During what he termed a “whirlwind’’ year, Kevin Buisman didn’t have time to really think about whether Minnesota State Mankato was having its most successful sports year ever. Though he enjoyed every conference championship and NCAA appearance, the aggregate result didn’t fully register with the Mavericks athletic director until he saw a spreadsheet laying it all out.
The Mavericks have won regular-season league titles in six sports in 2012-13: football, soccer, men’s basketball, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and softball. The softball, baseball and men’s basketball teams have won Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament titles. Six teams have finished in the top 10 in the NCAA Division II rankings, and five coaches have been recognized as coach of the year in the conference, region or nation.
This weekend, MSU has a chance to add to that list. Its baseball team plays in the Division II College World Series beginning Saturday in Cary, N.C. Its men’s outdoor track team qualified six individuals plus its 4x100-meter relay team to the D-II outdoor national championships, which start Thursday in Pueblo, Colo.
Buisman said he hasn’t determined yet whether it is officially the best year in Mavericks sports history, but it sure feels like it. “It’s been an exceptional year, one for the record books,’’ he said. “Anything is possible, but we didn’t quite see this coming.’’
Football kicked things off by advancing to the Division II semifinals and finishing No. 3 in the national rankings with a 13-1 record. The soccer team advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time in program history and was No. 5 in the final national rankings. Interim football coach Aaron Keen was named Division II coach of the year.
Buisman said football served as a “table-setter’’ for a group of coaches that are extremely competitive yet collegial. Men’s hockey (24-14-3) made the NCAA tournament field for the second time in program history as first-year coach Mike Hastings was named WCHA coach of the year. Men’s basketball (28-5) made it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and finished with a No. 9 national ranking under Matt Margenthaler, coach of the year in the Northern Sun and the NCAA’s central district. Wrestling finished eighth in the nation, and men’s indoor track finished fifth.
Track coach Mark Schuck, in his 34th season at the school, credited the success to solid support from everyone from the administration to the students to the alumni. “The coaches here want to be excellent, and we have great facilities and leadership,’’ he said. “And it’s a great college in a nice place. I think things are as good as they’ve ever been for MSU.’’
Buisman said the success has stimulated a 35 to 40 percent increase in corporate sponsorships and advertising, and hosting NCAA tournament events in five sports has been good for the community. The string could continue, as both track and baseball are sending experienced teams to the NCAA championships this week.
“Our guys are very motivated,’’ said baseball coach Matt Magers, whose team has lost only once in its past 23 games. “When you put on that purple and gold uniform, you have high expectations.’’