ACU Head Coach Brette Tanner cheers on his Wildcats in a semifinal game against Seattle at the 2021-22 WAC Tournament. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

New Athletic Directors, SUU Reloads, and Brette Tanner Has a Beard

This weekend was a busy one for a pair of athletic departments around the Western Athletic Conference. Both Lamar and UT-Arlington were in the market for new athletic directors. And both schools found their athletic leader.

On July 15, Lamar announced that Jeff O’Malley would become the school’s athletic director after a 20-year tenure at Marshall University.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead Lamar University Athletics,” O’Malley said in the Lamar press release. “This is a program with a proud tradition of excellence, and we will do all we can to make it even better both in the classroom and in competition. I met many great people through this process, and I would like to thank Dean Spina and Don Shaver for their work co-chairing the search committee. I also would like to thank President Taylor for providing me with the opportunity to work with him again and share his vision for Lamar University. I am looking forward to meeting our student-athletes, collaborating with the campus community and working with our coaches and staff to provide a first-class student-athlete experience.”

Lamar University President Jamie Taylor is excited for the new leader of the athletic department.

“Jeff O’Malley is a trusted collaborator who understands it takes all facets of a university to support student-athletes,” Taylor said. “He established very positive relationships with faculty and with academic affairs at Marshall University and has an absolutely stellar reputation for ensuring student-athletes are successful in the classroom as well as on the field of play.”

O’Malley takes over for Marco Born who took a leave of absence on Jan. 13, 2022 and never returned to the position. The Lamar men’s basketball team finished 2021-22 with a 2-27 overall record and 0-18 finish in WAC play. On the women’s side, the Cardinals finished 14-15 overall and 8-10 in WAC play and lost to Sam Houston in the second round of the WAC Tournament.

Mavericks Enter WAC With New Leader

UT-Arlington was in the market for a new athletic director when Jim Baker announced that he would retire and step down officially on Sept. 1.

And on June 14, UTA announced that Jon Fagg would become the athletic director and join UTA on Aug. 1. Fagg is currently the deputy athletic director at Arkansas and most recently served as sports administrator over the football and swimming and diving programs.

“Jon will provide strategic leadership for our intercollegiate athletics department and collaborate across campus and the community to promote the academic and athletic achievements of our student-athletes,” UTA President Jennifer Cowley said. “I am confident his experience will prove to be an asset as we move into the Western Athletic Conference and work to advance the success of our 15 NCAA Division I athletic programs.”

“UT Arlington has both a strong tradition of success and tremendous potential for growth, especially as it moves to a new conference,” Fagg said. “It’s an exciting time to join the Maverick family, and I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of leading the athletics program to even greater heights.”

UTA is rejoining the Western Athletic Conference effective July 1, 2022. The Mavericks have competed in the Sun Belt Conference since 2013-14 school year. Prior to that, UTA was a member of the Western Athletic Conference for the 2012-13 season. UTA was 11-18 overall and 7-10 in Sun Belt play in 2021-22. On the women’s side, the Mavericks finished 20-8 overall and 11-4 in Sun Belt play. The Lady Mavs went on to win the Sun Belt Conference tournament and nearly knocked off 3-seed Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Southern Utah Roster Gets Good News

In about the span of seven days, Southern Utah head coach Todd Simon had to feel like he was dreaming. First, Tevian Jones made the announcement he would return to Cedar City for another season.

Jones is arguably one of the most athletic players in the WAC. His length and athleticism combined with his quickness allow him to finish at the rim and play multiple positions.

One day later, Simon got some more good news. Big man Maizen Fausett will return for the Thunderbirds in 2022-23. Fausett averaged 13.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in 2021-22 and is a 1,000-point scorer. The even better news is that SUU is 43-16 the last two seasons with Fausett in the lineup.

And one day after that, SUU announced Harrison Butler would be returning. Second in SUU games played, another 1,000-point scorer and a winner. It was a significant three days for Todd Simon and the Thunderbirds. SUU finished second in the Big Sky and got upset in its second round game by Portland State. SUU finished the 2021-22 season with a 23-12 overall record and 14-6 record in Big Sky competition.

As Camp Gets Underway, ACU Head Coach Has New Look

If you watched Abilene Christian play in 2021-22, you know that head coach Brette Tanner was clean shaven every game. Perhaps it is the dog days of summer or just trying out something new. But, Tanner has a new look as ACU started up practice this week.

And if you notice, there is a little gray in that beard. Perhaps that stems from ACU’s run to the WAC Tournament championship game in 2021-22. Or maybe even ACU’s run to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational. It could also be from having to figure out how to replace Coryon Mason, Reggie Miller and Mahki Morris. Either way, Tanner and the Wildcats have the pieces in place to make another run in 2022-23.

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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