I apologize for the lack of write ups as of late, but so much has been happening in the college sports world, it has been hard to keep up. Either way, time for the second edition of Division I Diatribes.
Let’s talk…….$$$$$$$$$$$$$ MONEY $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
Ah yes, that thorny subject. The thing that is responsible for 50% of the divorces in the civilized world. The thing that tears families and friends apart. The thing we can easily run out of and some think they can never have too much of. Little green pieces of paper, and in the college sports world, they are more precious than gold.
Becoming a Division I school means we need more money, period. We need major facility upgrades, more money for making the campus a first choice for Division I recruits, more, more more. The only way that we are going to succeed on this level is by raising amounts of money that we are not used to raising. In an interview with the Lion Sports Network during football season, President Rudin basically said that the A&M System was not going to help us out financially in a very kind way, which does not surprise me. I think many of you know how I feel about those bureaucrats down south and how they stick their nose in our affairs way too much, but I digress.
So, what do we need money for? Well for starters, we need massive renovations at the Hawk on the west side, especially basic things like new restrooms. Visitor locker room needs an upgrade, although much of the stadium has been massively upgraded from an aesthetics perspective, and we have Tim McMurray to thank for that. Old storage rooms have become fan gift shops, letterman lounges, and places where stadium workers can take a break during the games. University Fieldhouse has been improved greatly as well, and the Lion Soccer Field has been kept up very well. The Cain Softball Complex still looks brand new. Then there are scholarship money for the 63 scholarships that we can now offer rather than the 36 we used to be able to offer in football. There are also increases of scholarship monies in all the other sports. These things cost money.
So, where does this money come from? Well, Tim McMurray does not have a tree in his backyard that grows 100 dollar bills, or behind The Hawk, or The Fieldhouse, or anywhere for that matter. The money comes from boosters, donors, and benefactors, it is that simple. Recently, those of us who are season ticket holders were informed that we would need to contribute to a Division I transition fund. That is what the cost of going Division I is. Games are not going to be cheap anymore. Things will cost more. Now, one would assume that your average person would take that as a given, but I have had some conversations with some current students and alums who are completely going for DI, but honestly had no idea that certain things were going to cost more. It will. So, what needs to happen?
First, we alums need to step up. Texas A&M-Commerce is a special place to me. One day, God willing, I wish to take my children, dress them up in blue and gold, and learn the alma mater, the Lucky Lions hand sign and of course the roll call. That special place in my heart needs help as it begins a new journey into a foreign land. Why would we do that? Well, TAMUC or ET is our Alma Mater. Now, what does it mean for a school to be our alma mater? Translated from Latin, it means “our nourishing Mother.” We need to take care of our Mother for all the years that she took care of us. Our years there, our degrees, our association with the school, and everything that it has provided to so many of us. It is time to give back. If you have a life and a career that you love and enjoy and have a diploma that says EAST TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY or TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY-COMMERCE, that seal helped get you there.
Second, since we are in the big leagues now, we need big league characteristics. The first thing we need to do is really get a Lion Booster Club going up again. Using it to raise funds and also to serve as a complimentary group to help the athletic department. Now, we need to be careful about what we ask for because many boosters can be corrupted, but knowing the people that I have known in Commerce for the past decade, I can tell you that won’t be a problem.
Third, we need to be ambassadors of the school. Tell people about whats going on. I know some people who say “I have not been back since I graduated.” That’s not something I would be particularly proud of, especially since so much of your younger years are formed by your college experience. It’s time to really show Lion pride. We are a Division I school. We need to be people’s first choice. If you don’t want to be here, don’t come here.
Final point: I was doing some research on the football program during the 1950’s when Commerce’s population was just shy of 5,600 residents. Do you know what the average attendance was for football games? 10,000 people. Average Basketball game attendance? 4,400. We are part of a growing Community and Commerce is already an established small town, and now it is growing like it should be. Dallas continues to push to the northeast and pretty soon there will be a large stretch of populated areas between Dallas and Commerce, and truth be told, that is pretty much what it is right now. Seizing upon this growth and building community relations not just with Commerce but with Greenville, Rockwall, Royse City, Fate, Caddo Mills, and even places like Garland and McKinney will help with our recruiting but also our fund raising. That is why investments in the communities that surround us pay off. They get us money.
Going forward, we cannot have the attitude that may have been ok in times like the early 1990’s when the attitude of the school administration was “no fundraising, work with what we have, don’t think bigger, and human energy alone will get us there, and leave the town alone.” No, it won’t. That attitude is why the current administration is having to play catch up from nearly 35 years of neglect of facilities and a lack of a forward vision. Visions have a cost, and it costs money.
And for now, money is the stuff that makes the world of college athletics go round.