Author's note: The following post has been rated 'NSFWFF' - Not Safe For Wake Forest Fans. It is filled with unapologetic mediocrity and the worst mindset concerning Wake athletic programs. Also, I might use some swear words.
Hold on to your butts, because it's about to get a little messy in here.
Welcome to Part XI of this ongoing series about Wake sports under Ron Wellman. To explain... there is too much to explain. To sum up: I'm looking at each program under the Wake umbrella and evaluating the performance of the past 21 seasons (which have come under Wellman's tenure) with regard to the program baseline established during the preceding decade to figure out if each sport has progressed or regressed lately.
Today, I'm looking at what are by far the worst two Wake athletic teams: men's and women's track and field.
***** Index *****
***** Program Overview *****
Depending what metrics you prefer, the worst two programs I've looked at thus far are either football or women's basketball.
Football, in the decade prior to Wellman's arrival, won an average of .441 of its games overall and .304 against ACC opponents, cementing its place as one of the worst D-IA programs in the country. During Wellman's time, football has won .415 of its overall games and .321 of its ACC games.
Women's basketball had a good decade prior to Wellman's arrival (winning percentage of .528), even if conference performance was lacking (.299 winning percentage); under Wellman, those figures have floundered to .429 overall and .244 in conference play.
The track programs?
Well, the men's program registered a strong .220 winning percentage in the decade prior to arrival, which has been supplemented by a .338 winning percentage over the past 21 seasons. And the women... well... the women have "improved" their .192 winning percentage from 1984-1993 to a .208 winning percentage in the 21 Wellman seasons.
To explain whats really going on, I turn to someone with an insider understanding. From the comments on my cross country review:
Okay, I took exceptional interest to this article as I ran cross country (forced to do this) and track (my favorite) in college. What I mean by this is a lot of track guys are asked (yea, right) to participate in cross country in order to stay in shape the year around. Okay, I’m off this tangent…
First of all, the only way teams score in cross country is if they have the requisite 5 runners placing (they can field up to 7 runners). One measurement of the strengh of a cross country program is to see if that program is placing in all meets it enters (this shows depth and the quality of that depth). Some programs do not have good, quality depth but have an individual runner who is very good. Because of this, an individual can represent his team at conference, just like in golf and compete for individual honors. I don’t put a lot of stock in a program that has had an individual champion, but seems to rarely place in the upper tier of conference schools as a team. So, the question is how often have Wake teams (both men and women) placed in the conference meet.
Another way to judge Wellman is to see how many scholarships he has allocated to the men and women’s teams. Because cross country is a minor sport, most schools do not fully fund scholarships which causes the coaches to divide what they are given among several kids, giving them partial scholarships. I would be interested to know how we rank in scholarships against traditional "running" schools such as Florida State and North Carolina State. A fully funded program will have 12.6 scholarships for men and 18 for women for cross country and track & field. If you look at the results from the 2012 cross country championships, you will notice FSU, BC, UNC, NCSU and Duke on top. Wake is way down the list. I doubt this is because of bad coaching. I wonder if the teams at the top are fully funded as opposed to Wake’s allocation? I don’t know.
Another "cost cutting move" by an A.D. is to hire one person to coach both cross country and the track team. Coaches usually have high expertise in only certain disciplines ie. long distance, weights and throws, jumpers, sprinters, which can lead to problems for the track team is the coach is a former distance runner or to the cross country team if the coach is a former long jumper, etc.
The same deal applies to track and field, which uses a similar scoring system, but places even more emphasis on team diversification and high placement in multiple events.
So, to sum up: Wake's track program exists largely from overflow or off-season performances from other sports. Some of this is - as Blitzball noted - cross country runners making up the corps of long-distance racers for the track events: notable Wake record holders include cross-country runners Nathan Sisco (outdoor 1500m), Nolan Swanson (indoor/outdoor 3000m, 10,000m, 3000m steeplechase), Dina Nosenko (indoor mile), Anna Nosenko (indoor 3000m), Anne Bersagel (indoor 5000m), Jennifer Rioux (outdoor 3000m), Selina Sekulic (3000 steeplechase), and Michelle Sikes (1500m, outdoor mile, outdoor 5000m, 10,000m).
