Today’s Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine came out, and with the hope that the Lions would be on the front cover for the first time ever, but that did not happen.
They placed first year Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher on the cover.
Now, to be fair and realistic, more Texans are going to care about how Fisher does. A lot of Aggies (my younger brother included) have watched with frustration as Franchione, Sherman, and Sumlin have had flashes of brilliance only to underachieve. The Aggies are also in the SEC, the prime conference for college football. A lot of people either want to see them win championships or burn like a bad dumpster fire.
But in Football crazy Texas, why would you NOT want to give exposure to a team that won a National Championship? There are a few reasons.
One, A&M-Commerce is not a sexy program. Just look at our last 3 starting quarterbacks. None were Rivals 5 Star Recruits or probably even 4 star recruits. One just played JV Football in High School, the other two were Division I players that went here and there before settling in Commerce. There are a lot of stories just like that.
And yet one was an All-American and Records setting passer, the other led the nation in passing offense and total offense, and the other won a National Championship and was named the best player in all of Division II football. How?
Because that is what happens at Texas A&M-Commerce.
Farm boys from Bonham become legendary lawmakers. Small town football heroes from North and East Texas become NFL quarterbacks. Shy but big young men from Dallas become Super Bowl MVP’s. Unknown kids from the Permian Basin become Chairmen on Congress’s powerful committees, fast sprinters from New York run in Commerce, only to go to the Olympics and bring awareness to the social climate in the United States, and fraternity boys from Paris become Grammy Award winning musicians.
And yet, on the day after the Lions won their first National Championship in 45 years, the Dallas Morning News put that story on the 8th page of the sports section and only covered about a paragraph. This is a school that is 50 some odd miles from your base of operations and you will not even cover them? None of the Dallas news TV stations with the exception of NBC5 ran ANY story about the Lions this year (could be wrong on this, but I doubt it), and there is a lot of winning going on in Commerce, America.
Football team are national champions. Cross Country programs are strong, as is the Women’s Soccer team, which is essentially a perennial contender for a national title every year. The Volleyball program continues to climb back to heights not seen since the late 1980’s. Golf programs have rebounded and the Men are now one of the best in the LSC like they had been for years. Men’s Basketball continues to add to it’s all time resume and have been to the National Tournament 3 times in the past 4 seasons. Track programs have crowned 3 Individual National Champions in the past 3 seasons, in addition to winning the LSC Indoor crown for 4 straight years and winning the LSC outdoor crown last season. The softball team has been in existence for 4 years and has already been to the NCAA tournament twice and set school records for wins and won the Super Region Championship this season.
The winning does not stop in sports. The academics of the athletic department are about as strong as you can ask for. The graduation rates are very high and TAMUC placed more students on the LSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll that ANY school in the conference. That includes schools that are strong academic schools like West Texas A&M. Remember the goal: “A championship ring one hand, and a diploma in the other.”
Also, enrollment continues to go higher. The City of Commerce is going back to the days of embracing, not just accepting the University. The downtown area is opening up College Centered Businesses and the urban sprawl of the eastern DFW Metroplex is starting to show up in Commerce because of what is being offered in this town that is considered the final frontier of Dallas metro area growth. Fields are being taken over by housing developers as families are now moving to Commerce to live, work, and play, and that has a lot do with the spirit of the town.
Speaking of being realistic, Commerce is only to do as well as the University does, and when it grows, Commerce wins. The Dallas Morning News got it right back in 1992 when it labeled Commerce the City and then-East Texas State as a “Hidden Treasure.” It is. How many schools can say they are THE BEST education school in the State of Texas? One, and that is us. Only 25 percent of Business schools IN THE WORLD can call themselves accredited by the AACSB, and Texas A&M-Commerce’s Business school is in that elite group. How many universities that are not flagship schools have a BioMedical Science School and a Nursing School? TAMUC can say yes to one, and at the end of this year, be able to say yes to the other. How many non flagship school can be labeled a research institution? We can. How many are classified by the prestigious Carnegie Institute as High Level Research Institutions? We are.
To the Top and Best in Class mean what they say. We now have an administration that is dedicated to making sure that our institution is at the top in everything we do. It is frustrating that only the local paper and the school newspaper seem to cover what is going on in this rural Northeast Texas town, but one day that will change. The best we can do is continue to spread the word about our beloved alma mater and roar loudly about the pride we have.
Finally, our identity is molded by our past experiences mixed with our current progress. For 108 years, we were East Texas State. During that time our school won 5 National Championships, sent many players to the NFL, and established itself as a prime institution in Texas and the best school for training educators. We felt like we lost that when we became Texas A&M-Commerce, but what this new generation of Lions has done is embrace the legacy that is East Texas State and move forward and carry it under the umbrella of Texas A&M-Commerce. Regardless of name, we are Lions.
And, we are Winners.