Division I Diatribes Vol.4-Keep it Traditional

Every school has traditions.

Some are great, some are not.

But, traditions are there for a reason. There is reason and rationale behind them.

At Texas A&M-Commerce, we have abandoned some traditions or have downplayed some of them. Some of them simply got placed by the wayside, and some of them have been outright abandoned. We are a Division I school now, and it is time to bring them back. We are starting a new journey, and its time to remember out roots. Here are 5 traditions that many Lion fans and alums would love to see back.

King Pride-30 years ago, Lion backers and super fans Harry and Reba Icenhower gave their time, energy, creativity and money to create an iconic 35 foot inflatable Lion on its haunches with it’s mouth agape that shows a menacing look. It has been placed in multiple places on the end zone, but its time to bring the big fellow back. He has not been since 2015, and while his trailer has been seen at the games, the poor guy is just in there. Deflated. It’s time for him to come back and roar. Oh, and not just at Football games, but also at The University Fieldhouse, especially for the Fill The Fieldhouse game. He was always there. He is iconic and part of University lore the past 3 decades. Let’s bring him back. Put him right by the football locker room and have the players run out underneath. Just like the old days. We don’t have the big Lion head on the stadium surface anymore, but we do have a big inflatable Lion, and ill take that any day. Besides, if we can’t have the real thing, King Pride is a great substitute and a tribute to the Icenhower family, who gave so much to the University and to the programs.
The Victory Bell-The Victory Bell has been one of the most iconic images on the University for over an entire century. The Bell has a history that goes far beyond just football. It was actually used over 120 years ago when students, including the late Sam Rayburn, rang the bell to call students for dinner and class in the early days of the school. The Victory Bell also played a large part in the success of Lion football teams of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The 75 victories during that ten year stretch and most of them blowouts where a lot of points were scored caused the clapper to wear out. It was retired in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It is near the student center right at the center of campus and it took me finding someone who used to play during that time. The bell was kept in the locker room and brought out during the game by the cheerleaders who rang it every time a point was scored. The players touched it before taking the field and the cheerleaders brought it out on an old wooden trailer. In the late 1950’s after the roll call, the bell would ring as many times as the points were scored during the game. I would love to see the tradition brought back as the students, usually from a Greek organization, would be picked to ring the bell and the cheerleaders would lock it back up until it was time for the next game. I would like to see a new Victory bell brought back for the players, the cheerleaders, and the students, to enjoy, and it would create an exciting noise now that the cannon is gone.
East Texas Throwback-Aside from a few times in the early 2000’s, this was not really a thing until Guy Morriss started the practice in 2009. It is a brilliant idea. The fans love it, the alums love it, the students love it, and up until recently the players loved the idea. We have not seen an ET throwback jersey since 2018. It was mainly used for Homecoming games, but there had been some talk that some in the football program (and I don’t know who) decided that wearing the jerseys were not important anymore. Well, they are. First, they pay homage to all the great East Texas State players that came before you. They honor the alums and the boosters that write the checks and show up to the games to support you. They are a sign of respect for the great old institution that for over a century did some amazing things in a remote eastern corner of North Texas. We want people who want to be here to know that. Recently, three former Lion football players graduated their sons and all will play college football at the next level. Maybe one day they would like to transfer to The Blacklands and pay homage to the name their fathers wore when they were here. Its a great tradition that excited everyone. Time to call up Under Armor and have them design some traditional designs with a modern fit. Every player who plays now has an obligation to uphold the standards of Lion Football and honor the great tradition of East Texas State football.
Wrapping Leonidas-Way before the current incarnation of Leonidas the Lion statue, there was another statue that was at the top of the slope that used to be where old quad was, in front of the Student Services Building and the old Rayburn Memorial Student Center. The statue was there for years. According to the Locust yearbook, a tradition that was started in the 1970’s, maybe as early as the 1960’s, other student athletes used to wrap that statue in blue and gold wrap, especially during homecoming games, but during most football games. As much as I would love to do this, I would like to also extend it to any and all home sporting events. Football, Cross Country, Track, Basketball, Softball, Soccer. You name it, we should to that, and in a manner to get the Greek life back to how vibrant it was during the days that both Russ and I were at TAMUC. Also, from what I understand, every semester, a new Greek organization was selected to wrap Leonidas every year during certain events. We need to see that. Streams of blue and gold on gamedays.
Hail ET!-Now, this one is one I expect pushback on, but it is a hill I am willing to die on. If you read the lyrics on the “new” school song, it ends with the lyrics; “Hail, All Hail to Thee.” This one was just one example of how badly the Texas A&M system and some people who used to be in our administration back then handled the name change. This included by the way, letters that were sent to THOUSANDS of alums back in the late 1990’s that offered to have TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY-COMMERCE on their diplomas rather than EAST TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY. The fact the school went along with this nonsense and insulting gesture really is amazing. However, that is the past, but when they changed the school song ending from “Hail ET” to “Hail to Thee”, that was the final straw. Last year, a couple came that had not been to campus in 20 years came to visit and they were graduates from 1989. As they sang the school song, EVERYONE in the reserved section, sang, “Hail, all Hail ET!” I sang it with them, as did my Dad and Uncle, who as you all know are alums. I told the nice couple the song had been changed and when I told them this, they were incredulous to say the least. It’s time fix this. Now, some have said; “we are Texas A&M-Commerce now, why change it when we are not ET?” The same reason that Texas Tech’s school song is “The Matador Song.” They have not been called the Matadors since 1937, but you better believes that 60,000 Red Raider faithful scream “Strive for Honor, evermore, LONG LIVE THE MATADORS!” Or, while we are speaking of Daddy A&M, do you think anyone in their right mind would change ANY tradition at Texas A&M? No way. Texas A&M is tradition personified. In fact, TAMU’s school song, the Spirit of Aggieland includes this little line; “Texas! Texas! A-M-C Gig ’em! Aggies! 1-2-3,Farmers fight! Farmers fight!” That pays explicit homage to Texas A&M formerly being Texas Agriculture and Mechanics College, and also homage to their original nickname. This is straight from Texas A&M’s official website about their traditions. In the early 1900s, Texas A&M students were referred to as “Farmers.” “The term Aggie began to be used in the 1920s, and in 1949, when the yearbook changed its name from The Longhorn to Aggieland, Aggie became the official student body nickname.”