The football team is another source of athletes, particularly for sprint distances. Jim Grobe was famous for recruiting high school track athletes to up the overall speed on his teams, but Jim Caldwell also had some notable sprinters. Wake's all-time 60m and indoor long jump records are held by Kevin Marion. The outdoor 200m record is held by John Stone. And the school record outdoor 4x100 relay team featured Marion and Willie Idlette, who is more famous for hauling in the 45-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal in the 2006 ACC Championship Game.
Anyway, here's a shout-out to some of the track-exclusive athletes of note:
Michael Bingham: school record holder in indoor 200m, 300m, indoor 400m, 500m, outdoor 400m, and various relay teams
Andy Bloom: school record holder in shot put, discus, weight throw
Nicole Castronuova: school record holder in 300m, indoor 400m, outdoor 200m
Michael Cyphers: school record holder in pole vault
Mytoia Gathings: school record holder in 60m, 100m
Brent Larue: school record holder in heptathlon, 400m hurdles
Lindsay Neuberger: school record holder in shot put, weight throw
Alyssa Thompson: school record holder in indoor long jump, pentathlon
Caroline Vaughn: school record holder in 55m hurdles, 60m hurdles, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles
Cyphers set his records this year, as did Michael Ionata in the hammer throw. Thompson also set her records this year as a freshman. Great job to all of y'all for continually upping the bar!
***** Notes on Methodology *****
The track and field programs are the last programs that do use the "meet" system, by which multiple teams compete against one another and winners are determined by an accumulation of scores. I have resolved this - as I did with cross country and golf - by using the teams' relative placement within a meet as a proxy for win-loss record. For example, an 11 team meet in which Wake finishes 2nd would create a record of 9 wins (over teams finishing 3rd through 11th) and 1 loss (against the first place team) for a winning percentage of .900.
For simplicity's (and accuracy's) sake, I have limited results to an amalgamation of the ACC Indoor Championships and the ACC Outdoor Championships. This produces a few concepts of note:
- The overall and conference records are identical, thus saving me from having to make duplicate graphs. Yay!
- The ACC did not have an indoor championship prior to 1987, so the years prior to that are outdoor only.
- The ACC did not adopt a women's outdoor championship until 1983, which is just outside the time period we're looking at (so no worries, except that it slightly affects amount of data for the very beginning of the 4 year average graph).
- Wake did not send a women's team to the ACC Indoor Championships in 1997. I have no idea why, but I counted it as a last place finish, either as an equivalent to where Wake would've finished hypothetically or as a punishment for not fielding a team.
I'd also like to note that this puts Wake up against some of the stronger track programs in the country (FSU and VT) on a yearly basis, which may depress the records somewhat. My reply: this isn't Little League baseball - we should be trying to compete at the highest level.
Lastly, as gruesome as what you're about to see is (and it is, trust me), at least we're not Maryland, who cut their men's track program recently. Never forget: Maryland - a bunch of chimps throwing feces.
I let the women go first in cross country, so we'll do the men's graphs first this time. Hooray gender equality!
A brief reminder: the silver vertical line represents the demarcation between the pre-Wellman years and the... uh... during-Wellman years.
Also note that I bumped the men's .220 winning percentage from 1984-1993 up to .300, because we should never, ever acquiesce to mediocrity, and if you can't consider .300 to be minimally good enough then you should reconsider things.
And... hey! That actually doesn't look too terrible!
The men's program, despite still being fairly weak overall, isn't beyond redemption. Highlights include 1995 (a 13-3 "record" starring Kyle and Brant Armentrout, Andy Bloom, and Warren Sherman), 1999 (10-6 with John Bull, John Stone, Nolan Swanson), and 2006 (16-6 thanks to the Michael Bingham show).
Well let's see how the women do...
This is pretty bad. The highest single season "record" was .500 in 1995. Yeah, that's right - the women's track program has never finished above .500.
And it's not like it's even close most years: of the 21 Wellman seasons, 15 of the 21 were below that .300 standard (again, I bumped the women's standard up to .300 from .192).
Let's take a look at the 4-year rolling average graphs:
Again, most of the men's results are above the .300 threshold, with only the recent tailspin taking the program below that mark for any prolonged period.
I... this is even worse! It's like you're not even trying to field a remotely competitive team here, Wellman!
So yeah, here's the damage: the best four year period under Wellman? A .391 winning percentage. Not even .400! And it's not like this baseball and you're not hitting .400... this is a prolonged inability to win even 40% of your games over a 4 year period.
