The next speaker for the popular Arlington on Tap free downtown lecture series will be UT Arlington Athletic Director Jim Baker.
His expansive topic: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Future and Potential of UTA Athletics.
Save the date: Nov. 8 at Maverick’ Bar and Grill in downtown Arlington, 601 E. Main St., 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Arlington on Tap is sponsored by the Arlington Historical Society and Arlington Proud, with media sponsorship by Arlington Today Magazine.
“Baker coincidentally took on his job the same day back in 2012 that the university and athletic department opened the gleaming $78 million, 7,000 seat College Park Center,” said Mark Joeckel, executive director of Arlington Proud. “Expectation were understandably high. UT Arlington doesn’t have football, so the emphasis understandably fell on other sports including basketball and volleyball, which previously had been played on an oversize theatrical stage at Texas Hall, the latter most assuredly an exotic venue but not particularly amenable to either recruiting or collegiate athletic presence.”
The Historical Society’s O.K. Carter, who co-MCs,Arlington on Tap sessions with Joeckel, notes that since that pivotal day in 2012, Baker has put his own stamp on the department, spearheading numerous program upgrades and leading the way in the areas of sales and staffing, which have led to unprecedented growth.
“He sees athletics in a big picture way,” Carter said. “One of his first projects was to upgrade the department's baseball and softball facilities. He oversaw the development and construction of indoor hitting and practice facilities for each team, which opened with the start of the 2013 season. Baker then announced the plans for a $5.5 million project to build clubhouses for each of those teams in September of 2013 which opened for the 2015 season.”
Baker also helped the university transition from the Western Athletic Conference to the Sun Belt Conference which the Mavericks. He is active in the leadership of the conference and as a member of league-governing committees.
He has made two head coaching hires since taking over the department, naming former All-American Kristie Fox to lead the softball program and Krista Gerlich, who won three conference titles in seven years at West Texas A&M, to lead the women's basketball team.
Baker’s interest in athletics started as a kid selling concessions at Ohio State football games in his hometown of Columbus, doing every job imaginable and taking notes. He advanced to Florida, where he worked with future Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley. From there it was on to UT Austin and finally to achieving his dream of becoming an athletic director at a major university – UT Arlington.
What’s next for big time sports at UT Arlington? A lot, Baker promises. Find out more at the next Arlington on Tap.