For the first time this season, Western Kentucky athletic director Ross Bjork commented on the Lady Topper basketball program after WKU’s 77-62 loss Sunday to Middle Tennessee on Senior Day at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The defeat gave the Lady Toppers’ the first 20-loss season in program history, and they finished 6-7 at Diddle Arena – the first losing home record in 32 years.
Below are Bjork’s comments on the state of the program. He stopped short of directly addressing coach Mary Taylor Cowles’ job security, with the Sun Belt Tournament still to play.
Bjork said the program as a whole will be evaluated shortly after the end of the season.
“We completely understand that the expectations of this program are to compete for and win championships. That’s what Diddle Arena stands for with all the banners, going to Final Fours. The expectations are very high. Anytime that you have a record like we have, people are asking questions about the program. Our job is to restore confidence back in the program, and we have to find a way to do that.”
“We have games left to play, so we want to give our ladies and coaches full confidence heading into Hot Springs. We know that the expectations are high, and that’s what we love. People expect us to win and be in the hunt. That’s what we expect, that’s what Mary expects.”
“My hope is that we go into Hot Springs and we play with confidence, we play with inspiration. We have one choice, and that’s to win the tournament and advance. From there, we’ve got to have confidence back in the program. The parallels are very similar to the men, in terms of energy back in the program. We have to find a way to do that heading into the future.”
Will you evaluate the program and coaching staff after the season?
“With the exception of the decision we made on the men’s side, that’s what we do with all of our sports. You have a full body of work, and obviously we didn’t make a change on the women’s side. That wasn’t the plan, nor did we need to. We needed to let the season play out, and we still have season left to play. The decision we made on the men’s side was very unusual, with the dynamics much different.”
Is the recent decline in attendance a concern?
“Same kind of analysis – the energy back in the program. We have great women’s basketball fans, but their expectations are high, just like ours. That is a concern, and again, that’s the confidence level back in the program. I think our fans love our young ladies. There’s always been a deep connection with our team beyond the games, where they get to know our players beyond the games.”
“We’ve got to get back to fans coming out to support this team. We’ve gone down in our attendance. Our average attendance is lower than what we expect.”
The need to be more competitive in the Sun Belt:
“That’s a good testament to our conference, that we’ve had multiple teams in our conference (make the NCAA tournament). We’ve got to get back to the top two or three spots because if we’re in those spots, we can be an at-large spot. Our charge is getting back in that position, and then we’re in the hunt. That gives us motivation to get our program back to where we’re competing for championships.”