The Wolverine

June-July 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 38 of 83

Barnes Arico (with her daughter Emma) was excited to meet the players on Michgan's women's basketball team. after the advent of Title IX, there were just four women's teams on campus then — basketball, tennis, swimming and gymnastics — and most of them were still struggling. But more sports were coming every year, and Soluk joined the program at an optimistic, exciting time. At her introductory press confer- ence, Soluk said, "I feel Michigan has the potential to become a leader in women's athletics within the next few years, and I want to be a part of its growth." And Michigan has become a great No other varsity program has been in existence as long without winning at least one conference title. It's not as if the athletic department PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN hasn't tried. The program's history is rife with seemingly smart coaching hires that fell flat — quickly. In seven seasons with the Wolver- ines, Soluk tallied a 66-120 record (.355) with just one winning season. Michigan tried again several years leader in women's athletics, with dominant programs in softball, gym- nastics, field hockey, water polo, rowing and others. But the program she adopted con- tinued to flounder. The history of the Michigan wom- en's basketball team has largely been dismal, and the breadth of the Wol- verines' struggles is almost hard to wrap one's head around. In the pro- gram's first 23 years, there were just three winning seasons. Michigan has finished seventh or worse in the final conference stand- ings 27 times. There have been just five top-five finishes, with a pro- gram-best second only once, in 2000. later with Trish Roberts, a former collegiate All-American and Olym- pian who won three conference titles in four years as the coach at Maine (82-31 record). From 1995-97, Rob- erts' Michigan teams went 20-88 and never won more than eight games in a season. Since leaving, she has built a fairly successful career as the coach at Stony Brook. And in 2003, the Wolverines After the failed experiment with Burnett, Michigan turned to another coach who had been successful at the mid-major level. In five seasons, Kevin Borseth helped Michigan reach the NCAA Tournament in 2012, and leaves the program as just the second coach ever to finish with a career record above .500, going 87-73 from 2008-12. There is plenty of optimism to go around. With new facilities, five re- turning seniors and a new coach, there's a feeling that the Wolverines can finally reach the level of success expected from a Michigan athletics program. "I don't think, over the course of snapped up hot coaching commod- ity Cheryl Burnett. In 15 years at Southwest Missouri State, Burnett won 319 games, earned 10 appear- ances in the NCAA Tournament and went to two Final Fours. At the time, the hire seemed like a brilliant move — she proceeded to compile a 35-83 record in four seasons, including a stretch in which the Wolverines lost 30 consecutive games to Big Ten foes. time, we've had the same level of commitment to women's basketball as we do today," Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon said. "I don't think we've ever hired a coach with this kind of track record, who brings the level of success that she does. I know we've never had the facilities. "We want to be the leaders and best in everything we do. And this is a sport that has significant upside. This program has such potential, for our fans, for our student-athletes. We're making the commitment in every way we know how." ❏ JUNE/JULY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 39

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