Student athletes weigh in on school’s athletic ranking
Photo by Brad Kemp
The train of success just keeps on chugging for University of Louisiana at Lafayette athletics.
After a historic year that saw five sports capture conference championships, The UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns athletic program was recognized as the 34th-best in the nation, and the top non-BCS program, according to the National Association of College Directors of Athletics.
UL Lafayette earned regular season titles in football, baseball and softball, along with Sun Belt Conference tournament championships in men’s basketball, men’s tennis, baseball and softball.
The Ragin’ Cajuns finished above prestigious programs which include: the University of Tennessee, Penn State University and the University of Georgia to name a few.
“I think we are very lucky as a mid-major program to be getting that respect in sports that we are,” said junior UL Lafayette softball pitcher Jordan Wallace. “This ranking shows that we can compete with the best and beat the best. We would obviously be honored to be higher on the list, but I think this is a good start for Ragin’ Cajun athletics.”
Five sports were rated in the poll: football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and a “wild card” sport. The wild card spot was occupied by the best season from a group that includes: softball, men’s lacrosse, men’s ice hockey, men’s soccer, wrestling, women’s soccer or women’s gymnastics. The CBSSports.com formula that was used to calculate the rankings takes into account only schools that field FBS football programs. Football was weighed three times as much as any other sport, while men’s basketball is worth double the amount of points as the other sports mentioned in the formula.
Stanford University finished No. 1 in the rankings with 541.25 points followed by the University of Michigan with 524 points. Louisville (504), Florida State (485) and Baylor (473) rounded out the top five. The Cajuns finished with 262 points.
Michael Vani, senior pole-vaulter on the UL Lafayette track and field team, was honored by being ranked, but thought that the Cajuns were not given enough credit.
“I honestly think it is a bit low,” he admitted. “As a program, our football team won a bowl game for the third year in a row, our basketball team made the NCAA tournament and won the Sun Belt, and our softball team won the Sun Belt and hosted a super regional and went to the Women’s College World Series. Our baseball team won the conference and hosted a super regional as well. Not only that, our men’s tennis team won the Sun Belt and our track and field program won three or four individual Sun Belt titles and sent two competitors to the NCAA Championships. Not a lot of schools can say they did all of that.”
With all of the success garnered by the athletic programs during the 2013-14 year, there is optimism that this great run can continue and improve the university in more ways than just athletics.
“This means that we are expected to reach another level in our performance on and off the fields and courts,” said Daniel Quave, a senior offensive lineman for the Cajun football team. “The university is raising the bar for our standards here at UL and so we have to exceed it. We have to continue to work just as hard as we have been.”
“I think this is a great way for the university to grow and compete not only athletically, but also academically with other top schools around the country,” said Wallace. “Our school is becoming more attractive for students looking for exciting athletic programs but also a quality, affordable education.”
The ranking can be viewed as culmination of a year that saw a boom in athletics on the UL Lafayette campus like never before in school history. Track and Field Coach Lon Badeaux talked about his outlook on the 34th place finish for the Cajuns.
“This ranking is simply a boom in our major sports as well all the sports really hitting their stride,” he said. “This is a great school and people are really starting to take notice.”