Henderson steps down as athletic director

Henderson steps down as athletic director

Lamar University is now in search of a new athletic director. Nov. 20, Jason Henderson resigned his position after being on campus for 11 years. Henderson joined Lamar in 2006 as a compliance coordinator then was named interim athletic director in 2011. Lamar took the interim tag off in 2012.

Former Lamar basketball standout Norman Bellard was named interim athletic director.

The recent Southland Conference championship and NCAA tournament berth by LU soccer, the National Invitational Softball Championship finals appearance from the softball team, a strong showing by both men’s and women’s cross country in the recent NCAA regionals, two consecutive years of top-ranked recruiting classes for Lamar baseball, strong seasons predicted for men’s and women’s basketball, and cause for optimism for the Cardinals on the gridiron – all of these and more give Bellard reason to be excited as he takes on his new responsibilities.

“My primary goal will be to continue to put a quality product on the fields and courts that is attractive to the community, both on campus and beyond,” said Bellard.

In addition, Bellard places a high priority on academic accomplishments for Lamar student-athletes.

“We do a good job on graduation rates,” Bellard noted, “so success in the classroom will remain very important in all sports.”

He cited academic progress rates (APR) of several sports, including baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s golf, and women’s soccer, as evidence that Lamar is heading in the right direction both academically and athletically. Those teams in particular at LU “are near the top in our conference and among Texas universities [in APR], and they are trending upwards,” Bellard added.

Also on Bellard’s wish list are upgrades to athletic facilities, including the Montagne Center, Vincent-Beck Stadium and Provost Umphrey Stadium. Plans are in the works for basketball locker room improvements as well as enhancements for student-athletes and spectators alike at Cardinal baseball games, while other changes are on the drawing board as well.

“These upgrades will not be possible without the help and support of our generous Cardinal fans, Lamar alumni, and athletic boosters,” Bellard emphasized. “With the help of our coaches and administration, I look forward to sharing my vision with our community, alumni and friends.”

Bellard will continue as assistant to the president for community relations and athletics program liaison, a position he has held since March 2015. He has served in numerous leadership roles in the university that had a direct impact on student life and student engagement including senior associate vice president for student affairs, interim vice president for student affairs, and senior associate vice president for residence life.

“Norman Bellard’s involvement with Lamar University, as a student-athlete, distinguished alumnus, Cardinals fan, and as a long-standing member of our staff, makes him uniquely qualified to serve as interim athletic director,” said Lamar University President Ken Evans. “We look forward to his leadership and vision as we move forward at this moment of unprecedented opportunities for Lamar University Athletics.” 

A full national search will begin immediately for a permanent athletic director.

Football

On a night when the Cards held No. 19 McNeese to just 13 points, the offense could only muster a 43-yard field goal off the leg of freshman kicker Elvin Martinez, falling by a final score of 13-3 as Lamar ended the regular season 2-9 overall in Mike Schultz’s first year as a head coach.

“We got beat by an extremely good football team tonight,” said Schultz. “I thought our defense played extremely well. As a whole, I thought the team fought extremely hard tonight. We fought the whole game and never gave up. We had some opportunities but didn’t take advantage of them offensively. You just can’t do that against a team like McNeese.”

The Cardinals held McNeese to 351 yards of total offense, while themselves being held to 207. The majority of LU’s offense came through the air as Big Red was held to just 12 yards rushing. Senior quarterback Blake McKenzie closed out his career by completing 23 passes for 195 yards. McKenzie’s favorite target was sophomore Case Robinson, who hauled in five catches for 59 yards.

Lamar had several chances to take the lead as the defense caused turnovers, giving the Cardinal offense the ball in scoring position.

The defense was led by juniors Davon Jernigan and Lane Taylor. Both players finished the night with 11 tackles. Jernigan was also credited with 2.5 tackles for losses. LU picked off two more passes Saturday night, finishing the season with 13, one more than it had last season. Junior Nate Jones also picked off his sixth pass of the season and nearly returned it for a touchdown.

Basketball

The Lady Cards (3-2) will head west to San Antonio to partake in the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic. LU will play North Dakota on Friday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m. and Northern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 25, at noon.

The men’s team (4-1) will travel on Monday, Nov. 27 to play UTEP at 8 p.m. Their next home game is Dec. 5 against St. Thomas.

The recent signing class announced by women’s basketball coach Robin Harmony has drawn some national attention.

All Star Girls Report ranked the recruiting class as the 79th-best in Division I, while Preferred Athlete Scouting Services (PASS) ranked the recruiting class as 17th-best among mid-major programs.

“This is our best recruiting class since we’ve been at LU,” said Harmony, who is in her fifth season at the helm of the Cardinals. “These are immediate impact players who fit our system.”

Joining the Cardinals next season are Angel Hastings (San Antonio Wagner), Miya Crump (Houston Yates) and Umaja Collins (Mesquite Horn).

Hastings (5-6 point guar) is ranked as the 32nd-best point guard in the nation by Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. Hastings was tabbed as the 126th-best prospect in the nation and the 16th-best player in Texas. She played travel ball for San Antonio’s Finest.

Crump (6-1) is ranked second among wings in Texas by All Star Girls Report. The report also had Crump ranked as the 17-best prospect in Texas and 181st in the nation. Crump played travel ball for Houston Hoops.

Collins (6-2) is ranked eighth among centers in Texas and the 59th-best prospect in the state by Premier Basketball Report. Collins played travel ball for Urban Heroes Elite.

“Nationally, we are recruiting against bigger conferences and winning,” Harmony said.

Cross country

The cross country teams turned in solid showings at the NCAA South Central Regionals on Nov. 10 as men’s team finished eighth out of 24 teams, while the LU women placed 10th of 24 teams at Texas A&M’s Watts Cross Country Course.

The LU men’s squad was led by Jamie Crowe, who placed 15th, covering the 10-kilometer circuit in 30 minutes, 30.5 seconds. Teammate Matthew Arnold was 29th in 31:09.8. As a team, the Cardinals finished with 235 points. Arkansas won the team title with 59 points. Texas was second with 73, while the host Aggies were third with 98 points. Emmanuel Rotich of Tulane won individual honors with a clocking of 29:49.1. Brian Barraza of Houston was second in 29:51.5.

In the women’s race, LU was paced by Evelyn Chavez, who finished eighth in a time of 20:47.2 for 6 kilometers. Teammate Georgia Tuckfield was 56 in 21:30.2. The Cardinals totaled 296 points. Arkansas dominated the team standings, finishing with 35 points. Texas was second with 93 points. The victorious Razorbacks finished 1-2 in the individual race, with Nikki Hiltz winning the race in 19:35.5 as she held off teammate Carina Viljoen, who was second in 19:36.0.

Volleyball

Alan Edwards resigned as the women’s volleyball coach after four years. Edwards was hired in 2013 and went 29-83 at Lamar. His best season came in 2015 when the team went 14-16 overall, but struggled in conference at 4-12.

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