It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again
April 29, 2008
The humor of Yogi Berra struck me while thinking of the title for this article. Yogi had a unique perspective on life and he always had a way with words that made you think about the subject at hand.
It is my firm belief that athletics are the key to achieving success in publicizing TXST. If academics represent the primary draw, success will only come if TXST is in the same class as Princeton, Harvard or Yale. Success to other than Ivy League schools has come primarily from one thing – the success of their athletics programs. The fact of the matter is that athletic program success generates publicity, publicity generates interest, interest generates participation and participation generates revenue and stature. This statement does not belittle or lessen the value or importance of academics. Higher student attendance at TXST is the way to further the goal of education. However, consistently publicizing successful athletic programs is the way to increase attendance.
Regarding athletics, Associated Student Government President Reagan Pugh’s article, FBS at Texas State: A Long Time Coming is a scathing indictment of the systemic problems in achieving the goal of obtaining FBS status. A history of over 100 years of trying to advance the football program is nothing short of appalling. From changes by the NCAA to failures on the part of TXST’s Administration, serious efforts to advance TXST’s football program to Division 1 sports have met with repeated failure. Thanks to the Administration’s recent failure to execute the necessary paperwork prior to June 1, 2007, an NCAA moratorium on advancing to the FBS is in effect until 2011. The tone of the Emergency Legislation dated October 29, 2007 unmistakably illustrates the ASG’s frustration. This speaks volumes towards the ASG’s level of trust concerning the current TXST leadership’s ability, or even worse, desire to achieve the goal.
Is it any wonder there is a general lack of confidence and apathy among the students, fans and alumni? Reading the above referenced articles, how does one not see the pattern? It’s easy to say the problems lie with not enough funding, student apathy or lack of participation. However, isn’t the source of the problem much deeper than that? It is extremely difficult to generate support for a program with no direction. Support is like respect. It isn’t granted, it must be earned. It seems to me TXST’s Administration has a “build it and they will come” mentality. Unfortunately, they seem to be focused on building new scoreboards and buying inflatable Bobcats. Shouldn’t they be focused on improving student morale, building inroads with jaded alumni and other financial supporters, and sound marketing efforts? If these things were improved, wouldn’t this lead to increased support and donation? Wouldn’t this better serve the idea of “build it and they will come?” Doesn’t the thinking seem to be in reverse? Successful programs’ inspiration comes from the school leadership. At TXST, the students have had to provide the inspiration and essentially force the school to adopt their wishes, all the while being browbeaten and blamed for lack of participation.
I cannot stress strongly enough that Texas State must return the efforts of its students with equal zeal. To illustrate this point, I recall attending a Texas State basketball game. The crowd consisted of mostly parents, Strutters, cheerleaders, officials and the band. How do you think the athletes feel about this? How can this not be detrimental to recruiting efforts? There are so many examples of similar situations that I won’t bore you with the details; however, there is a direct correlation between how the students view the school’s reputation and their personal perception of themselves. Winners want to play for a crowd, not just go through the motions. It is no secret gifted athletes want to do well so recruiters will see their abilities and they will have a chance at a professional sports career. What chance do they have of accomplishing this goal if TXST’s Athletics Department doesn’t afford them this opportunity through their neglect of the existing programs? While the focus of any educational institution must be on educating students, as a Texas State parent it makes me feel terrible for the students who sacrifice so much in order to participate in TXST sports activities.
With that said, TXST needs more than symbolic gestures. Police departments all over the country have citizen’s review boards to review and monitor departmental actions. At this point, TXST needs a representative oversight board. As the current ASG President has proven himself to represent the voice of the students, he would be an appropriate person to determine the board makeup. To provide the necessary power, the oversight board should have approval authority for expenditures of all non-university Athletic Department funds. In my mind, the current lack of support, attendance and financial contribution constitutes a de facto form of monitoring and provides justification for the need of an oversight board. Without oversight, I’m afraid the current momentum will be lost once again.
TXST needs leadership with passion. Since the Athletic Department Administration has not been able to sustain a legacy of successful athletic programs, what makes us think they can create and execute a successful FBS football program? I am not referring to the coaches, as they are some of the most dedicated, hard working people at TXST. In my generation, Lee Iococca was a leader and a visionary with enthusiastic passion for the pursuit of excellence. He clearly demonstrated the attributes of someone who knew how to turn things around. If our current Athletic Department leadership is unable to turn things around, it will be like déjà vu all over again.
Dave can be reached at email@example.com