a way to do that.”

Bjork said evaluations of Cowles and the rest of the team will take place after the season comes to an end, as it standard operating procedure in the athletic department.

He said the decision to fire men’s basketball head coach Ken McDonald this season on Jan. 6 was the exception to that philosophy.

“You have a full body of work, and obviously we didn’t make a change on the women’s side and that was not the plan, nor did we need to,” Bjork said. “We needed to let the season play out, and we still have season left to play.”

Bjork went on to say the “dynamics” between the men’s and women’s basketball programs were much different.

But one common concern between the two programs is attendance.

The Toppers averaged 3,095 fans per home game before McDonald was fired, and attendance was cited as a major factor in that decision.

After yesterday’s home finale the Lady Toppers finished the regular season averaging 1,153 fans per game at Diddle Arena.

“Our average attendance is lower than what we expect,” Bjork said.  

The Lady Toppers will travel to Hot Springs, Ark., this weekend for the Sun Belt Tournament.

WKU will take on Louisiana-Monroe at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday at the Convention Center Court in the tournament’s first round.

“Our expectations are much greater than where we sit today after the last regular season game,” Bjork said. “My hope is that we go into Hot Springs and we play with confidence, we play with inspiration.

“We have one choice, and that’s to win the tournament and advance. From there, we’ve got to have confidence back in the program. The parallels are very similar to the men, in terms of energy back in the program. We have to find a way to do that heading into the future.”