We still have some great traditions such as the roll call and the newly introduced Lion Walk where the coaches and players walk from Whitley Gym to the Champions Center to interact with fans during tailgating. Also, slapping a big fat pig head and roasting it on a spit when Texas A&M-Kingsville comes to town is pretty great too. But it is time to find our identity again, because when we do, great things happen. Let’s never be ashamed of any traditions, especially the ones that us proud and make it great to be a Lion.

Hail ET!

2 thoughts on “Division I Diatribes Vol.4-Keep it Traditional

  1. The inflatable Lion appeared at football games in the not so distant past (1990’s) and, while a commendable tradition, is not historical in the truest sense of the word. The Victory Old ET bell is truly historical and dates back to the earliest days of the institution when it was used to announce the beginning of classes. The bell is the only physical artifact on campus that both Professor Mayo and Mr. Rayburn actually touched. The bell’s external location has resulted in deterioration to the point that it is no longer operational, something that could have been easily prevented to an historical artifact that dates from the University’s earliest days simply by moving it indoors. A new bell could be purchased for the athletic team’s to touch on the way to the field if there is sufficient support from all University constituencies to do so.

    The cast stone Lion statue that is referenced, appeared on campus as a part of the construction of the new College of Business Administration/Administration building in 1970. There is a historical lion cast stone reclining statue that was bequeathed to the University by the Class of 1927 when classes actually gave a gift back to the University upon graduation. That is a University tradition that could and should be reactivated.
    The upright cast stone statue of the lion with his paw on what appears to be a plaque that I believe is being referenced was simply an addition to the campus at the time a major construction program was being finalized in 1970. The Victory Old E.T. bell and the reclining lion statue that is now situated behind Heritage House are authentic University related historical artifacts that should be projected properly to each student body and preserved in perpetuity.

    The concerns expressed regarding the University’s name change from EAST TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY to Texas A&M University-Commerce are understandable though changes in institutional names are historically common. After all, Harvard commenced operation as Harvard Divinity School and almost all other schools’ have experienced name changes over the years as organizational affiliation or changes in mission and institutional purpose evolve. Reliance upon the ETSU era is, but one, example of the University’s name among six other names for which the University has been known. But emphasizing East Texas, while important to the University’s historical record, does not adequately describe the University’s growing State and national standing as an institution of higher education. Yes, TAMUC does serve students’ from the East Texas region, but it also serves students’ from India, China, Africa and other distant international points of origin like many other national institutions’ of higher education.

    The observation that the University has seemingly lost many of its historical traditions is accurate and reasons for that can be traced back to past and current administrations that do little to preserve the time honored practices that evolved into beloved University traditions that foster a sense of institutional identity and allegiance. Yes, TAMUC does need to revisit its own rich and engaging past as an institution of higher education that is second to none. Everyone thinks that their school is better than everyone else’s. Well, if graduates of Old E.T. or TAMUC do not feel the same way about their college experience, then we have only ourselves to blame. Much of what people think is perceptual and not always tethered to reality or accuracy. Let us all reexamine our relationship with our collegiate alma mater and rededicate our love and support to our beloved University in its 133rd year of existence, something few other institutions’ (including Texas Tech) can say.

    If the alumni of an institution do not support the school in which they attended, what does that say about the quality of education that they received as students’ at the University? I will close with one final observation. The better the University looks, the better all E.T./TAMUC graduates look. It is just that simple. So, if you feel TAMUC is everything it should be, do everything you can to keep it there. If you feel TAMUC is not everything it should be, do everything you can to get it there. It is up to all alumni to embrace their alma mater in a way that imparts pride and respect to an institutional legacy that is second to none.

    Ted R. Crim
    Class of 1970

  2. Pingback: Division I Diatribes Vol.4-Keep it Traditional — The Lion Wire | Ups Downs Family History

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