This is part 2 of a 4 part series on an outsider’s visit to Texas A&M-Commerce. In this section our outsider gets a view of the athletics of the school.
Being a former jock in high school, and having played rugby as an undergrad and also in law school, the first place I wanted to visit were the athletic facilities. The most noticeable one, was of course, the football stadium. It was the spring and I noticed that there were people at the stadium, track team members by the looks of it. There was a small gate that was open, so I let myself in. People were sitting in the stands so I figured nobody would mind me being there. I looked around the stadium and found it to be big on the home side, especially for a Division II school, but the field itself was very impressive. Fieldturf and with a state of the art scoreboard that was truly something to behold. I made my was to the opposite side of the stadium, where it was considerably smaller but considerably newer and dare I say nicer. This place was perfect for a small college football game. The wind gently blew and the breeze was comforting. Despite me not even driving 50 minutes from home, I felt so away from it all, so remote. The campus was quiet for it being a Saturday, so after being pretty impressed with the stadium, I decided to check out what other facilities they had in store. I saw more stadium lights on the opposite end of the highway, but it was part of the campus, so I thought, hey why not, lets cross the highway and check out what else there is.
The lights led me directly to a set of fields set up in a quad setting. Two of the fields were used for baseball/softball, but also were set up for Soccer and flag football games. Scoreboards were there and the field was kept very nicely. The nicest field was a full on baseball park that showed itself to be had being used at point. Collegiate quality field settings like bleachers, backstop, fences, and dugouts, but no mention of a baseball team. Directly behind me was the same thing, but a much smaller field, looking at it had to be a softball field, the field’s accessories looked good, but the field looked abandoned. Having a blackberry smart phone has its advantages, so I found the athletic site for Texas A&M-Commerce, and found no mention of either baseball or softball team, and no men’s soccer program. So, why the fields I wondered. I would find out later. As I was leaving, there was an arching sign that read “Cain Sports Complex.” This is where club and intramural sports had to be. Maybe there had been a baseball or softball team at some time, but like I said, this is my first time at this school.
As I am walking back, I stop by the Soccer field. It is being watered and it is a nicer field the closer I get to it, but having seen it already, I decided to cross the highway and check on my car in a empty parking lot. As I cross over the highway, I notice another sports complex, tennis courts, notating national championships that have been won in the 1970′s, but again, no indication of an active program on the website. This was a true anamoly. Another thing to research. One thing was left, a basketball arena. I decided to get back into my car and drive and drive around because I honestly have no idea where it could be, but it did not take me long to find as I pull up to a building that has an arched roof with brownish brick facades. There is a sign that reads “Fieldhouse.” This has to be it, I think to myself. No other building on campus makes any sense. My hunch proved right. I walked up to the doors and peeked in and saw lights on, but fully expected it to be closed, this time I was wrong. I gave a small tug and the door came open and I heard basketballs bouncing. This had to be the college team doing some offseason drills. I walk and and I see an arena that really is cool. I am a college basketball nut, and the idea of the old school field house has more appeal to me than a modern arena. There is something pure about it. Again, there are a couple of people in the stands. I figured that my walk into the stadium would be about the same experience. I was truly suprised at how open the campus was. The coolest thing about this arena is that the walls on the opposite sides are covered with banners indicated conference and regional championships in multiple sports, The walls are almost completely covered. The building is older, but the floor is brand new, the goals and scoreboards can’t be more than a few years old, and the shot clocks on top are digital and the goals have at their base “lionathletics.com.” The scoreboards have corporate sponsors, one more thing in the arena caught my eye, off to my left are 5 banners that indicate national championships. One in Men’s basketball, one in Football, two in tennis, and one in golf. One banner catches my eye that shows that the Women’s team recently went to the NCAA DII elite 8. Then it hit me, this is an established university with a lot of pride and tradition behind it, and what I saw last would just confirm that.
Before leaving the basketball arena, there was a small trophy case that had footballs that notated big wins over opponents, pictures of standout athletes, but just to the right and down the hall is the TAMUC athletic hall of fame. Names I knew were on that wall. Wade Wilson, Harvey Martin, John Carlos, JV Sikes (A former head coach at Kansas, arguably the most succesful coach than Mark Mangino.) I am completely blown away. I knew about these guys all of my life and they all went to the same school that less than 2 weeks ago, I had no idea even existed. I was done looking for athletic success. Now, would their academic success stack up? It was time to answer that question.
Part 3 tommorrow!