Imagine if the basketball team averaged 12-18 records over 4 years. Now imagine that those 12-18 averaged records were pretty much as good as it could get, and that for some stretches you were actually substantially worse than that.
Pretty depressing, huh? Welcome to Wake women's track and field.
Hmm... the shape of the graph is a little worrying, but I'm willing to cut it a little slack because the current average is still slightly above .300 (at .338, to be precise). Remember, the .300 line is actually a step up for the program that I imposed; this would look more impressive if this were compared to the previous decade's actual number (.220).
Also, the spike is almost entirely due to the 1995 team begin awesome and raising the average up to .563. The number of individual years since then that Wake has managed a .563 record for one season? Three (1999, 2001, and 2006) out of 19.
To quote my women's basketball review:
How can you not win 30% of your games over a prolonged period of time? How can you not even come close to winning 30% of your games over a prolonged period of time?
So yeah... the current mark is .208. That's really bad. That's further away from the 30% mark than women's basketball was, and it was horrible then too.
Let's move on.
As expected, the men's program finishes in the positive in terms of net wins. No surprise, but of the ending +15.2 wins, (more than) all of that comes from a few select seasons: +8.2 wins in 1995, +5.2 wins in 1999, +4.2 wins in 2001, and a whopping +9.4 wins in 2006.
All told, 2011 was the peak, at +27.6, but the last three years have been brutal, including -6.5 wins for 2014's 1-24 (.040) campaign.
Still, I have a feeling even that is preferable to what we're about to see...
Yep, straight off a cliff.
Despite the strong start to the Wellman era (+3.6 after three seasons), the sustained mediocrity has taken its toll: -37.0 wins total (-41.6 in the past 18 seasons, or worse than -2.0 per season). And no signs of improvement of late, with the past four seasons totaling -19.2 wins (almost -5.0 wins per season... holy crap).
***** Summation *****
Proj. Record: 118.8-277.2 (118.8-277.2)
Actual Record: 134-262 (134-262)
Net: +15.2 (+15.2)
Proj. Record: 120-280 (120-280)
Actual Record: 83-317 (83-317)
Net: -37.0 (-37.0)
***** Analysis *****
Once again, Blitzball:
I don’t like the revolving door that Wake has had in regard to cross country and track. I really think Wellman needs to totally commit to the program. It’s sports like cross country, where you only have to field 7 runners (or 5 if you want to be technical) that have a chance to level the playing field against schools like FSU, Clemson, etc. and bring the school ACC and even national championships.
This makes sense to me. While Wake doesn't have the cache of a Stanford to lure Olympic athletes (or even a Duke or North Carolina), developing a strong track/cross country program would seem to carry an inordinate amount of benefits. The crossover between the programs is strong, so putting much more emphasis on it could really reap some large rewards down the line, potentially in multiple sports.
As for the current state of things... well...
***** Running Total *****
Football: -6.4 (+2.9) --> -25.8 (+17.3)
Volleyball: +20.9 (+40.8) --> +36.9 (+124.4)
Men's Soccer: +46.5 (+34.6) --> +109.7 (+233.8)
Women's Soccer: +51.3 (+28.9) --> +119.6 (+169.0)
Men's Cross Country: -9.5 (-9.5) --> -48.4 (-48.4)
Women's Cross Country: +17.3 (+17.3) --> +86.6 (+86.6)
Field Hockey: +58.1 (+20.5) --> +131.0 (+164.0)
Men's Basketball: +61.0 (+55.7) --> +91.3 (+164.0)
Women's Basketball: -61.2 (-18.2) --> -99.4 (-56.2)
Men's Golf: -23.5 (-31.8) --> -37.5 (-169.1)
Women's Golf: +53.8 (+22.8) --> +119.6 (+183.9)
Men's Track and Field: +15.2 (+15.2) --> +38.4 (+38.4)
Women's Track and Field: -37.0 (-37.0) --> -92.5 (-92.5)
Total: +429.5 (+815.0)
Total: +914.9 (+1880.9)
Next up: Men's tennis tomorrow, followed by women's tennis and baseball either over the weekend or into early next week. After that, the wrap-up piece will be up at some point during the week next week with the lessons learned from this exercise!
Until then, ante up America!