ARLINGTON — Building a new arena at the University of Texas at Arlington was a big step in trying to change the perception of the school's basketball program.
"Over the year since we've opened this building, the coverage that the university has gotten is unbelievable, and it's well deserved," said UTA athletic director Jim Baker. "Anything national just puts the spotlight on us."
This week, that national spotlight singled out head coach Scott Cross, who was named by Forbes magazine as one of the top ten coaches for the best "bang for the buck" at the mid-major level.
"I was humbled and grateful to be included with those great coaches," Cross said. "Obviously, it's a tribute to my staff and the players that we've had, because — bottom line — you have to have a great staff; you've got to have great players in order to win basketball games."
"I think its just a tribute to what Scott has done over his years here," Baker added. "Nothing surprises me with that, and it's something that's well deserved."
Unlike the pros in college, it's the coaches who are the face of the program. When you think of places like Kentucky, you immediately think of John Calipari. When you think of UTA, you think of Scott Cross — but that is where the similarity ends.
Using last season's win totals, Cross won 24 games on a salary of $150,000. That's about $6,250 per win.
Calipari won 38 games, and based on his salary of $4 million, each victory cost Kentucky $105,000.
"The amount of money that the mid-majors spend compared to the high majors is like apples to oranges," Cross said. "It's a big difference. We don't have the same resources, but we're trying to get there."
Cross led UTA to it's first NCAA tournament appearance in 2008, and said what keeps him going is having the chance to continue to do things that have never been done before.
"At a place like Kentucky, if you don't win a national championship, nothing is good enough," Cross said. "If we win a game in the NCAA tournament, people are going to go nuts!"